They are good for that
Wednesday February 20th 2019, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Blossoms on the two earliest peach trees and freezing nights. I found some good information on what to expect that to do to them and what to look for.

I filled the second birdfeeder. The birds haven’t entirely caught on but the hawk went swooping around it again, ten feet from me. Wow.

I went to take out the trash last night and coming around the house, found myself opening the gate very very slowly and reluctantly while standing at outstretched arm’s length from the entry and I probably should have just gone back inside: skunk. Not as potent as it could be, but in that direction. Exactly where in the dark, who knows, but at least that redwood root-raised concrete that made them such a perfect den is gone now. But that’s where that gate was, and where last year’s offspring might think it could expect to set up shop. Oh. Not. But this is when they wander to mate.

And now I think I know why the rat that showed up under the birdfeeder at dusk three nights last week (the first one I’d seen in probably a year) has not come back.

And what that skunk most likely had for dinner. It hadn’t come for the birdseed.



“And like the eagle he renews the vigor of thy youth (oh bless the Lord my soul)”
Sunday February 17th 2019, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

As we drove past the edge of Elkhorn Slough yesterday, a place that draws birders from all over, I saw what was almost certainly an immature bald eagle and did quite the double take, calling out to the others in the car but by then we were too far past.

They’ve been seen nesting in Crystal Springs about fifty miles north of there after a hundred years’ absence.

Back at our house, the plate glass out the family room has taken on intricate stencils of feather patterns these past few days that had not been there before. I need to clean it.

Today in my peripheral vision I saw something big (not eagle big, certainly) move abruptly downward out of sight just past my amaryllises just as a finch dove away from the second bird feeder, the one in the foot of the L of the patio. I figured whatever the first one was, it was long gone–but it turned out it was not. It was just waiting for the finch to show itself again: even if it had to wait a few minutes, there was no way the little thing could escape that space without flying right past where it waited, hidden from my eyes.

And then suddenly the Cooper’s hawk was circling tightly around in that small space just a few feet from my side of the window. The smaller bird bounced off the window trying to make a break for it but its momentum was broken and lunch was served.

Moments later, the hawk flew fast over my yard going the other direction towards where the redwood was till last month, ditching the thieving ravens.

It seems more and more clear that the new Cooper’s has, after trying and missing a few times in the last six months, finally learned what Coopernicus had been a master at: putting in his order for fast-winged food and then picking it up at the check-out window without ever actually touching that window himself. Easier for all involved.

But what a sight to look up to see that forcefulness of nature in action. The redwood and the older hawk have gone the way of all life but the new one, likely with a nest itself by now, has at last learned how to make the most of what is clearly (or rather, clear after I clean it up) his territory now.



They’ll have to use a crane (but not a heron)
Monday January 07th 2019, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

The toyon berries, which were orange for a long time, are ripe and red and the robins are going to town–there was a large flock of them dashing back and forth past the window all day. They didn’t like my moving towards them with a camera but there were at least three still hiding as I snapped.

Occasionally there will be stories in the news about birds getting drunk on fermented berries. From what I’ve read, that’s an urban myth: they’re not drunk, they simply eat too many in the sudden abundance to the point of the weight of their food making it hard to fly, much less gracefully.

The toyon is an understory to the big redwood which is coming down on Thursday (and thankfully did not do so on our house in the big windstorm Saturday–it is not a healthy tree.) It may be flawed, but it’s beautiful, its trunk intricate and 53″ wide, and we will all miss it. How big a change it will be I don’t know yet.

Hopefully the toyon will be fine with its shade suddenly gone.

But that redwood has to go before the hawks start nesting in it. And before it does any more damage to ours.



It walked like an Egyptian
Tuesday October 09th 2018, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Got up this morning, looked out the window.

And there on the edge of the neighbor’s roof close to our back yard stood a four foot tall Great Blue Heron. Now that is the way to start a day.

I looked at it. It looked at me. It turned its head to one-eye me for a better view, bird style, and considered the unexpected company, while me, I noted that the bird feeder was emptied of finches. Sillies. It’s not going to eat you.

The heron shifted to give me a better view of that dark swoop over its shoulder, like the upper half of a question mark, that the brilliance of the morning sun had been obscuring. It lifted one foot off the ground so as to relax–twitched slightly, considering, and gently slowly put it back down again.

There were no fish and no pond in my yard. Not even a frog.

It turned the other way then and started doing that impossibly long-legged, puppet-mastered walk that they do, and as its body disappeared behind the toyon tree its head and neck continued above, suddenly snakelike.

While I was thinking, the koi are down around the other side of their solar panels, you’re going the wrong way. Oh wait. Don’t tell it.



On the fence about it
Monday October 01st 2018, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

I saw a juvenile Cooper’s hawk yesterday for the first time all this year if not several now, and unlike the skittish adult that has on rare occasion swooped by since Coopernicus vanished, he was perfectly happy to be admired as he perched on the fence–he even swooped back towards me and around the patio again.

It is a week past equinox. Which means it’s more likely that he was eyeing territory to claim come spring, if not now; it would be great to have one in residence again.

I would love to point out hawks in our own little bit of wild to my grandkids someday.



The taming of the flew
Saturday September 08th 2018, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

For the first time since spring, a Cooper’s hawk swooped around the bird feeder this afternoon and back to the trees.

I saw the new one try a couple of times back around March but it just didn’t have the pattern down of how to pick out one fat dove when it’s alone and scare it into going the wrong direction, where the windows offer up a take-out meal. The older Coopernicus knew exactly where that glass was and how to use it, to the point of coming and perching a few feet away and inspecting after I’d washed the windows, but not this one. And then there was this human that wanted to watch it, and it didn’t like that at all.

My aging friend in his day was content to preen nearby and to make eye contact with me, even following my gaze.

The new generation was having none of it nor me. I thought it had simply moved on to better hunting grounds.

But equinox is in two weeks and with it comes the need to make territorial claims visible again.

I had wondered if I would even get to see one here again. Well that answers that question.

Things are looking up.



Grab motivation wherever you can find it
Tuesday August 21st 2018, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Huh. It worked this time. Those clay flower pots seem to have done their job.

This was green yesterday. Another ten hours of ripening and I’m looking forward to picking this for breakfast. (While trying not to hope too hard.) Really, I should leave it a day past that but we’ve seen how that works out.

Meantime, twice today a squirrel took a sniff in the direction of the mango tree and then a step or two towards the side of it where the new mangoes are growing; up till now, they’ve taken a comically wide swing around to avoid the smell of the tree. The latex in the sap, I’ve been told.

But this was something different and it looked like maybe it could eat those and it wanted to know.

Cinnamon and foot stomping and at least this tree I can see from the front of the house.

I have another large white netting cover ready. It cinches at the bottom. I’m just not sure yet that works with the Christmas lights.

Meantime, I tripped uphill this evening and landed on my hands and decided that if they were going to feel sprained or sore in the morning I’d better get lots knit now while I could, and did for nearly two hours and the baby blanket said thank you. (I think I’ll be peachy fine but I’ve got the icepacking going just to be sure.)



The fouls of the air
Monday August 20th 2018, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Lupus,Wildlife

The bright white birdnetting over the little fig tree was rocking it out as if Aretha Franklin herself were the soundtrack. There was no way to see what was underneath from there.

2:00 pm, whose health matters, the lupus patient’s or the critter’s?

Yeah you know what I did. Grabbed the hat. Maybe all that smoke in the air will deflect the UV.

It was a mockingbird, caught between the layers of netting–I’d added backup after the scrub jay had done this. How on earth did it get *in* there?!

I opened one side, but of course it wasn’t going to come near me. I went to open the other side and the first fell back down to the ground. The bird snagged a wing exactly where the jay had; I considered the size of its beak and the fervor of its fear while reaching to pull the stuff away from it but that was enough to motivate it to extricate–and it resnagged over to the right, over by the bird spikes (supposedly) protecting a fig.

It was screeching fowl language at the top of its lungs all the while.

Then suddenly all was still and silent as I peered through the reflective white coating–where did it go? How did it get out? When did it get out? The answer was, it didn’t, and suddenly we were in round two.

After several minutes of this it found that one good spot I’d had waiting for it and escaped.

So what I wonder now is, is it dumb enough to try that again? Go eat a cherry tomato, fer cryin’ out loud.

I weighed down the bottom of the netting with flowerpots.

I found myself unable to just sit and knit after that and checked out the bathroom window at the far end of the house (the only one you can see the tree from at that funky angle) again and again to make sure that was that.

So far, as far as I can tell, so good.

All I want is a half dozen palm-size fully ripe Black Jack figs picked first thing in the morning for full flavor, filled with a little Brie and roasted. Or straight off the tree: fig tartare.

If you see any at your Costco let me know.



They were just helping
Thursday August 16th 2018, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I remember wondering as a kid how on earth a measure of fruit–or Peter Piper’s famously pickled peppers, for that matter–could come in…pecks. Who thought of that word and put it in that context? So strange.

After gleaning these from the ground (which, truth be told, is an easy way to harvest) with, if you turn them over and around, a single beak mark in each, I think I get it now.



Halfsies?
Tuesday August 14th 2018, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

I got my first fig two days ago, and it was just about a breakfast unto itself. I’d almost forgotten how enormous Black Jacks get.

There were two more that would have been perfectly ripe today and I was quite looking forward to them. Halve them, put some Brie in the center and put in the oven to roast… Just one more day’s heat to make them perfect.

Yeah well and early this morning one was snapped right off and this was the other, quite hollowed out and nearly all gone–I was going to have to work harder than that.

So I did. (I also chucked this and washed my hands a good one after the photo–who needs raccoon spit contamination?)

I happened to look out the back window this afternoon to find a squirrel twirling away on a branch. But they don’t even like figs! Well maybe now they do. How did it… I scared it away, but by the time I grabbed a hat and a sun jacket and came around the outside of the house to reset that netting it was back at it again.

So I worked a little harder on covering the survivors up. That had worked up till then and I wanted it to keep working.

I at least got better netting this year: it’s heavier and it doesn’t glom on and tear things as if it had been glued to the leaves.

I sprinkled chili flakes liberally. More stabby acanthus stalks. Then I got some of the older stickier netting and pulled it over any gaps.

And that was that. No more sign of squirrels. Success.

Till I walked out this evening to see if everything had gone as well as I’d thought.

Somehow the scrub jay hadn’t gotten the memo that the bird netting had been reinforced. It had managed to get in there between the two layers but it couldn’t find its way back out in its sudden emergency and it really really wanted to as I approached. Its blue wing appeared to snag on I couldn’t see what while the rest of it fought furiously to get free, with me two feet away and the netting between us. It felt just like my finches had the moment before it had stabbed them to death, awkwardly and too slowly because it’s not good at being a predator.

Neither am I. I gave it a verbal what-for just to reinforce whose figs those were and at last it found that one open-enough spot, burst out of there and zoomed up into a tree. Okay, good, you didn’t damage yourself.

More acanthus stalks. Spiky spiky spiky. Although that’s more a mammal thing. (Picking a splinter out.)

More hopes of getting the best-tasting figs in the world, ie picked fully ripe at the break of day. I’ve waited a year for this.

If nothing else there are still some very green ones to give me time to plot my next move.



Caaahs and effect
Sunday August 05th 2018, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

I was showing my sister-in-law around the fruit trees in back when suddenly she did a startled double take.

Oh, that’s the dead crow.

The !??!

I explained.

She burst out laughing, just like I did when the lady at the bird center told me all the crows in the area would caaaah a funeral together at their fallen comrade, and then leave and not come back–because they didn’t want to be where a crow had died.

The trick, though, is to set it out at night and then retrieve it at night so they don’t associate you with harming it and that peach tree it was under was long since done and I’d only been remembering the retrieving part during the daytime. Which wouldn’t do.

I have seen zero crows in the yard–though I did see one croaking away at full blast at the top of the tree next door yesterday, where it had direct eye contact with the deceased. No translators were available.

What mine really seemed to protect against was squirrels–they clearly did not want to go near that beak.

Nobody has confessed to ruffling its feathers.

But at this point I figure it’s been dead out there for three weeks, and if I put it over in the apple tree it will have moved and thereby be deemed alive–telling the squirrels to scram and the crows to come celebrate. Free food!

Jennifer’s guffawing did it. I remembered. I bagged it.



Quoth the raven, Nevermore. Nor a first helping either.
Wednesday July 18th 2018, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I did a doubletake this morning: how on earth did THAT get there?!

Maybe it was a possum or raccoon hunting a mouse hiding under the frost cover?  It had been dragged a good way across the patio and was chewed on and peed on where whatever it was had finally freed its leg from it.

Or maybe its dinner.

Meanwhile, over at the August Pride tree with ripening peaches, I had bird netting pushed in on one side (I’ve learned not to put it on top of a growing tree–peaches have scrawny limbs and they grow too deformed with the netting) and frost covers that had been dragged to catch as many burr-type weed seeds as possible, tucked around the trunk to keep critters from having firm ground to stand on much less any kind of comfortable. Lots of stabby acanthus stalks for good measure.

It ain’t pretty but you can barely see it from the windows, so there’s that (or so I tell myself. Don’t look.) Note the (stuffed) crow standing guard, no longer ‘dead’ but perched on top of the, um, valance. The squirrels have definitely been avoiding its threatening beak even though it hasn’t moved for days. They don’t even want to run down the fence line in its direction: a few steps and then a freak-out and a leap towards the neighbors, again and again. It’s very gratifying. There are no peck marks in the fruit, either.

Clearly a living dead crow works better than a dead dead crow.

One frost cover there had been trampled last night, too, a branch broken most of the way off the tree–but all thirteen peaches are still there. It’s a small crop on a small tree but I’ve worked hard for it.

Rock a bye baby… Something probably did not have fun landing on those stalks. They are the porcupines of the landscaping.

I added a lot more acanthus and some of the dog fur my friend Kathy had given me a few months ago for nesting birds.

The peaches took on more yellow today. I even gave one a slight, wistful tug, but no, August is their name and August is what they want. They’re supposed to look like this.

Two more weeks. Wish me luck.

—-

p.s. Pachelbel’s Canon played with rubber chickens. Because of course.



Bleaching fast. Send bird poop.
Wednesday July 11th 2018, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

It was one of those headlines that makes you go, Wait, *what*?

But what would be the best way to fix the problem? Rats are wily. I’m thinking maybe neutered feral cats, perhaps older ones to shorten the number of years till they too are gone and the natural order can be restored.

Save the coral. Kill the rats. These really are connected. Who knew.



There are fewer squirrels, too
Tuesday June 19th 2018, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

An idle wondering followed by an inner, oh, come on, now. Yeah they never found those, but give me a break. Those animals are born to wander and wander they do: they’re long gone.

The peaches, look at those peaches. I hadn’t thinned them anywhere near what they should have been (though I did some) but I’d figured the critters would take care of that and they weren’t likely to leave me much anyway, right?

A very few have been nibbled on. The rest are–well, there they are.

Oh wow, that was almost a year ago. Okay, so I really had no reason to connect it with my untouched fruit. Even if the mountain lion and her cub growling in that guy’s redwood across town were never seen again. He was someone who’d tagged mountain lions in his job and said he’d seen people walk right by a bush one was hiding in and they never knew it–that generally they’re really quite shy around people.

Well that’s comforting.

The neighborhood listserv was talking about the county saying it was a coyote that had gotten someone’s cat and someone else chimed in that she’d seen a mountain lion in her back yard two weeks ago at (wait–that’s close to us!) and another (probably the same one) had been seen over on this street.

Blink.

Well the problem with our well-fed urban raccoons and possums and skunks was that they had no predators around but lots of food to choose from.

Apparently now so does a very big cat.

You know, I have this weekly chore of watering all the fruit trees starting after dinner and continuing till dark, seven minutes per tree seventeen trees, going in and out repeatedly, and I did that tonight.

But I confess to being a little skittish standing under the bigger older ones as the light was almost gone. At least I had a hose in hand. Part of the time.

Maybe we’ll finally get around to installing them a drip system.



Begin: the rest is easy
Thursday May 17th 2018, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,LYS,Wildlife

My first success at trying to photograph it.

The new Cooper’s hawk hasn’t yet been harassed by the ravens–and so, for apparently the third time this week, he took his dove dinner to the middle of the yard, out in the open. (Pardon the broomstick.)

Just like Coopernicus did when he was young.

Meantime, I went off to Cottage Yarns to try to find me some seaweed colors, and I did find some dark green but I’m not quite convinced it won’t turn into cowls instead. It’s hard to match the brightness of that Cian colorway.

Here’s what I’ve got so far: I cast on the entire width of the afghan, figuring I would put most of the stitches on hold and work one strip upwards at a time. Right now though I’m not so sure I won’t just simply do it all of a piece.

It took till today to figure out what bugged me about the original pattern: it’s four squares wide. The eye is unsettled at low even numbers–it wants odd ones. It’s got to be five. My swatch said I needed five anyway.

I’ve got ten stitches for each side, eleven rows, and I’m calling that bottom border done.

I want a reclining octopus taking up enough of one side to help divide the interior into the visual thirds that it should be. The seaweed needs to extend well into a second row’s worth to help with its third.

I got me some finagling to do.