Rare but it happens
Friday March 10th 2023, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Those stripes on the chest are protective of the young: they signal to adult peregrines that this is just a kid hanging around, no reason to hassle them, they’re not trying to steal your mate nor your territory.

But since no other male had chased him off at the abandoned nest and he got there first and then she showed up, well, it took a number of days to convince her but there you go.

The falconistas say this pair should mostly likely succeed this year after all.

Flight feathers are usually molted as a symmetrical pair wing to wing and he’s missing just one, so that makes him easy to spot till the new one grows out.

Just to add re the California flooding: the road nearest the Bay is under water and the city put out a warning and we’re definitely not traveling anywhere, but we’re doing fine.

Oh, and, thank you all for the advice re the microplane. My daughter reminds me that she thought they were a good idea too so she bought me one a year ago.

That was the Christmas we had almost no lemons because the unusual, intense summer heat had so stressed the tree that it had dropped the fruit before it had had any chance to ripen. And so the microplane had been forgotten.

And now I know where it is!

First date
Friday March 03rd 2023, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

Peregrines: today there were two. But they’re clearly not sure of each other yet. They weren’t fighting each other off the site, which is good, but neither were they best buddies–yet.

Meantime, and I hesitate to say this because it is by no means anywhere near a sure thing, there is a very small possibility that we might take a day trip to Stitches tomorrow. More likely not, so I’m trying not to get my hopes up.

Location location location
Thursday March 02nd 2023, 8:06 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The peregrines: today a new adult, unbanded, looks to be a female, showed up. Walked the ledge. Went into the nest box–gravel, not too small, not too big, good for supporting nestlings and holding in her body heat for them in those short moments where she might have to fly off to defend them, perfect, perfect. Walked across the top of the nest box and took in that view.

Nice place. Shame the former owners left in such a hurry. It’ll do nicely, yes, quite. Didn’t even have to fight for it.

She’s keeping watch on it from the nearby louver for the night.

Wednesday March 01st 2023, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

So there was a falcon, a floater that didn’t have a mate yet. A female peregrine who was hanging around an area near the southern border where a team was trying to reestablish I forget which endangered bird species, but whatever, she needed not to be there.

So she was trapped, taken from San Diego to Shasta County a little south of the Oregon border, and released.

She had her opinions on that and was heading back to where she came from.

But along the way she discovered the 18th floor HVAC ledge with the nesting box in San Jose, she found a mate, they made many a display of owning the place and the egg laying was expected to start this week or next. She was of course promptly named Shasta after her leg band number retraced that history, while her mate was named Sequoia and banded at UC Berkeley a few years ago.

Sunday she started having erratic movements. She stayed in the nest box. Finally I guess she got hungry enough that she needed to go catch a meal since Sequoia wasn’t fully immersed in bringing such to her yet, and she took off.

She was found by the right people and delivered to the wildlife rescue center, where they believed she had a head injury and that a little time off would let it heal. The initial reports were encouraging.

Sunday she passed away. Avian flu is a possibility that they’re testing for–being sick would have explained how she could possibly have collided head-first with anything.

Sequoia stayed perched on the ledge, waiting for her to come back. Looking for her.

Today, nobody has seen him. Not the ones manning the cameras. Not the woman whose office is across from City Hall who’d kept an eye out, hoping.

“He may be off courting a new female,” I said to Richard.

“Or he may have had avian flu, too,” was the response I knew but it was hard to hear.

They were our third set of peregrines to vie for that nesting area over the winter, and there’s plenty of time for a new pair to settle in and raise a family this year.

An unbanded juvenile showed up this afternoon (picture from the cam there) and showed off his gorgeous plumage, and all I could think of was, well, this all started with a brand new building and a juvenile female who showed up one day, an adult male who hung around for a year waiting for her to grow up back when there weren’t many of their kind around to fight him for it nor for him to choose from, and something like a dozen years of her matriarchy thereafter before the site got passed on to the next pair.

So it’s hard. But it’s a start.

They’re crowing about it for now
Monday February 27th 2023, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

It’s cold. It’s rainy. My photos are refusing to load, making the post I’d written kind of pointless.

But I got to knit some bison silk yarn and the rain is desperately needed and so was that weeks-long break between storms. More’s coming, and that’s even better.

Remember the fake dead crow? (I was not expecting to see that it’s seven years old already!) I need to find where I put it, or else replace it. There’s a new pair courting loudly out there these past few days trying to tell the hawks they own the place.

I do not want crows teaching their future young that my fruit trees are where to go to eat. And they won’t–once I find that thing and set it out for a week or so. Crows hold funerals for their fallen and then beat it the heck out of there and stay away from whatever made a crow die.

Worked for six years without even putting it out there since before the pandemic.

Sky dance
Thursday February 09th 2023, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I’ve seen Nick’s photography of the peregrine falcons for years and he is really really good at what he does.

But wow. A murmuration of starlings is fascinating enough; capturing the peregrine dive bombing the flock to create that sky ballet?

How often do we get to see anything like this?

Have a little spring
Monday February 06th 2023, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

The first peach flowers of spring, determined to defy the past week’s night freezes.

Meantime, I had been wondering about our holly bush.

Till I saw something I’d never seen in all these years–but then there used to be a huge toyon bush next door just covered in winter in orange berries that were clearly their favorite. But it’s gone now.

It was the robins. With all the upper berries gone and no good place to settle and perch from down below, three of them were diving at the holly bush (carefully!) to get at the last. (So that’s where they all went!)

I looked it up to make sure I wasn’t poisoning them the way heavenly bamboo/nandina’s berries do, but nope, holly’s part of their natural, native diet. Cool. They just prefer the toyons–or perhaps being in a wintertime flock the size it could support.

They had to settle for my holly now. All the more robin sightings for me.

Marsh words
Wednesday December 28th 2022, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

I was able to match someone’s yarn and dye lot so she could finish her sweater, and could there be a better Christmas present for me than that.

I drove past marshland on my way to the post office. You could tell it was vacation week–and that it was during a break in the rain that’s projected to continue past next Friday; there was a family with young kids skipping happily near the bicyclist sculpture dedicated to the environmentalist who’d worked for decades to get the marsh habitat restored, a group of people on the other side of the southernmost pond as if on lunch break from the nearby offices, someone birdwatching towards the Bay. The green grasses were lush, the winter water was running high.

The trail was long enough to keep them all at good spaces between each other.

There was a magnificent red-tailed hawk perched on its favorite light pole over the road. It was taking in the scene and not the least bit perturbed by all the people. I had seen it there before. It was a thrill to see it again, with the suggestion, then, of territory. May it choose this place to raise the coming year’s family.

And just beyond it, farthest away from anyone else, there was a couple walking.

I’d guess early sixties. What was striking is that he looked like he was having a political or family or some kind of argument, if you can call it an argument when only one person is carrying on with it; he didn’t look angry, just emphatic, hands waving and finger jabbing towards the air away from her as he made his points, not looking threatening and a little stooped but maybe a bit bothered. She, it seemed, was putting up with it. Maybe it was all old hat to her.

But you get someone out taking a walk in nature and you might already know what they’re going to talk about but they’re also going to get some exercise and feel better when it’s done and so will you so you might as well go, right?

All these impressions of the lives of complete strangers that flashed in the few seconds on approach. And then you go past.

I almost pulled the car over. I wanted to say, Did you see it? The hawk? It’s been observing you. It’s gorgeous, look how big that thing is! Don’t miss it!

I thought, whatever he’s talking about, they won’t remember it five years from now but that sighting, if they finally looked up, they just might. Red-taileds like to soar high and that one’s so close. You could see so much detail.

But I didn’t. And neither, as far as I know, did they.

I got past the light way ahead and pulled in at the post office, mailed my small box, and again made the deliberate decision to take the longer way home rather than the freeway on the small chance that the hawk might still be there.

They were not. I’m guessing that had been their car by the bicyclist statue.

The hawk still was. Cool as the water in an incoming northern tide.

Answering Jayleen’s question: it was a small road with no cars on it but mine. Nice and straight, and the little kids on bikes, even if they were at the end of a path through the marsh and a few feet away from the road, were excuse enough to take it slow.

Merry Christmas!
Saturday December 24th 2022, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Friends,Wildlife

The car is running fine while we need it to.

The Kitchenaid arrived and I didn’t even tear open the box a day early to make sure they sent the right color; I know you’re so proud of me.

A friend stopped by. Every year we give each other socks as a semi-gag, semi-not-a-gag gift for Christmas, and we always like what the other picked out. We did it again.

Only, she threw in a little bottle of pomegranate juice from a local grower and I gave her a little granulated maple sugar from a not-local grower. (Ohmygoodness they’re selling spray-can maple syrup now? Can you just imagine what the littlest kids would do if they got into that? Spray straight into their mouths and then need their hair washed and then run off to see what they can gleefully zap with it. Add the spray whip cream and their heaven is complete.)

She happened to ring the doorbell as I was just about to put some pumpkin muffins in the oven so she got to watch me shaking my jar of the stuff over them, and they will be served at the lunch after church tomorrow for any taste testing.

Felt so great to see her.

Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, all the best of the season to all at the returning of the light in the world.

…Oh, and, a random comment on a news story about dressing warmly had me going, the say what fiber? I rabbit holed. So far I’ve found out that deer are farmed but highly invasive exotics in Australia, red deer are producing 20 g of fiber per animal per year in New Zealand and it’s a reliably 13 micron count. Cervelt, they call it.

And if your deer escapes in Australia and you phone your neighbors they have to wait seven days for you to retrieve it but if it does and you don’t notify the neighbors they are required, not requested, to shoot it or to notify official shooters to come do so. Deer eat a lot and the feral ones’ counts are exploding like rabbits.

Okay, so now you officially know the Next Big Thing in fiber arts before just about anyone else. Merry Christmas!

The little tree munchers
Friday November 04th 2022, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I grew up next to a watershed preserve, a creek surrounded by park extending ten miles as it flowed down to the Potomac River.

So to my eyes it was the weirdest thing in the world to see creeks in California that in the 1950’s had been turned into concrete-lined, sharp-angled corridors. You, water! You go here, only, and yo, developers, build hereandhereandhereandhereandhere to your heart’s desire.

I found this article today: beavers were gone from this area since the Gold Rush, 160 years ago.

In the 1980’s, two of them were being considered a nuisance in the Central Valley.

California has a strict law re relocating wild animals: you can’t. If you trap one you can kill it mercifully if it’s not endangered in any way–or you can release it right there where you found it, after, y’know, giving it a good scolding about trespassing or something.

They didn’t quite say Fish and Game got permission or whether they’re the ones who grant the permission anyway so they just did what they wanted to or what (the article made it sound like the answer to the reporter was just don’t ask, guys), but, what they actually did in this one instance was to trap that pair where they weren’t wanted.

And then release them in the mountains above here near a large reservoir to see what they would do when they had the whole mountain to themselves. Either mountain lions or coyotes would get them or we would get to see what it’s like to have an actual beaver dam in operation. Because, science! Plus a chance to right a historical wrong.

Beavers looked at that concrete dam and chortled, Hey, let us show you how it’s done! Went right around it at some point.

The creek below there feeds into a river in San Jose, and it turns out they can manage the saltwater of the Bay just fine as a way to find their way up new creeks. Which, slowly, gradually, they’ve been doing.

San Jose Water Department went, Since when do we have beavers?! and wanted to get rid of them. They got told no, and that the beavers would do far more good than harm.

They are a keystone species. Where they’ve shown up, all kinds of things are making a comeback already.

But they don’t touch those concrete creeks. That would be slapping an Eat Me sign on their backs. Also, Starve Me. Which means that to expand further they have to find the one further north where the two counties couldn’t agree in the post-War era as to which one would have to pay for all that, with influential people fighting it anyway, and the officials threw up their hands and left the banks in their natural state.

We’re talking the richest part of town on the south side of that county line, with bigger house lots with great views of the creek and lots of trees near the water line that those beavers might find tasty and which might soon upset some people.

Maybe Mark Zuckerberg could take up wildlife photography.

How long had that been there?
Wednesday October 26th 2022, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

There was a small flock. That was the tell.

Given the water restrictions, I only planted one tomato this year, and a Costco plant at that–meaning you take what they’ve got, and all they had was a determinate-type: they grow, they produce all at once, they die.

Personally, I’d prefer a few at a time across the summer, but lazy is as lazy buys.

It gave it its all, though it did space the ripening out just enough. See those dead yellow and brown leaves hanging down?

But since it was right there by the apricot pots I gave a little water to it each time, too. It was still alive. You never know.

It started with the surprise of a small new leaf after weeks without change. Then a few more.

And now it’s a whole plant full of bright little yellow blossoms dressed up for Halloween. Cool! (Let’s see if I can protect it from frost for the winter, but my back isn’t moving that thing quite yet.)

The flowers attracted the attention of a house finch, which clearly hopped in under a wobbly lower edge but couldn’t fly out at bird level but just bounced into the netting, and the more it panicked the more it wanted to go upwards to be safe.

None of which I noticed until I was surprised to see a bunch of finches out there where there was no particular reason for any of them to be–so I stood up and walked to the window to get a better look.

Ah, I see it, yes, they do that. Okay.

I walked outside and lifted the cage. Escape at last.

I came back in grateful once again for the example of simple birds, and at that, a type that’s famous for squabbling at birdfeeders.

But they are unwilling to see their fellow suffer alone. They feel compelled to be with it in its extremity. For as long as it takes.

They only come out at night
Sunday October 23rd 2022, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

While all we’ve seen on our property is possums and a skunk at the front door. Oh and the bunnies.

It does help that we’re not up in the hills.

The wild wild Wests
Friday September 30th 2022, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

Berkeley Breathed, the guy who wrote Bloom County and does again intermittently on Facebook, posted a video recently of him walking out his front door as noted by his security video and later watched by his horrified wife.

Either that young western diamondback rattlesnake pulled back really fast–or (as it appears) he kicked it in the head and walked on, completely oblivious as it recoiled fast. From there, the camera shows the snake gathering itself up and moving forward again after a moment, jaws very wide this time and tongue flicking, going across the front of his doorway and beyond.

While you see some of the guy’s shadow as he’s presumably getting in his car having no idea how close he just came.

So of course that was the first thing that came to mind when the kids up north sent a picture of their five and three year olds staring at the 18″ or so long snake slithering across the pathway right in front of them.

It was pretty.

Their parents let them respectfully hold still and observe this benign new bit of nature–but told them that if they were at their grandparents’ houses (Arizona/CA) and saw one, it might not be the same kind and they were to move away from it right away.

Love nature first of all, a healthy respect for what it could do after that. I was so proud of them all.

(And here I’d thought the skunk on our doormat had really been something.)

Mind the gap
Wednesday August 31st 2022, 8:18 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

There is a single tomato plant, in a large pot, kind of spilling over the side but that’s okay because there’s a birdnetting cage over the whole thing with the pot helping to keep it in place.

Turns out if you go to just the right spot there was room for a finch to bop in under there at ground level in its search for weed seeds.

And then it tried to fly up to leave but that didn’t work at all.

There seemed to be a bit of motion going on out there and I looked up to see a small flock of finches coming in: some landed on the ground, several landed on top of that bird netting and then on the strawberry pot next to it, and my thought was, sorry, no crop pecking for you.

Incoming!  Another one.

Only then did my eye catch the flutter of wings that were somehow not on the outside of that netting like they were supposed to be, and I headed out to rescue the poor thing before it mashed its feathers against things any more than it had.

As soon as I got close enough to reach to lift the thing away our intrepid bird suddenly saw its way out before I’d even made one–freedom!


I went back inside thinking about how house finches always squabbled at the bird feeder, always tried to get the uppermost perch, always believed the sunflower seeds up high tasted better than the ones down low and no amount of real-life experience could disabuse them of that silliness nor make them believe there was always enough for them all, right there in plain sight.

And yet.

Here one was in trouble, and its peers, rather than abandoning it to its fate, went out of their way to be with it, to cheer it on, to offer comfort by their presence even if they couldn’t do a thing about it. They anti-Darwinned it, really: they came to where their fellow finch was overcome and powerless instead of fleeing the danger themselves.

We should all be such birdbrains.

After the kids have flown
Friday August 26th 2022, 8:02 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Empty nesters. Maybe they’re talking about going out for a nice Friday night dinner?