Raptor for Ronna
Friday August 20th 2021, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Wildlife

I posted yesterday before dinner, early for me.

About an hour later I got the news.

Ronna and her husband moved into town when Luke was a small child, and she was one of those people who is always looking out for everybody around her. Their family grew during the years they lived here and we hoped we would get to see their kids grow up.

But when the rent on their house hit close to four times our mortgage a few years ago, her husband took a job in Fresno and they moved to where they could buy their own house for the first time.

Eventually, he changed jobs again and they moved back. Sort of. Over near the beach about an hour away, and I wanted to figure out how to get together and catch up and see her kids bigger and all that–but for the pandemic.

Meantime, she’d taken up running.

Last I heard she was training for the big one, the Boston Marathon.

Two days ago, Luke was not just getting taller in pictures on Facebook, she was driving him to Utah for college; her folks live near there and she was going to get a visit in with them while getting him settled in for his freshman year.

Thirty minutes from arrival they were hit head-on by a drunk driver and rear-ended. By the injuries, it looks like she swerved hard to avoid the drunk, sparing Luke most of it and taking the brunt herself; he broke his shoulder. But they both lived. I have no idea about the drunk.

She has a long, long road ahead of her and the surgeries to try to save her leg have begun.

There are the covid restrictions on visitors.

Her brother works in the trauma hospital she was taken to, as do other people she knows.

Her sister-in-law’s brother was the first cop to arrive at the scene.

There is so much love surrounding her and her son right now, and someday when she comes home, man, we are going to celebrate!

I had wondered who I had bought this blank card for last year and why but in the moment I needed it it was perfect.

And then today, while thinking about Ronna and all she and her family are having to go through, and if anybody could handle it it would be her, but man–

–I happened to look up.

There was a Cooper’s hawk on the fence.

The nearest two tall trees they nested in are gone now and with an outbreak they’ve asked people not to keep their birdfeeders up. I hadn’t seen a Cooper’s but once in a quick pass-through in a year–but there it was, perched on the fence, then walking down it half the length of the yard, turning, pacing back, the late sun shining brilliantly against its long yellow legs.

When life is at its hardest and most intense, somehow, that’s when they come.

It stopped looking around for small birds and faced the sun, giving me a good look that it was an adult Cooper’s, and just chilled a moment there.

It let me move a few feet to my chair and my phone without being the least bit bothered by it. We took each other in.

I just let love for it, for thanks for the moment, for love for nature, just completely wash over me and out from me towards it. So grateful.

It fluffed its feathers out like it was glad to be home as I snapped pictures like old times, and stayed with me until it was done.



Hamming it up
Tuesday August 17th 2021, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I ordered some metal bird spikes. I had no idea what I was in for.

There were reviews saying be careful assembling these–and they were right. Those V-shaped pieces will fight you to the death when you’re trying to squeeze them so as to fit into the base and if you let up, if you look away, you’re going to have the back of this skewer coming like a flying mousetrap at your face. I got this third piece halfway in, stopped to take its picture, and before I put the phone down it poinged hard back out of there at me. Wearing glasses was a very good thing and its aim was bad. I’m fine.

I got the one strip assembled and there are fourteen more to go and I am checking the height of the apricot against the cage it’s growing out of and procrastinating putting the rest of them together.

But here’s the thing: I bought them to keep the rabbit out of that seedling but, one strip being pretty useless for that, I balanced it for now on top of two clusters of figs that were starting to turn color. I was out of clamshells so why not try.

The birds haven’t touched anything on that fig tree since. Nuh uh. Not going near that.

Do they know what pigeon spikes are? Can’t they tell it’s only in this one spot? The plastic spikes I used to have, they pretty much ignored.

Three days later, it’s still true. I have ripening figs all over the tree, a goodly number not in clamshells and they’re still left alone.

I went out to check it over tonight–and suddenly remembering that eyes in taller trees were certainly on me as I leaned into that tree, eyes that wanted to know how to thwart that menace, I pretended to be punctured for just a moment there.

That’ll teach’em.



Forensics
Thursday August 12th 2021, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Wildlife

I would have thought squirrel claw marks–but then I saw that beak jab. This one just wasn’t ripe enough yet to be dislodged from the tree that way like the last one was.

Citrus thorns alone hadn’t been enough to keep them off either of them.

So I tried plan B. And this time I succeeded in getting the clamshells to snap shut on both sides. In past years raccoons have pried those open, but since they haven’t been out there till now, whereas with my Fuji apples in previous years I had them out the whole season long, I guess the current critter crop hasn’t figured them out yet.

Which means I got to share a ripe fig with my husband this morning. It was delicious.

On a side note, the breaking news tonight at the Washington Post is that the FDA just okayed booster Moderna and Pfizer doses for the immunocompromised. My cardiologist has already told me he wants me to get one as soon as they okay it.

 



Fruit in the desert
Friday August 06th 2021, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

The first late summer fig. I was amazed that I’d missed seeing it turning brown the day before. I was more amazed the critters hadn’t seen it either.

Figs are hard to get into those plastic clamshells because it’s hard to shut them around them, and they’re not great anyway because the things don’t breathe and the fruit gets hot so the texture ripens before the flavor does and it just hasn’t proven the best solution. (I mostly use them on the apples, they seem to be best for that.) But that’s what I had. That and the citrus spikes, which were already out there. I debated going and grabbing one.

Wait…

Paper. It breathes. It hides. Right? Cut the bottom open to widen it so you can slide it over and the fig can still get some sugar-producing sunlight while no beak could reach that far down. Let’s try it!

And for 24 hours it actually worked.

Then in a total rookie move I went outside just real quick in the afternoon to check if the fig was fully ripe yet–and whichever bird it was saw what was beneath and saw what I did and saw how to get at it. No squirrel touched those spikes. Mockingbird or scrub jay, take your pick. It was probably gone the moment I stepped back inside, but I know it was fast.

So now I have to think up something else for the next one, but it was worth a try. Tape?

Meantime, shared by Andy’s Orchard, here’s an article on Native American peaches in the Southwestern desert from before most Natives had ever heard of white men.

Peaches.

I sure did a double take, how about you?

Four Corners, the Grand Canyon, before their trees were cut down as part of the plan to decimate Natives’ food sources and culture. Peaches. Not quite like ours–they had more nutrition. From seeds from the Spanish near the Rio Grande centuries before that were quickly spread north across the tribes.

A few were not found and survived. A descendant of the man who protected them is working on bringing them back to more of her people.

I asked, Do you/will you grow any of these?

Andy’s Orchard (presumably Andy himself) answered, More research needed.

But as one of the reporter’s sources noted, those would give great root stock for growing other varieties in the desert, too.



C’est une bunny day
Monday August 02nd 2021, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

You have to get up early if you want to see the bunny.

Only, this time I stopped and simply watched it for awhile to see if it would try to get past the netting over my tomatoes and squash or chew on the cherry or scout for that unripe pomegranate whose weight brought its branch to the ground.

None of those.

It was scouting out the spots where my watering the trees had allowed a pocket of weeds to stay green here and there–and for good measure the dried weeds. A long straw of the invasive decorative grass that the neighbors planted that wants my yard too (and that I had missed in my efforts to pull all those out) disappeared bite by bite and then the seeds dangling off the end were dessert and at last it was gone. It looked around for more.

It had never occurred to me that the weeds and their seeds were what it was living off of.

Nice. I think we might be friends after all.

But this evening I did pick the first reddening tomato, just in case.



Zucchini divas
Saturday July 24th 2021, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

We have had a trio of young mockingbirds for days, teenagers teasing their nest mates as far as I can tell.

But today the first tomato got its first tinge of pink. And suddenly there were eight of them! Mockingbirds do not come in flocks. This time there was more chasing out of territory, mixed with perching all around my veggies.

But they did not find their way in yet.

One, however, had learned that if it stood on top of the square-metal-cage’s netting where it was a bit loose and bounced up and down, it could get close enough on the downbeat to snag a blueberry. I was so impressed that I figured it had earned it.

Interesting: if you put the phone’s camera right up to the netting you get its shadow in sharp lines looking like it’s draped directly on half the plant, whereas the actual netting is those blurred-out thicker edges perpendicular to the squares below.

While the flowers demand, never mind all that, look at ME.



Buddy, you’ve got a long wait ahead of you if you want that fruit
Thursday July 15th 2021, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Trouble is, he’d be happy to munch the plant away long before then.

A small Anya seedling.

Guess who showed up yesterday morning to take a sniff at it? I took that picture right before it stood up and reached its head over.

Until last fall, we hadn’t seen a rabbit in our yard for thirty-three years of living here. Since then it’s been popping up from time to time, but it had been gone long enough now that I’d half-convinced myself an owl or something had gotten it.

Nope.

Guess who opened the box with a new set of NuVue bird netting tents for that seedling and my squashes  immediately after snapping these pictures and scaring it away. Just the right size for protecting a large pot. All I’d needed was a little incentive. Yes it can chew through it if it wants to badly enough but trying to get into a cage is just not high on most wildlife’s list.

The good part is that the new version has–and it’s not in Amazon’s picture–small bright red ribbons hanging down from the top that blow in the wind and startle birds and rodents, and there was no sign of that cottontail today.



Cheating on their vegan diet
Monday July 12th 2021, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I put two tiny squash seedlings to a 15″ pot when none of them were growing at all, figuring it was better to give them a chance than tossing them all straight out, and a month later two plants suddenly finally took off–both in the same pot, of course.

The one that’s dominant is (finally a female flower today after all the males, showing that it’s almost certainly) a zucchini; the smaller one at bottom has yet to announce itself and may get yanked out because you only need one zucchini plant and you’re not supposed to have them that mushed together, are you?

And then there’s this other pot. A squash sown at the same time, transplanted at the same time, treated the same way. Might be a butternut, might be my sister’s Italian white zucchini, might be another green zucchini. All carefully labeled, once upon a time. But it is definitely a bit silly, and I continue to debate trying to somehow get the littler guy in that other pot over into this one before it gets crowded out entirely.

Clearly, planting them inside in the winter did not get any of them the least bit ahead and they got so root bound in their 4″ squares that they couldn’t cope. Or at least I think that’s why.

Anyway. At 23″, apricot 2021 seedling #1 has grown an inch and a half since Friday. I understand now why that other guy said he was able to harvest his first fruit off his tall ones on the third year. Nice.

And on a random note, just because it’s so strange: white-tailed deer caught on camera. 

Eating birds. And eggs.

Deer. I’m trying to grok this. Eating the adult nesting birds, their young, and their eggs. They tested by putting out quail eggs and the deer said why thank you very much! It says elk have been caught eating endangered sage grouse and whatever’s in their nests, too.

Foxes, raccoons, and–deer. Who knew?



Fly free
Tuesday June 29th 2021, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

(Picture courtesy of SCPBRG)

She was fine last week when they banded her and for days after.

There were two peregrine falcon chicks in San Jose this year, a male and a female, hatched after the original nesting attempt failed.

This week, the female started having seizures. Over several hours, she made it out of the nest box into the middle of the runway.

And at last she was gone.

There is a possibility that rat poison had made its way up the food chain and that being larger than her brother she had eaten more of it, but we’ll never know for sure. Please never, ever use the stuff outside.

He seems to be fine.

Her mother stood sentry on the ledge above for hours, keeping her safe. But the young one did not move. Grace came down beside her and stretched her wing wide over her daughter’s lifeless body, and again today. The male eyas tried to nudge his sister.

And then he stood on the lower ledge below his mother, taking in the world he will soon fly off into on his own.

And now he has a name. Phoenix.

 



Ramblings
Thursday June 17th 2021, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Wait, what? Live in a towering 2977′ Tinkertoy/Lego/AtAt mashup on a lot that is smaller than the footprint of my current house? $1.6M? And it’s only been on the market for 706 days? What? C’mon, people, snatch this one up, pronto!

I was looking at video of the San Jose peregrine nestlings pushing/falling/jumping out of the box today and the thought suddenly occurred to me: I had never really noticed that the dark feathers that grow in first and most prominently are the ones in their faces. The ones that make them look more like peregrines to their parents. (Debating to add about that moment years ago when a two day old hatchling that had barely achieved the white fluffball stage died and a few hours later the parents fed it to its siblings. The kids were hungry. Thus my thought that blackening cheeks are likely protective.)

In the 97F heatwave over here, two of my apricot seedlings grew visibly since yesterday, three did not, and the last one seems to finally be kicking the bucket after a long decline. But it may yet surprise me.



Falcons on defense
Wednesday June 09th 2021, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Two of the three San Jose peregrines hatched and it is amazing to see them next to that remaining inert egg: they were that small, a week or two ago, and now they’re scooting around the box on their butts with those enormous feet.

That 18th floor ledge with a nest box with shade has become a valuable spot. Today, Hopper2 (they’re named after Grace Hopper) was finishing off a meal where the kids couldn’t see him when he heard something and jumped up on the ledge his mate was on. A third falcon swooped at her  (about a minute in on that video), feet out ready to fight for it, but thought better of it on seeing Grace in immediate maternal defense mode and that there were two of them right there.

It looks like just a swoop and away in the video, with the dad chasing after (“And STAY out!”) –but the still the cam operator got captures the moment. That is an amazing shot. 



When the sun doesn’t go down
Thursday June 03rd 2021, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

My photos, again, so while I wait for them to come through I’ll riff on the moose that a photographer posted to The Last Frontier on Facebook.

Alaska. The Kenai Peninsula. I don’t know that I have permission to share his work here, so you’ll just have to picture it yourself.

There’s a McDonald’s, the siding of the building rough-hewn wood fitting into its surroundings, while otherwise the place is unmistakeably the golden arches.

The pick up window at the drive-in is open and the moose is leaning as far in as its broad, blocking shoulders will allow it to reach. The view is from its side and away back a bit (the photographer’s not dumb.)

Summertime, says I, post-weaning.

One coffee, de-calf-inated. To go.



Scrub those off the list
Saturday May 29th 2021, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life,Wildlife

The problem with only focusing on what you want, she groused silently at the scrub jay, is that you cut off what you could have had.

I had chased it out of my Stella tree on seeing it yanking away in there. It got its not-yet-dark red cherry. The rest of the cluster, pale and small and far too unripe to nourish anything yet, was left on the ground.



Carrion our wayward son
Friday May 28th 2021, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Sing it with me, Have a piece when he is done…

Andy: Mom and Dad can do it. I flew before anybody. I can do this, too, I know I can.

The fledgling stands on the prey with both feet, gripping it hard, preparing to take off to eat breakfast someplace more interesting than home because it’s no fun when there’s no sibling around anymore to try to grab it from you. Grip, flap, lift: an initial try at getting it up to the light fixture. Nope. Go back, grab it again (how DO the folks manage talons and wings at the same time?) get it up there, did it, great!, okay this time lift it up to the ledge.

He did it!

Then, starting at about 7:30 in the video, yelling all the way as he drags it and its drag against the concrete turns him slowly around in the little wind tunnel he’s creating and suddenly Whoops!…

Every cat who ever licked its paw in a defiant show of, I meant to do that… Yeah.

(P.S.) If you’ve ever gotten on your own case about not getting something done, you’re in good company: this house is like our first one, which was a split-entry where the builder only finished the upstairs and left the downstairs as framing and insulation only so that first-time owners could afford a place and put in the sweat equity themselves. We did that.

Fifty years. I’m seeing the raw plumbing for maybe a bathroom, possibly a downstairs laundry room if they once intended a separate living quarters, a bedroom, closet, and family room down there at the least. It’s a nice house.

But that insulation and lumber have been waiting a long time for someone to put up with the hammering and disruption and noise. (Can we get rid of the ivy while we’re dreaming.)



Suddenly wanting to inspect my skylights
Friday May 21st 2021, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Wildlife

I don’t know if it’s the sheep’s-rear-stinky wool wedged in the tree keeping the squirrels out or the sounds of squawking peregrine fledglings occasionally coming from my computer, if they can even hear that from outside. But whatever, something’s working and there’s still fruit on the trees.

Speaking of squirrels, I’ll mention it here for my mom, who’s not on Facebook: my cousin Jim reports that he and his family were watching a movie tonight when they heard a thud, scampering, and lots of squeaks. Everybody went running to see what on earth?

A squirrel (it wasn’t a very big one) had fallen through the skylight, the cat had chased it, and it had leaped for the nearest hiding place–which happened to be the toilet. Somebody had the presence of mind to whip out their phone and hit record for posterity. It was trying to get out, it was now trying to retreat and hide from them but wait let’s not drown, and the poor thing looked like a Mark Rober video reject.

They got a big thing of Tupperware and corralled it and Jim felt it shivering through the plastic. He got it outside, I’m sure shutting the door behind him first so it couldn’t dash back in, and tried to let it go.

It just stayed right there and kept shivering.

His daughter’s studying to be a nurse. They got some rags and bundled the poor soaked thing up and she confessed to petting it for about ten minutes to calm it down while offering it some cat food. Which it finally nibbled at.

At last it went off to go be a squirrel again at owl o’clock. Watch that curfew, kid.

Jim reports (not needing to mention the whole pandemic thing by way of context) that it was the most exciting Friday night they’d had in some time.