Spring
Wednesday March 22nd 2017, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

The hole the woodpecker made in the dead wood that ended up on the ground, leaving a tiny feather behind.

The tree with a bigger hole now.

The first peach of the season, on a tree hit by peach leaf curl despite my spraying copper; once was not enough. The first two were leafing out during the storms last month, and rain plus cold weather lets the disease attack the developing leaves.
The new healthy leaves are already coming in, and once they’re fully grown they’re impervious to it.

The other two vulnerable trees are leafing out and it’s been raining–but it’s also been warmer.

The Indian Free is happy as a clam, and should I lose one of the others I’m going to put in a Muir, which likewise is resistant and late-blooming.

The breba (spring crop) figs growing below the leaves.

And there are new flower buds today on the cherries and blueberries.

I love the happy anticipation at this time of year. It’s like a new knitting project with enough rows done that you can really see what it’s going to turn out to be.



Hawk eye
Monday March 20th 2017, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Two ravens landed in my back yard yesterday, standing there watching me, testing, and then quickly lifting away when I objected, flying in a half circle just outside the periphery of the property and jerking back away when I waved my arms when they got too close. Territory is a language they speak (loudly, at times. Caw.) Back to your willow tree, guys.

Every spring, they try. Once. And then the young ones decide the rules their parents had taught them were real.

But that challenge could not be allowed to stand, and the absence of birds at my feeder the entire rest of the day but for two frantic all-ee-all-ee-in-come-free minutes, twice, then frantic scrambles away, suggested that a Cooper’s hawk had seen what those ravens had done and was having none of it.

Time to claim that which is closer to the ground as well as the redwood heights above.

The first shake of the window got my attention, the second bounce still didn’t stop it and then at last the dove turned towards that tree with the hawk now in close pursuit.

He was back in the afternoon: the solitary sentry at the center of the fence, his chest not streaked with youth but not quite chestnut yet either, at least not at that angle in the shadows of the heavy clouds. It could have been just the light. He stood.

A while later, wide wings caught my eye as he came in to guard the top of the awning above the bird feeder, that typical low swoop with the upwards at the end. Three sightings in one day? I looked at my calendar, and yes: equinox. Now I get it.

He stood there for some time, too.

He flew down to the patio to what I had not quite realized till that moment was his other I-am-here: the wooden box. But in the instant his feet would have touched down he tucked them back up again and turned and flew towards the redwood.

I felt like I’d wrecked it. I’d left my tomato seedlings at that edge and he’d seen at the last that they were too flimsy to support him, right when he no longer had quite enough lift to simply land past them. As soon as he was out of sight I opened the slider and moved them to the other end of the box so he could have his perch back.

The one he likes to people-watch from (and also look for finches cowering in the elephant ears against the house.)

It is raining hard and will off and on for the next five days. There is easy food just outside of the rain for the seedeaters and they will want that.

He’s got a nest up there again this year. He will be back.



Build-a-nest kit
Friday March 17th 2017, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

It looks bigger if you gather it round like the curve of the needles. I’m on the second of three eight-ounce balls. As long as it beats the baby here it’s all good.

I was about six ounces into it a few days ago when I realized that the pattern I’d picked and what I was actually knitting don’t look like they have any connection, because I… And then I kept… How did I not see that I… Eh. So it’s unique.

Meantime, a full month behind the Bewick’s wrens doing this, the chickadees (ours are the chestnut-backed variety) dove into the dog fur today again and again and again all day long, at one time managing to lift what looked like an entire pile–briefly, and I wish the camera had caught that millisecond. No way, and it put most of it back for now. It was comically wobbly heading off.

In Alaska, where the forecast is zero degrees tonight and warm wool a good idea, our daughter reported that her cat cuddled up next to her–but was then flummoxed that her stomach was kicking it.



Nearing equinox
Thursday March 16th 2017, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Back to the old method. Coopernicus, is that you?

That was a hard enough smack to shake the window next to me and I looked up to see feathers and more feathers floating down–and the dove? Still flying after that? How?

Immediately incoming was the Cooper’s hawk in pursuit, aimed as if straight for my face, but it pulled up into a tight curve around the bird feeder and back out again after its fleeing dinner. Which it surely caught, somewhere through the trees and just beyond where I could see. We’re both fine with that.



Forget the knitting, hey, look! A pretty peach tree!
Sunday March 12th 2017, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

The Indian Free has started blooming on the side of the tree towards Adele’s yard. I could have pruned more of those smaller branches out but everything fills out fast on that tree, it being a standard rather than a semi-dwarf, and I wanted the lower ones to grow just over the fence rather than having only the upper ones left which could end up towering high out of the neighbors’ reach. I want it to grow a lot more out than up. I’ll adjust it as it goes along.

Wildflower ground cover: oxalis.

A Cooper’s hawk landed in the middle of the fence this afternoon. There was a squirrel at either end of that fence, one standing still, one lying down, and neither seemed to know quite what to do–reminding me that the average lifespan of a squirrel in the wild is a single year. They’ll learn to be afraid of it soon enough.

The one lying down thought about it a moment and stood up with its legs stretched upwards rather like a cat, facing the hawk. It was an odd thing to do.

The hawk was not a juvenile. It was a male. Whether it was my Coopernicus who’s been around these last eight years or so I don’t know but observations will tell. The hunting pattern has definitely been different; he likely had a shoulder injury from sideswiping the window screen and learned to compensate by driving his prey into the windows to stun them. There have been very few window strikes this year–but then, I’ve mostly been seeing juvenile Coopers.

Knitting: I worked on Nash’s stocking and ripped it right back. I know how to fix a miscrossed cable, just, I didn’t do a very good job of it and rather than spend any more time fussing over it it was only four rows down so there you go. Rip.

Back to the receiving blanket.



A new generation
Tuesday March 07th 2017, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

Storms and squirrels and who thought it was a good idea to run that thing over their tree? Chomp. The Comcast guy came tonight, after I had no internet all day, and pronounced the cable full of water.

Remember that day when part of our road was flooded so we ran off to the phone store in the other direction to update to the new cheaper plan because nobody in their right mind would be out in that, so we wouldn’t have to wait? (The storm where they evacuated 1400 people in San Jose by boat, as it turned out. Yow.)

Richard tonight said that because of that his phone was now a hotspot so, here, and he set it up: I can blog tonight while waiting for the new cable to be installed in the morning after the guy gets permission to go into the neighbors’ yard again; 8:30 pm was a little late to knock on their door and then climb up that pole.

The skunks are breeding out there somewhere in the dark and would surely love the interruption… Nah, I’m with him. Come back tomorrow.

If it were July Adele would be sending him off with homegrown tomatoes. It’s a shame it doesn’t rain in July.

Meantime, a Cooper’s hawk landed on the fence this afternoon and then hopped on down and stared into the bushes, cocking her head this way and that: I KNOW you’re in there! Come out and let me grab a bite!

The juncos, finches, wrens, towhees, and white-crowned sparrows kept from panicking and outwaited her and she took off.

This was the best look I’ve gotten at the newcomer yet. The juvenile markings were fading but not quite gone.



Spring begins
Thursday February 16th 2017, 11:56 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

Finished the last multicolored, multi-yarn row tonight at long last. Plain edging to go. My thanks to the elderly volunteer at the clinic who watched me work as I waited for a prescription to be filled this afternoon and told me, appreciatively, That’s a big project!

He made my day. It’s funny how much unexpected little moments like that can help.

Meantime, some peach flowers: the August Pride tree and its wide-petaled blossoms just starting to open and the Tropic Snow with its deeper pink, slightly frilly ones.

And looking at my phone, I forgot to post this! I had some of my friend Kathy‘s dog’s fur out on the patio for nest-making material and snapped this Bewick’s wren right after it gathered a beakful.

In the shape of a heart. It was on Valentine’s day. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at my phone.



On the day the first peach bud showed the first bit of pink
Sunday February 05th 2017, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Those huge wings doing a tight u-turn right in front of the window across the patio–even I heard the whooshing air from inside, a split second after the panicked dove hit the glass. The Cooper’s coming in caught it before it could so much as fall to the ground among the elephant ears and somehow then still headed out the other way again within that same space.

A cloud of prey feathers drifted into the yard as the hawk clutched its dinner tight and away. Those will disappear quickly, and have already started to. Nests must be built and babies must be cushioned.

Judging by the peregrine falcon reports coming in, our Cooper’s should be starting to lay and brood very soon.



Only took me 30 years to find this out about her
Tuesday January 31st 2017, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Friends,Wildlife

A friend stopped by and chatted for awhile, and as we talked, she was facing the bird feeder.

“You’ve got a nuthatch!”

“On the feeder?”

“Yes!”

I turned around to see, and sure enough, there it was. The thing was almost empty so the finches had given up squabbling over the seed and all but one had gone somewhere else and with their aggressiveness out of the picture, the nuthatch had flown in. The one house finch seemed to question its presence a second but the nuthatch shrugged it off. Hanging upside down, it reached in and fetched itself a safflower seed and flew off in success.

Karen picked up my Sibley’s and went straight to the page–Nope, not a Pygmy, that’s a… Turns out Karen’s not only an avid birder and has a feeder, too, she’s led birdwalking tours. Knock me over with a pillow’s worth of feathers. She regaled me with squirrel stories, like the mutual friend who once asked Al Jensen what to do about the squirrels in his fruit trees. Not knowing that it was illegal to relocate them, the guy then proceeded to trap one–one squirrel, ever, that was it–and drove over to the entrance to the Stanford Dish to let it go, thinking it could have a whole oak tree all to itself on that undeveloped hillside. (Never mind the mountain lions occasionally spotted below.)

He opened the cage and that squirrel made a mad dash away from the oak, straight down the hill, across the busy road, and scrambled at long last into a comfortable suburban backyard like where he’d come from. Okay, that didn’t work.

Walking out the door a few minutes later, I wished out loud that she’d gotten to see the Cooper’s hawk to get the full experience around here. Dang if right on cue, looking at the big pine across the street, guess what flew upwards and then started kiting right there above the neighbor’s house? We laughed at the utter randomness of the timing. Well, there you go! Wow!

Wishing for it to come on over for a close up was a little much. It tipped its wings at an angle and disappeared into the wind.



Look! Squirrel!
Sunday January 15th 2017, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Side note: 35F vs 67F under the frost cover layers: a new record for those Christmas lights tonight.

The day we got word Al had passed, I was outside setting up the covers over the mango tree for the evening when I looked up: two hawks were courting, soaring, circling on the wind together above my next-door neighbor’s and the home beyond. I hadn’t seen one here in awhile but I knew it was about time for them to start preparing for a family and there they were.

I wished for a closer look. I got my closer look. I just had to wait a little.

Yesterday a black squirrel was just starting to climb the fence not far from the bird feeder and my window view when he realized what was perched right there right next to the top of that board and he suddenly froze where he was.

It was pretty clear to me it wasn’t Coopernicus, the male Cooper’s that had tolerated my presence for years. I know that featheration changes over a year’s time, but this one seemed, if I were to guess, to be the young juvenile of last summer with its stripes faded out to the white chest of an adult. But at that size, male, definitely.

He let me watch him awhile. He wasn’t skittish about it. I remembered to blink and occasionally turn slightly away so I wouldn’t be challenging him, while thinking, just like your dad? He was, right? Raptors like to come back home to the territory they grew up in to claim as their own when they can.

Meantime, after awhile that little squirrel’s nose stopped pointing straight up. An oxalis plant that wasn’t quite blooming yet had caught its eye. Maybe it had a tasty bug in it. It completely forgot about the hawk right above its head and hopped down and buried its nose in among the clover-shaped leaves, sniffing around.

While the hawk craned its neck over the edge to take a good look at that potential easy meal and his good fortune.

Nahhhh… The big wings spread wide and sciurini tartare was off the menu for now.



Playing de-fence
Friday January 06th 2017, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Wildlife

Yesterday I saw a squirrel racing down the fence line suddenly skid with a flip that threw it off into space upside down, nose and all four paws straight up and tail flailing hard to no avail as it dropped straight down like a roadrunner cartoon. It seemed as surprised as I was. And that was when it was just wet out.

I resisted the temptation to climb up to look down into the neighbor’s side: it was either fine, hawk-food take-out or crow sourcing.

This morning not a single squirrel was touching this. Not till it melted.

Meantime, inside, the latest amaryllis stem is no worse off for having toppled itself over.

And the baby afghan continues.



On opening day
Thursday December 01st 2016, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

And so it begins.

You can almost see the little dots of purple in those tiny things.

It’s been colder, though, (37 out there right now, 59 under the covers) and I haven’t seen any honeybees on the frost covers in the morning this past week. But if they’re looking for flowers they surely know right where to go. Does it make any difference that the neighbors let the hive that set up camp in their backyard keep all its honey for the winter?

Meantime, the artificial vs real tree debate has been settled. By a beaver. In a dollar store in Maryland. Reaching up to the fake ones, taking a sniff, and declaring a definite opinion on the subject.

(Yes, but no allergies and no massive baby spider hatch-out like that one year. Time to roll ours out and set it up.)



They were bigger than he was
Monday November 28th 2016, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Three raptors approaching overhead and my Cooper’s hawk diving for cover in the upper parts of the redwood tree, vanishing instantly.

That wasn’t something I ever expected to see.



Make unto thee no raven images
Sunday November 13th 2016, 12:12 am
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

The crows and ravens and I have an understanding: they do not land in my yard.

And they don’t. They tend at breeding season to test me as to whether this is still true, I chase them off when they try just once, and that’s that. Every year.

I’ve wondered if they had a sense of smell, and have often thought surely they would have to; how else could they scavenge? And so I found this really cool article on the whole subject of birds and smell and how oh yes they do, and why historically it was wrongly thought that they did not.

So. Two days ago to my great surprise a raven landed not only in my backyard but not at all far away from me and where I could see it out the window. Right there. Hey!

And it was staring at the mango tree while standing nearest to where the buds are.

I went outside to declare just whose territory this was in language I knew it understood and as it took off, two more–hard to tell if they were crows or ravens, their height was near the top of the redwood–were cawing loudly and flying towards me. That is definitely one type of bird I can hear.

I waved my arms and the closest veered instantly away over the neighbors’ just short of the fenceline.

Right. As if I could touch it from where I am. The second was coming up just behind where the first had, I waved my arms again and it veered sharply away, an instant replay, and they all went silent.

Mangoes have the most intensely scented, marvelous flowers of anything I’ve ever grown–mine bloomed just once a few months after I planted it and I’ve been wanting ever since to smell that glorious scent again.

The new, tightly closed buds have no smell–to me.

But as far as I can tell, that raven wanted to see what its nose said it had to have enough to risk my seeing it standing there.

Glad I saw it out there. Don’t know if it works on ravens but it might be time to start the fake dead crow at last.



Hanging out at the branch office
Thursday November 10th 2016, 12:08 am
Filed under: Life,Lupus,Mango tree,Politics,Wildlife

Slower growth than summer’s but still coming along there.

Meantime, the neighbors kept a compost pile for years near the other side of the fence from my mango tree.

They weren’t trying to be part of the amateur beekeeper trend, but one day a swarm liked that spot and moved right on in. I don’t think they try to harvest any honey, they’re just glad to be doing their part in supporting the population. Even if inadvertently.

Which, when they told me, explained why I get so many.

Now that the weather is chilly at night a few of those honeybees are getting their feet snagged on my frost covers again, not quite making it back to the hive for the night. Or sometimes it looks like they just got there when I arrive in the morning.

I can’t pull them off. Too close to the stingers and I don’t want to dismember the poor things. I don’t want to walk across the yard to put the cloths away and have a bunch of upset bees around me, either. So I give the underside of the cloth a good pat with an extra layer or three of fabric between us to free them, one by one; a flick if that didn’t do it.

It was good and sunny by the time it was warm enough for the day’s grand unveiling and I grabbed the big straw hat by the back door on my way out.

And so the usual routine. Six this time–off you go. Sometimes they fly free, sometimes they plummet, needing energy and warmth or (I hope not) dead. But always, always, they are ever so polite about it to the big human thwacking around their feet.

Most of today’s simply fell to the ground. The birds would soon be checking for snacks.

Stepped just inside as I shut the door behind me while reaching for my hat.

I had just long enough to wonder what burr-type thing had fallen from where to have landed on my hat or was it falling apart? My favorite! But I had seen no such thing moments earlier and it didn’t feel like broken straw edges.

Nor do straw edges bounce up and down in your hand in agitation as one’s hand closes to grasp them. Mine quickly opened and I stared, and one upset honeybee, very much invigorated and very much alive, made its quick escape to parts still unknown within the house.

And still it hadn’t stung me for all I’d put it through.

May I be as forgiving and slow to anger against the stings of yesterday’s election. I can only pray.