Orville Ratenpecker
Tuesday June 11th 2019, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The local paper says that we were the hottest area in the US yesterday, while setting all kinds of records.

Today was 103 again. But the power held.

So, on another subject: my owl popcorn popper was being closely observed by a male Cooper’s hawk on the power lines at rat o’clock (dusk) last night–so much so that my being outside watering my tomatoes didn’t keep him away. I looked up, went oh sorry, and quickly stepped inside and out of his way.

I think that’s the first time one of the hawks has tolerated my being outside with them.

He may have been looking for seconds: there’s been no sign of the rat for a week.

Good to know he’s on it.

Tuesday June 04th 2019, 9:12 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

This video. Because everybody needs to hear Mozart in birdsong.

A swashbuckling Purse’n’Boots
Sunday June 02nd 2019, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Wildlife

(Afghan progress: halfway there.)

Yonder daughter came by and homemade strawberry pie she’d made was enjoyed by all.

Later, I was reading the paper and mentioned out loud the story in there of someone in Florida hearing something messing around downstairs in the middle of the night and they got all brave and stepped out the bedroom door to look over the railing to find out what on earth was going on.

The downstairs was being wrecked. By an 11-foot alligator that had broken in through a window.

I said, Y’know, when I was a kid those were almost extinct from hunting, and now they’ve really made a comeback.

Daughter gives a wry grin and says, You can tell your blog: it is much better to live where there are man-eating cats where you hike. Much better! Man-eating cats!

And she turns back to what she was doing, chuckling, joking/not joking.

One giant leap for…
Thursday May 30th 2019, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

The picture flat-out refuses to go right side up. It’s being squirrelly.

I have, for some time now, only put safflower seeds in my bird feeder; it doesn’t attract as many varieties of birds but the squirrels won’t fight to get at it. They’ll graze the kickout below if they’re hungry enough but that’s it.

Unlike sunflower, though, you can’t buy pre-hulled safflower. And those hulls get tracked indoors and into the runners on the sliding door and that has gotten very old. So I tried to figure out how to go back to sunflower but thwart the squirrels–who LOVE the stuff.

And then I noticed the old plastic trashcan that the trash service doesn’t use anymore and didn’t take away when they changed trucks.

I put it underneath the feeder and put a mixture of the two types of seeds in there; I have 20 pounds of the safflower to use up, and that seemed a good way to start transitioning. And containing. Maybe the squirrels wouldn’t want to jump in where they couldn’t see a predator coming. (Yeah, good luck with that. I’ve seen them pulling a paper cup down low over their heads, trying to lick out every last bit of due-date whipped cream, falling over frontwards and backwards in the process while holding on tight to what made it so they couldn’t see. Squirrels are so funny!)

The other hope was to starve the rat out so it doesn’t show up again.

Of course it only took a few days for the first squirrel to want that treat enough to jump in. Even I can hear the thump from inside when they land in there. They don’t have enough of a steady surface at the top of the thing to leap upwards onto the feeder (yet), so that’s good.

I debated leaning a piece of wood against the can to entice the rat on up so I could capture it, but no: it wouldn’t be stupid enough to simply fall all the way down in there, and I wouldn’t know what to do with it if it did.

There was no appearance of the unwanted little rodent. For days. Well that worked!

Until there it was again, grabbing whatever had fallen just outside the can. Definitely still the same one as ever.

Tuesday evening all was quiet as I went to go zip up the Sunbubble for the night. Opened that sliding glass door, and…

I’m quite sure it didn’t even touch the lip on its giant kangaroo leap from the bottom of that trash can, just one big arc up and over and out. I came inside and marveled to Richard, Just how many times its height did that thing just vault? Wow.

It wasn’t till later that it hit me.

I had just invented a popcorn popper for owls.

Monday May 13th 2019, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Wildlife

I haven’t mentioned the peregrine falcons all season and the San Jose ones are about to fledge.

Video taken today here, a few baby feathers hanging on as the eyases look over the edge and see some of the world outside their concrete outdoor hallway, with everything new.

Photos from when they were banded last week here. Two males, one female.

And the afghan? I started in on that pattern.

Goofed, tinked back all 279 stitches I’d just done, put the project back in its ziplock, and decided to let it breathe for a day. Discovered a ninth pomegranate on the tree.

Tuesday May 07th 2019, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I have now seen it for myself.

I once read an article that said that New York really has few rats for a city its size and the reason why is the rats it has. Norway rats do not climb, they like to go down to the lowest levels of any building or subway station and they are murderous to any rat not like them. Any new type getting off a ship will not live long enough to create a new infestation and that has been the status quo for hundreds of years.

Well they didn’t do their job here. We have roof rats too, which are also an introduced species and like to go up like the Norway likes to go down and the two types rarely cross paths. But when they do the roof rat generally dies in the encounter. Not to mention they’re easier for the hawks to get.

But anyway, it was one of those random sets of facts that sticks with you and I’m glad it did because it means I don’t have to worry if that crazy thing was rabid.

There’s the bird feeder. There’s the usual squirrel hanging out underneath, not liking the safflower enough to try to jump at the thing but willing to shuffle around for the kick-out from the finches above.

A Norway rat–I had to look it up to be sure, but yeah, classic look ya got there, buddy–showed up. And jumped the squirrel from behind!

The squirrel shook it off and looked at it like what the hey? as the much smaller animal ran off.

Next evening. This time the rat was determined and it really attacked that squirrel. It probably thought it could jump it from behind and bite its neck if it could just stretch far enough but there was no way. And this time the squirrel was truly having none of it and fought back, leaving the rat again running away.

That was a few days ago. The squirrels and that unwanted rat have not crossed paths since, deliberately, I imagine. I was hoping a predator had gotten it, but no, it showed up again tonight, about 90 minutes before sundown like the other times. Rats. (Epithetically speaking.)

After chasing it away I pulled the frost covers out and blocked its path so that it would have to go well into the danger of the open yard to get back to the feeder. I know those Cooper’s hawks have been keeping an eye on things.

The best way to get rid of it is to take down the feeders. I’m not thrilled with that idea, either.

“What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”
Friday April 12th 2019, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Mango tree,Wildlife

I sent Dani (the original instigator of the planting of my mango) a new picture of the tree and he sent me this article.

Who knew that Alphonso mangoes were helping to keep the last wild group of Asian lions in the world alive?

Reds and greens
Saturday April 06th 2019, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

We’re having a Cooper’s hawk sighting nearly every day now. Cool.

Another Red Lion amaryllis from my dad–here, the hawk’s gone now, let me give you a close-up. Love love love these. If you have an amaryllis with four or more leaves it should bloom the next year, too.

The ground is so wet that digging a big deep hole and finally planting the Kishu mandarin I got for Christmas was surprisingly very easy. Like pushing a shovel into Play-dough.

If you live in non-citrus-growing areas and wish for a mandarin orange, plant this one in a pot to keep in or out depending on the weather. The tree is small and the fruit is golf ball sized, soft, seedless, and the peel pretty much falls off and you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth just like that. The fruit doesn’t ship well for grocery stores, you have to grow your own.

It ripens months before my Gold Nugget and thus stretches out the season for us. Not to mention it will create more ground-bird nesting habitat out of what was a bare spot.

Today was a perfect spring day and the Sungold cherry tomato that I planted in 2017 burst into even more blooms. Three years!

Note that it was originally set up inside the largest tomato cage I could buy but by now it’s simply carrying it up and away on its shoulders to wherever and there’s no disentangling the thing, all you can do is admire its Leaning Tower of Pisa impression from inside that happy thicket. (Those few dead leaves are from where the freezes got to the outer edges of the plant but it’s made up for it since.)

And to repeat the Red Lion red theme, while listening to two two-hour sessions of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I got ten repeats done on this cowl; I can get one last one out of this skein and then that’s it.

There will be two more sessions tomorrow, so it is time to pick the next project. Baby girl afghan is what I want to do, but I don’t think I have quite the yarn I want for it yet.

An Anna’s
Friday April 05th 2019, 8:24 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I was being watched. It took me a moment.

It was holding quite still, perched on my Babcock peach tree, which does not get enough sun and so is not very big but has a few lingering flowers still.

Now that it had my attention it belted out one loud chirp, waited a beat as if to consider the thought, then, a second.

How did that tiny thing make that huge sound? How on earth did I of all people hear–it really was, (as it took off), it was a hummingbird.

It had apparently decided I was harmless so it went around me to taste a flower on the Indian Free peach, probably creating new fruit for me right before my eyes.

Then it landed on the nearest branch and went back to looking curiously at me from within arm’s reach.

Where it stayed until at last I raised the phone in my hands, set on camera, hoping.

Nopenopenope ‘bye!

This land is your land this land is my land from California to the new-worked eyries
Monday March 25th 2019, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

A crow broke off a twig from the fragile-looking tree just across the fence and with three of its peers inspecting and jumping around that same tree, took off with it trailing along behind, cutting across the corner of my yard to go past where the redwood used to be to go to the tall pine the next yard over.

They ignored me till I took my hat off and waved it at them, at which point the remaining crows wheeled the other way and flew off, this time not over my yard.

So that explains why the crows have been hanging out over there. I knew it wasn’t for food.

And it explains the hawk’s behavior. It’s been working at improving its take-out window hunting technique for several weeks now, giving me an occasional glimpse if I look up fast enough, but it sure wasn’t holding still for more than that.

Till yesterday, when a yearling Cooper’s whose adult feathers won’t come in till this summer was standing guard for some time on the edge of our awning, staring down the crows over yonder, declaring both ownership and a dare.

They flapped off the same way they later would for me.

Eventually the Cooper’s hopped down into a better view for us and explored our porch on that fine Sunday afternoon. It perched on a birdnetting tent to give it some height and looked in the windows at us.

I made sure to blink a lot so as not to be a challenge nor a predator to it. Come, I mentally welcomed. Stay awhile.

Don’t mind if I do. So it did. It let me admire its gorgeousness from fifteen feet away for several minutes, perfectly fine with my eyes meeting his.

Eventually it–I’m going to say, given the size, he–did a short jump over to the potted plants, and at that point I thought maybe I could get its picture, but no, I moved across the room to get my phone and that was not yet allowed. This is still new, don’t push it.

There were dove feathers starting their rapid rainy return into cherry tree fertilizer this morning.

So we have a resident Cooper’s hawk again, to my great delight, and it is establishing our yard as part of its own home from an early age. Coopernicus, who was probably its father, was always the most friendly to humans during breeding season and this one is starting to be, too. Even though it probably won’t start its first family till next year.


When I waved those crows away today I wondered if yesterday’s hawk would know I was keeping the place open for him.

And then I saw it: two of them, wings stretched wide far above in courtship mode, circling around each other on the updrafts and keeping an eye on the goings-on below. Yup. They noticed.

Note that when San Jose built its new city hall, a female peregrine falcon wandering through claimed the eighteenth floor ledge and the building as her own. She too was a yearling. But a male peregrine was smart enough to know that having a female and a territory was good enough to wait a year for and he joined her. From the spring after that one, Clara’s been producing young there every year and is brooding a clutch of four right now, her thirteenth set, if I’m counting right.

And of course mine aren’t peregrines.

So we’ll see how this one goes. But having this one prove people-friendly means we have us some good times ahead.

Room, with a view
Sunday March 03rd 2019, 12:10 am
Filed under: Wildlife

New hawk, no redwood, new technique. I’ve seen it twice now and it’s clearly a pattern–which means I can’t move that cooler that got put out on the patio. It likes it exactly where it is.

It flies in low alongside the house to hide on it where the giant elephant ears and the amaryllises on the old picnic table help shield it from view. I can’t see it there. Usually the finches and doves don’t either, at first. (The towhees, so far, are out of there pronto.) It’s not optimal because it has to leap upward from cooler height to catch its escaping prey rather than coming zooming in ambushing at great speed, but I saw today as it spooked a dove towards the alcove, away from safety, leaving a poof of feathers as it bounced off the screen and somehow still flying fled the other way as the big hawk burst around the patio, wings and tail wide at the sharp turn in pursuit.

Nesting season and a mate and maybe babies to feed already–probably not quite yet, but soon–and the new Cooper’s is a little more willing now to come close to where I am on the other side of the glass.

It tried so hard
Thursday February 28th 2019, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Okay, this is a weird one. I have never, ever seen them do this before. My standing up to photograph it in the act scared it away, but, this is one of the frost covers for my tangerine trees. A squirrel was bracing against it and dragging it by the teeth with great, bulldogged determination and had gotten five or six feet along, with plans one assumes to pull it up to the top of the fence and hoist it into the heights of the taller trees across the fence at the neighbors’.

Man were its babies ever going to have the best and biggest nest! With a living room, a dining room, eleven bedrooms and a ten-walnut garage!

I’m not sure if I was a killjoy or a profound relief to it by interrupting. It didn’t try again.

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.