“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.

Cool.

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.



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.