Bayside
Saturday July 01st 2017, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Driving over the San Francisco Bay, glad Richard was at the wheel so I could see: the black cormorants resting on the towers, the snowy egrets, one in flight, the others wading by the shore. The flock of white pelicans!

And the water was high, so high, so close–and green across the expanse to either side rather than blue. All that winter white in the mountains to the east melting melting melting flowing down to the Bay.



They grow up so fast
Monday June 26th 2017, 9:23 pm
Filed under: History,Wildlife

Mathias is two months old today.

In downtown San Francisco this year, they had a pair of peregrines at the usual nest box on the 33d floor of PG&E and an egg with a second expected momentarily.

But then another pair thought that–hey look! That was the best cliff around. Gravel (they like gravel) in a protective box to keep any eagles from seeing the babies, and it’s out of the rain, even! They tussled the two earlier falcons out of there and took over. After more courting, they laid four eggs of their own and scooted the one that had been sitting there for two weeks in with theirs.

Brooding five eggs was a big job.

It had turned dark so it was easy for the watchers to tell it apart from the later ones. It did not hatch, nor did one of theirs.

But note that it’s been over a hundred years since we had enough peregrine falcons alive to fight over territory like that–they were called chicken hawks and hunted mercilessly long before DDT nearly finished them off. Those nests represent the life’s work of some very good biologists.

The site’s videographer compressed the eyases’ first three weeks into 68 seconds, here, if you’re interested. Unlike San Jose’s nest, their cameras let you hear the birds, too.



Memo: While You Were Out
Friday June 23rd 2017, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden,Recipes,Wildlife

Cooper’s hawk. Adult. Right there, intently watching my patio and back door as I came around the corner of the yard from trimming back the kids’ old climbing tree that had been shading my tomatoes a bit.

I stepped quickly back behind the house–but I think my startling it cost it its dinner. Sorry about that.

I came inside a few minutes later with  these Yellow Transparents. It is a sign of how different things are this year, drought-wise, that I still have plenty on my tree, proof that the squirrels don’t touch the tart stuff unless they’re starving: this year they have better options.  (Whatever they are out there, starting with my California Coffeeberries).

A little apple juice, four small quartered apples, cover, zap five minutes, cool, scrape off the skins and voila! Apple sauce for two.

And a Mathias picture just because.



Impromptu block party
Tuesday June 20th 2017, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Friends,Wildlife

7:30 p.m. I was taking a bin to the curb when the little kids across the street called out and waved an enthusiastic hi to me. I waved hi back.

And then I ducked quickly down the side yard to check to make sure before I said anything: was she there? She was!

So I went back over and asked the parents and their two little kids if they’d like to see a mother mourning dove on her nest?

Yes! Please!

I explained that when my own kids were that size, we’d had a woodpecker nest that my husband could hold the kids up high to see into, and how much we’d loved that.

And so I showed them the nest: there, up on top of the ladder.

Their mom hoisted them up one by one to give them a better look. The dove, as always, stayed quietly put, observing the observers.

They hopped skipped and jumped back down the walkway–and saw their buddy, who lives two doors down. His parents had seen them outside playing and had started out the door to join them when they had all suddenly disappeared into my yard. And so I asked them, too, and we all went back and looked again, two pairs of little ones now and two moms. (The dads were invited but seemed a bit shy to intrude.)

Where is it? Oh! There!

She’s well hidden, isn’t she? I asked. Tippy toes and mommy’s arms.

And then the kids, being kids, ran off around the corner because they wanted to explore the hidden treasure of a backyard they’d never been in. The moms started to call them away and I invited them to hey, come on back. Such a delight to have little kids running around in my back yard again.

What kind of tree is this? Oh, you’ve got tomatoes!

Turns out one had been wanting to know how better to fend off the critters from her oranges.

Turns out the other had needed a listening ear on how to feel like you’re still a good mom when you’re badly sleep deprived with a three year old and a fifteen-month-old, and didn’t know she had someone right there whom she could talk to about it, someone who knew–but she does now. “Wow, four in six years?”

“Yeah,” I laughed and said in all honesty, “I don’t know how I did it.”

I owe that momma dove a great big thank you for sticking around and starting a new clutch of eggs.



And now the daughter
Thursday June 15th 2017, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

There on the fence, preening. I grabbed my aging phone and wished. The chest markings of a juvenile, the larger size of a female–and there she goes! Not the adult I’d been seeing. She’s probably only been flying for about a month, then. Cool!

Meantime, I really wanted to get this out there today and not one day later and I made it to the post office before closing with ten minutes to spare. Someone needed a hug. Someone who’d just dyed her hair purple. It was just the thing.



With a warmth like the musk ox itself
Friday June 09th 2017, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life,Wildlife

The adult Cooper’s hawk stood on the telephone wires just past the fence line. An hour earlier right there at the awning it had flinched in flight at my standing up, both of us realizing a moment late that the other was there. I sat down again as it did an extra little half-loop in surprise before landing but then it took off over the house and away. (Sorry…)

This time I felt a bit watched, looked up, and held still, quietly loving it for being there where I could see it. What a beautiful bird. I blinked repeatedly so it wouldn’t consider me a predator nor threat.

Becoming confident over several minutes in its ownership of that piece of the sky, comfortable with me now, it reached down and preened an itchy feather from its chest, allowing itself to be briefly vulnerable in a way that conveyed that all was right in its world.

Meantime, I’d like to share this postcard. I left the receipt for the headband from Oomingmak with my daughter, so I’m not sure if the person who signed the letter was the artist who’d knitted it or someone at the co-op headquarters in Anchorage, but either way, I’m quite charmed.

She made the knitting personal, and that, not to mention the qiviut, is knitting at its best.



Blink and you’ll miss it
Thursday June 08th 2017, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus,Politics,Wildlife

While I watched the Comey hearing…(full YouTube video.) There is nothing like observing their faces along with their words and intonations. (What on earth was Cornyn doing with his hands the whole time he was talking?) I kept half-hoping someone would call John McCain an ambulance–he   s  p  o  k  e    in slow motion, made no sense, (the ex-FBI chief is not addressed as President) and looked like he was having a serious medical event like a transient ischemic attack or a diabetic crash.

So. Five (!) hawk sightings today, including one I got to see coming straight towards me, its neck not so white, its chest solid and buff: an adult.

However many there are in its young family, it rules, and the crows and ravens have disappeared from my end of the block as of late.

What’s completely new is a mockingbird that has suddenly decided that the larger scrub jay has no right to my back yard–and the surprise that the bossy overdressed blue corvid loses every time. After being the bully of the bird feeder forever, threatening the songbirds while stealing far more than it needs to or even can eat, it was quite surprised at getting its comeuppance and having to run for it, not casually but for real, with the smaller mocker twirling around in serious chase above the elephant ears. Not learning a thing, the jay had to dash for cover again and again, the other right at its back. A brilliantly-colored tanager on the other side of the fence took courage for the first time and gave it its own “And STAY out!” over there.

Tempted to name the mocker Comey.

Meantime, two days ago when the sun was safely low–the lupus/UV exposure thing–I knocked on the door of the little kids across the street so they could get a chance to come see the doves in the nest. I was sure if we waited a few more days the fledging would be over and I remember how much my kids loved to be lifted up to see the baby birds back in the day.

But the family was probably out in the back yard and didn’t hear me.

Yesterday we had those two doves side-by-side up there, the one no longer attempting to hide from me under momma’s wing, but again no one was home across the street till the sun had sunk altogether.

Today there was no one home on top of that ladder and no dove in sight.

Oh well. Next year.

I looked again shortly after, though, and there the two were, fluttering upwards in no particular alarm at my coming around the corner, rather as a matter of teaching the young What One Does while telling each other about me. (Old enough to fly: check. Good.) One stayed in sight about six feet past the young pear tree and I took its graduation portrait.

And when I blinked, like all good mourning doves it felt compelled to blink back. It’s one of the most charming things about them.



New kid on the block
Wednesday June 07th 2017, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Four, count’em four fly-bys in front of or around the patio, the last one finally snagging a snack. I didn’t ever quite see it head-on and I’m not even sure they were all the same one. But I think the one that got the finch at the fourth go-round had some brown in his upper chest. His neck was definitely a brighter white than our previous Cooper’s hawks–I’d guess those are fresh feathers.

Such a chest would make it a juvenile, and a fairly newly fledged one at this time of year. Cool!

It hunted like it, too. I watched it, thinking, nah, you gave that thing a huge head start, you’re not going to get that one. It didn’t.

It did not find the two doves I’ve been watching nesting under the eaves on the other side of the house and I’m okay with that.

Immediately after I snapped this it took off with its finch at foot. One does not eat where the ravens can see and steal from you (hoping it wasn’t the movements re the camera that scared it off, but if so it’ll learn to mostly ignore that.)

And so the new season begins.

 



Blessed are the peacemakers
Tuesday June 06th 2017, 8:01 pm
Filed under: Politics,Wildlife

Two in sight, for the first time! (Wikipedia on mourning doves, here.) You can only see the two of them from this angle; the smaller one disappears from view in walking around to the other side (where there isn’t anything to step higher onto.)

Meantime…

I thought the concept of the collegiality of the Senate had gone extinct in the last ten years.

But here’s Al Franken, championing that phrase and the whole idea of it, reclaiming it for our common good. In trying to explain it to Trevor Noah as a real thing, he offers an example just past the 15 minute mark of being friends to and befriended in a big way by one’s political opposites.

The wife of then-Senator Jeff Sessions, whose nomination for Attorney General Franken voted against, had knitted a baby blanket for Franken’s new grandchild. He marveled at it: a baby blanket! It was clear he got what a labor of love that was, and he held up the thought to the whole world as an example of how it could be. It had taken time, it had taken thought, it had taken work, though he didn’t quite spell that out in long form.

A baby blanket as a symbol of peace. I’m sure the doves won’t mind having company.



I just need a few more days here
Thursday June 01st 2017, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Looking over at the sour cherry tree, when, Wait–those branches shouldn’t be wiggling when the wind isn’t blowing–Hey! (A sudden scramble of black fur.) OUT!

The birdnetting tent wasn’t enough. So I leaned old metal racks around it and bird spikes, with frost covers stuffing the spaces between and then spritzed the covers in grape Koolaid solution, aiming a bit at each fruit, too, as best I could. With apologies to the birds, whose lungs are irritated by the stuff, but the squirrels don’t like it any more than they do. I don’t mind feeding songbirds. I do mind destructive rampaging that leaves the crop (such as it is on my little tree) on the ground, wrecked and spat out.

Grape and only grape works.

And at that the squirrels’ search for a way in became fruitless.

(Edited the next day to add, well, that didn’t work–those cherries were ripe and they wanted in enough in the morning. So I uncovered the whole thing in the morning and picked all that was left. A pie just came out of the oven (multi-pitter, here.)



The main dish
Tuesday May 30th 2017, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

That early stage when a project feels like it’ll never get done. When I know I just have to do one more hour’s worth of work and then it’ll totally take off. (If I could see from here who it’s to be for I would have whizzed through so fast from the get-go.)

Meantime, I wonder this every spring: I know that growing young and lactating squirrels seek out sources of calcium then.

But why are they so fixated on eating this part of this broom that they will absolutely pulse with chewy fervor as if they were digging into hardpack clay to store a nut for the winter–even in the face of my opening the door and walking towards them? They make a break for it at the very last (like this one did), reluctant to let go and clearly not wanting some other squirrel to take their place on the comeback. They have even fought over access to it, and territorial squirrel fights, not chases but actual yin-and-yang-look rolling-hairball fights, are (at least in my observations) rare and leave the vanquished marked to its peers as such by a bitten-off ear tip.

The rubber part of that push broom is looking pretty sad. So is that ear.

Pica? (Wikipedia entry.)



Parker
Saturday May 27th 2017, 4:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

Parker gently took my hand, not pulling me away from the grownup discussion but more as a request.

Sure!

He took me to the next room over to where there was a couch where we could look out the window and straight down all eleven floors. (Me at age six, I would have freaked. It didn’t seem to occur to him to flinch.)

Gramma, he asked. I want to see the falcons. Show me the falcons.

I had seen a peregrine fly below on Thursday but by the time my dad had stood up to see it was gone. There are signs down the block warning drivers to be ready to brake for them.

Well, I told him, I only saw it that one time here; I don’t know when it will fly by again.

That was okay. Where do they live, what do they eat, how fast can they go. He knew they go really fast.

I wasn’t sure how he would take the news that they eat pigeons and was a bit relieved that it seemed to be an okay part of nature to him He wanted to learn everything he could about them from me and I was so glad I’d let him bring me over to where we could look for them together and where he had my undivided attention, just the two of us.

I don’t know if he’ll remember those moments, but I know I will.



Coffeeberries
Thursday May 18th 2017, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife


There’s a row of plants against the fence that have been here since before us. They bloom in clusters of small white flowers in early spring and despite the fact that I didn’t water them through the drought, they hung in there just fine. The birds love darting in there and I’ve often wondered just how many nests I could find if I could actually get in there.

They’ve been growing like crazy after all this winter’s rain–and while I was pruning them back a bit tonight I looked down into the density.

I think I’ve seen a few random unripe berries a few times before, but wow, where did all these come from?!

So then I had to finally go find out just what those plants are. I’ve wondered long enough.

California coffeeberry. Found it. Named after the appearance of the coffee plant but not actually having anything to do with such a thing. It’s a native, sustaining the native birds, unlike the murderous alien Nandina/heavenly bamboo sold by nurseries everywhere whose berries kill cedar waxwings and robins. This is a prettier and far more useful plant. The deer don’t like them, the birds do, they’re beautiful and the flowers are sweet. The snails clearly avoid it, and since we are within thirty miles of where some idiot 49er released his French escargots into the wild during the Gold Rush to go do their thing, that’s huge.

You water it the first year or so and it takes it from there.  It’s not a grayish desert plant like so many local natives: it’s actually green, something my East Coast-raised eyes crave.

I knew I had a nice row of plants. I appreciate them a whole lot more now, now that I know what they are.

I wish the previous owners were alive so I could thank them.



Raising peace
Wednesday May 17th 2017, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Wildlife

After yesterday’s post, it feels good to be able to say, oh wow, look at that.

I’m suddenly realizing we haven’t touched the ladder since the Fuji apple was pruned in the winter.

I’d always been told mourning doves make the worst nests: as lazy as, drop two twigs and call it done, but this one went to a lot of effort to make the best I’ve ever seen one with. Maybe since it wasn’t in a tree or a bush it needed a bit of camouflage, I don’t know, or maybe it was the abundance of enticing material by the lacewood elm (which reaches to just to the right of this picture). After all, we knitters know that the way to get someone to stick with the process of learning how to do what we do is to share the best yarns for their hands to want to work with.

Not that I went close enough to try to get a good look at its details. She watches me when I go past and knows that I’ve noticed her now but she does not move. Nor do I stay in the way.



Young and grizzled
Thursday May 11th 2017, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

Missing this little guy.

Last summer I wished I’d gotten a picture of the taxidermied grizzly at Anchorage airport that warns incoming tourists that Alaska is dead serious about the size of its bears. So here it is, with an arctic fox at its feet on the right.