Wednesday May 31st 2023, 6:22 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

That lizard that I thought looked like an itty bitty alligator sort of?

It is in fact called, it turns out, an alligator lizard.

And in the loveliness of spring, they do… This. Which is why I’m stuck with the Beatles singing, ‘Hold me, love me’ in my head. Uhhh…

A day in May
Friday May 26th 2023, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

The tenth: done.

We have the first tomato flowers of the year. (Photo taken through netting, thus the blur.)

Re the peregrines: while the sub-adult was in courtship with the adult, a male adult flew in and took over mating duties for a single day while the teenager sat over yonder and cried audibly in camera range at being ousted. But there was no fight, because the adult male didn’t think he was old enough to be competition yet–and then was never seen again. Avian flu, we don’t know.

So the female went back to accepting the sub-adult because that’s all she had.

And so I wonder…

Of the three eggs she laid, only one hatched and it’s late enough by now that there is no expectation the other two will.

Maybe he wasn’t fertile yet after all. We’ll never know.

(Today’s video here.)

Baby bird day
Thursday May 18th 2023, 8:54 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The peregrines: the male being a second year still in juvenile plumage, he’s never done this before and there was some question as to whether he was even fertile yet, although the likelihood was yes.

He was certainly new at it: when the first egg was laid, he was so excited that he took prey over to it and tried to feed it. His mate did a falcon eye-rolling equivalent and it didn’t happen again.

Meantime, there was a faded egg left over from last year’s pair that had never hatched. Midway through brooding her own three, the female went over and carefully scooped it with her beak to where it could be properly kept warm along with the rest.

It stayed there about a week before the male was seen exiting the nest box carrying most of an eggshell and getting the darn thing out of there. So they came out even on the eye-rolling.

Their first fluffy eyas hatched last night and there was our happy daddy feeding it this morning, an actual beak offered eagerly up to him this time rather than smooth hard shell. He wasn’t particularly good at getting food to his mate when she wanted while she was (and is still) brooding–he wanted his turns on those eggs–but this part? He’s got it.

Also this morning: I got the sheer delight of watching a newly fledged mockingbird making it up to the fence line outside the window. It did baby bird things: it tried to preen away an itchy bit of hatchling fluff that hadn’t fallen out yet. It tried walking down the fence line and the first time, it was the stagger of a toddler in diapers; after a rest and a try again, it walked more smoothly, more like a mockingbird. I wondered if this was the first time it had been able to take steps for longer than the width of the nest? Did I just get to see a baby learning how to walk?

Seems that way.

It begged for food and almost fell over in the process when a parent flew by to check on it.

Parent on the fence! A second baby flew uncertainly up there, its wobbliness giving its age away.

Look how short their tails still are! Those will finish growing in fast.

They fluttered their wings and nearly knocked themselves over. They picked at bugs on the fence. They tried the mocker gesture of the one-two dance, shoulders up high, and, now out, to try to scare up more and no, not quite like that, guys, you don’t want to fall on your beak. They pancaked down, tired, the second one echoing its sibling on every movement. They jumped up when a parent flew by and they each got fed sometimes, while at other times the parent looked at them as if they would, then turned around and flew away: we won’t let you go hungry but we won’t let you get away with thinking you don’t have to start finding your own now.

Later, I saw one try to make the jump from the neighbor’s tree back to that fence and it misjudged the height or else couldn’t quite maintain its own; I’m not sure what it landed on on the other side. There used to be a beehive about there, if there isn’t still.

More preening that almost made them knock themselves over. Kids are so cute. Lots of observing their world from their wide new perspective.

Just now as I was typing, movement caught my eye and I looked over. It was a Bewick’s wren, a particular favorite of mine, suddenly perched by the window. It preened a bit of baby fluff away and nearly wobbled off its perch. It fluttered its wings hard to keep its balance. It considered trying flying again but for awhile there was going, nahhh. It looked over at me. I looked at it, wishing it could grok a human smile and love directed its way. Well, at least it stayed awhile as I typed.

And then finally, with the sun getting low, it took off around the awning pole and away into something I couldn’t quite see from here.

As they do.

The nature of things
Thursday May 11th 2023, 9:24 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Wildlife

Looking around, I’m not sure but I think what we had was a Stinkhorn mushroom.

Not, sorry, a Stinkface, as I initially relayed to my husband. It still makes me laugh, even if I was wrong.

Maybe that potential treat is what the little guy sunning himself near the blue flower pot was interested in.

A question: I’ve been going through old stash and came across these blues. The big ball, 167 grams, is merino laceweight dyed by Lisa Souza at, the hank and its wound-up twin (they are, even if the photo insists on adding extra purple and depth to the unwound one) are Cascade alpaca lace–pretty sure that’s not baby alpaca, sorry, but it’s okay; the teal blue to the left is 50/50 tussah silk/merino, and the darker blue is–quite sure that’s from Lisa, too, baby alpaca laceweight where I bought an extra hank just in case but didn’t need it.

These were together in storage because I was always going to knit them doubled in dark/light stripes. Or maybe three. Or something. But it never happened. If anyone wants to play with some laceweight, let me know and it’ll be on its way. Stored in a ziplock inside a heavy plastic bag.

Edit: yarn spoken for. Thanks!

Cargo, car go
Friday May 05th 2023, 8:12 pm
Filed under: History,Wildlife

You know Russia doesn’t think their invasion plan is going so well when one of their guys goes on record claiming the Americans started the whole thing because they’ve got a volcano in Yellowstone that’s going to wipe out all of North America so they were out to expand their territory.

Say what now?

Ukraine is like this warden: Get this snarling thing out of here and send it back where it belongs.

Rare but it happens
Friday March 10th 2023, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Those stripes on the chest are protective of the young: they signal to adult peregrines that this is just a kid hanging around, no reason to hassle them, they’re not trying to steal your mate nor your territory.

But since no other male had chased him off at the abandoned nest and he got there first and then she showed up, well, it took a number of days to convince her but there you go.

The falconistas say this pair should mostly likely succeed this year after all.

Flight feathers are usually molted as a symmetrical pair wing to wing and he’s missing just one, so that makes him easy to spot till the new one grows out.

Just to add re the California flooding: the road nearest the Bay is under water and the city put out a warning and we’re definitely not traveling anywhere, but we’re doing fine.

Oh, and, thank you all for the advice re the microplane. My daughter reminds me that she thought they were a good idea too so she bought me one a year ago.

That was the Christmas we had almost no lemons because the unusual, intense summer heat had so stressed the tree that it had dropped the fruit before it had had any chance to ripen. And so the microplane had been forgotten.

And now I know where it is!

First date
Friday March 03rd 2023, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

Peregrines: today there were two. But they’re clearly not sure of each other yet. They weren’t fighting each other off the site, which is good, but neither were they best buddies–yet.

Meantime, and I hesitate to say this because it is by no means anywhere near a sure thing, there is a very small possibility that we might take a day trip to Stitches tomorrow. More likely not, so I’m trying not to get my hopes up.

Location location location
Thursday March 02nd 2023, 8:06 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The peregrines: today a new adult, unbanded, looks to be a female, showed up. Walked the ledge. Went into the nest box–gravel, not too small, not too big, good for supporting nestlings and holding in her body heat for them in those short moments where she might have to fly off to defend them, perfect, perfect. Walked across the top of the nest box and took in that view.

Nice place. Shame the former owners left in such a hurry. It’ll do nicely, yes, quite. Didn’t even have to fight for it.

She’s keeping watch on it from the nearby louver for the night.

Wednesday March 01st 2023, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

So there was a falcon, a floater that didn’t have a mate yet. A female peregrine who was hanging around an area near the southern border where a team was trying to reestablish I forget which endangered bird species, but whatever, she needed not to be there.

So she was trapped, taken from San Diego to Shasta County a little south of the Oregon border, and released.

She had her opinions on that and was heading back to where she came from.

But along the way she discovered the 18th floor HVAC ledge with the nesting box in San Jose, she found a mate, they made many a display of owning the place and the egg laying was expected to start this week or next. She was of course promptly named Shasta after her leg band number retraced that history, while her mate was named Sequoia and banded at UC Berkeley a few years ago.

Sunday she started having erratic movements. She stayed in the nest box. Finally I guess she got hungry enough that she needed to go catch a meal since Sequoia wasn’t fully immersed in bringing such to her yet, and she took off.

She was found by the right people and delivered to the wildlife rescue center, where they believed she had a head injury and that a little time off would let it heal. The initial reports were encouraging.

Sunday she passed away. Avian flu is a possibility that they’re testing for–being sick would have explained how she could possibly have collided head-first with anything.

Sequoia stayed perched on the ledge, waiting for her to come back. Looking for her.

Today, nobody has seen him. Not the ones manning the cameras. Not the woman whose office is across from City Hall who’d kept an eye out, hoping.

“He may be off courting a new female,” I said to Richard.

“Or he may have had avian flu, too,” was the response I knew but it was hard to hear.

They were our third set of peregrines to vie for that nesting area over the winter, and there’s plenty of time for a new pair to settle in and raise a family this year.

An unbanded juvenile showed up this afternoon (picture from the cam there) and showed off his gorgeous plumage, and all I could think of was, well, this all started with a brand new building and a juvenile female who showed up one day, an adult male who hung around for a year waiting for her to grow up back when there weren’t many of their kind around to fight him for it nor for him to choose from, and something like a dozen years of her matriarchy thereafter before the site got passed on to the next pair.

So it’s hard. But it’s a start.

They’re crowing about it for now
Monday February 27th 2023, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

It’s cold. It’s rainy. My photos are refusing to load, making the post I’d written kind of pointless.

But I got to knit some bison silk yarn and the rain is desperately needed and so was that weeks-long break between storms. More’s coming, and that’s even better.

Remember the fake dead crow? (I was not expecting to see that it’s seven years old already!) I need to find where I put it, or else replace it. There’s a new pair courting loudly out there these past few days trying to tell the hawks they own the place.

I do not want crows teaching their future young that my fruit trees are where to go to eat. And they won’t–once I find that thing and set it out for a week or so. Crows hold funerals for their fallen and then beat it the heck out of there and stay away from whatever made a crow die.

Worked for six years without even putting it out there since before the pandemic.

Sky dance
Thursday February 09th 2023, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I’ve seen Nick’s photography of the peregrine falcons for years and he is really really good at what he does.

But wow. A murmuration of starlings is fascinating enough; capturing the peregrine dive bombing the flock to create that sky ballet?

How often do we get to see anything like this?

Have a little spring
Monday February 06th 2023, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

The first peach flowers of spring, determined to defy the past week’s night freezes.

Meantime, I had been wondering about our holly bush.

Till I saw something I’d never seen in all these years–but then there used to be a huge toyon bush next door just covered in winter in orange berries that were clearly their favorite. But it’s gone now.

It was the robins. With all the upper berries gone and no good place to settle and perch from down below, three of them were diving at the holly bush (carefully!) to get at the last. (So that’s where they all went!)

I looked it up to make sure I wasn’t poisoning them the way heavenly bamboo/nandina’s berries do, but nope, holly’s part of their natural, native diet. Cool. They just prefer the toyons–or perhaps being in a wintertime flock the size it could support.

They had to settle for my holly now. All the more robin sightings for me.

Marsh words
Wednesday December 28th 2022, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

I was able to match someone’s yarn and dye lot so she could finish her sweater, and could there be a better Christmas present for me than that.

I drove past marshland on my way to the post office. You could tell it was vacation week–and that it was during a break in the rain that’s projected to continue past next Friday; there was a family with young kids skipping happily near the bicyclist sculpture dedicated to the environmentalist who’d worked for decades to get the marsh habitat restored, a group of people on the other side of the southernmost pond as if on lunch break from the nearby offices, someone birdwatching towards the Bay. The green grasses were lush, the winter water was running high.

The trail was long enough to keep them all at good spaces between each other.

There was a magnificent red-tailed hawk perched on its favorite light pole over the road. It was taking in the scene and not the least bit perturbed by all the people. I had seen it there before. It was a thrill to see it again, with the suggestion, then, of territory. May it choose this place to raise the coming year’s family.

And just beyond it, farthest away from anyone else, there was a couple walking.

I’d guess early sixties. What was striking is that he looked like he was having a political or family or some kind of argument, if you can call it an argument when only one person is carrying on with it; he didn’t look angry, just emphatic, hands waving and finger jabbing towards the air away from her as he made his points, not looking threatening and a little stooped but maybe a bit bothered. She, it seemed, was putting up with it. Maybe it was all old hat to her.

But you get someone out taking a walk in nature and you might already know what they’re going to talk about but they’re also going to get some exercise and feel better when it’s done and so will you so you might as well go, right?

All these impressions of the lives of complete strangers that flashed in the few seconds on approach. And then you go past.

I almost pulled the car over. I wanted to say, Did you see it? The hawk? It’s been observing you. It’s gorgeous, look how big that thing is! Don’t miss it!

I thought, whatever he’s talking about, they won’t remember it five years from now but that sighting, if they finally looked up, they just might. Red-taileds like to soar high and that one’s so close. You could see so much detail.

But I didn’t. And neither, as far as I know, did they.

I got past the light way ahead and pulled in at the post office, mailed my small box, and again made the deliberate decision to take the longer way home rather than the freeway on the small chance that the hawk might still be there.

They were not. I’m guessing that had been their car by the bicyclist statue.

The hawk still was. Cool as the water in an incoming northern tide.

Answering Jayleen’s question: it was a small road with no cars on it but mine. Nice and straight, and the little kids on bikes, even if they were at the end of a path through the marsh and a few feet away from the road, were excuse enough to take it slow.

Merry Christmas!
Saturday December 24th 2022, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Friends,Wildlife

The car is running fine while we need it to.

The Kitchenaid arrived and I didn’t even tear open the box a day early to make sure they sent the right color; I know you’re so proud of me.

A friend stopped by. Every year we give each other socks as a semi-gag, semi-not-a-gag gift for Christmas, and we always like what the other picked out. We did it again.

Only, she threw in a little bottle of pomegranate juice from a local grower and I gave her a little granulated maple sugar from a not-local grower. (Ohmygoodness they’re selling spray-can maple syrup now? Can you just imagine what the littlest kids would do if they got into that? Spray straight into their mouths and then need their hair washed and then run off to see what they can gleefully zap with it. Add the spray whip cream and their heaven is complete.)

She happened to ring the doorbell as I was just about to put some pumpkin muffins in the oven so she got to watch me shaking my jar of the stuff over them, and they will be served at the lunch after church tomorrow for any taste testing.

Felt so great to see her.

Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, all the best of the season to all at the returning of the light in the world.

…Oh, and, a random comment on a news story about dressing warmly had me going, the say what fiber? I rabbit holed. So far I’ve found out that deer are farmed but highly invasive exotics in Australia, red deer are producing 20 g of fiber per animal per year in New Zealand and it’s a reliably 13 micron count. Cervelt, they call it.

And if your deer escapes in Australia and you phone your neighbors they have to wait seven days for you to retrieve it but if it does and you don’t notify the neighbors they are required, not requested, to shoot it or to notify official shooters to come do so. Deer eat a lot and the feral ones’ counts are exploding like rabbits.

Okay, so now you officially know the Next Big Thing in fiber arts before just about anyone else. Merry Christmas!

The little tree munchers
Friday November 04th 2022, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I grew up next to a watershed preserve, a creek surrounded by park extending ten miles as it flowed down to the Potomac River.

So to my eyes it was the weirdest thing in the world to see creeks in California that in the 1950’s had been turned into concrete-lined, sharp-angled corridors. You, water! You go here, only, and yo, developers, build hereandhereandhereandhereandhere to your heart’s desire.

I found this article today: beavers were gone from this area since the Gold Rush, 160 years ago.

In the 1980’s, two of them were being considered a nuisance in the Central Valley.

California has a strict law re relocating wild animals: you can’t. If you trap one you can kill it mercifully if it’s not endangered in any way–or you can release it right there where you found it, after, y’know, giving it a good scolding about trespassing or something.

They didn’t quite say Fish and Game got permission or whether they’re the ones who grant the permission anyway so they just did what they wanted to or what (the article made it sound like the answer to the reporter was just don’t ask, guys), but, what they actually did in this one instance was to trap that pair where they weren’t wanted.

And then release them in the mountains above here near a large reservoir to see what they would do when they had the whole mountain to themselves. Either mountain lions or coyotes would get them or we would get to see what it’s like to have an actual beaver dam in operation. Because, science! Plus a chance to right a historical wrong.

Beavers looked at that concrete dam and chortled, Hey, let us show you how it’s done! Went right around it at some point.

The creek below there feeds into a river in San Jose, and it turns out they can manage the saltwater of the Bay just fine as a way to find their way up new creeks. Which, slowly, gradually, they’ve been doing.

San Jose Water Department went, Since when do we have beavers?! and wanted to get rid of them. They got told no, and that the beavers would do far more good than harm.

They are a keystone species. Where they’ve shown up, all kinds of things are making a comeback already.

But they don’t touch those concrete creeks. That would be slapping an Eat Me sign on their backs. Also, Starve Me. Which means that to expand further they have to find the one further north where the two counties couldn’t agree in the post-War era as to which one would have to pay for all that, with influential people fighting it anyway, and the officials threw up their hands and left the banks in their natural state.

We’re talking the richest part of town on the south side of that county line, with bigger house lots with great views of the creek and lots of trees near the water line that those beavers might find tasty and which might soon upset some people.

Maybe Mark Zuckerberg could take up wildlife photography.