Zucchini divas
Saturday July 24th 2021, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

We have had a trio of young mockingbirds for days, teenagers teasing their nest mates as far as I can tell.

But today the first tomato got its first tinge of pink. And suddenly there were eight of them! Mockingbirds do not come in flocks. This time there was more chasing out of territory, mixed with perching all around my veggies.

But they did not find their way in yet.

One, however, had learned that if it stood on top of the square-metal-cage’s netting where it was a bit loose and bounced up and down, it could get close enough on the downbeat to snag a blueberry. I was so impressed that I figured it had earned it.

Interesting: if you put the phone’s camera right up to the netting you get its shadow in sharp lines looking like it’s draped directly on half the plant, whereas the actual netting is those blurred-out thicker edges perpendicular to the squares below.

While the flowers demand, never mind all that, look at ME.

Buddy, you’ve got a long wait ahead of you if you want that fruit
Thursday July 15th 2021, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Trouble is, he’d be happy to munch the plant away long before then.

A small Anya seedling.

Guess who showed up yesterday morning to take a sniff at it? I took that picture right before it stood up and reached its head over.

Until last fall, we hadn’t seen a rabbit in our yard for thirty-three years of living here. Since then it’s been popping up from time to time, but it had been gone long enough now that I’d half-convinced myself an owl or something had gotten it.


Guess who opened the box with a new set of NuVue bird netting tents for that seedling and my squashes  immediately after snapping these pictures and scaring it away. Just the right size for protecting a large pot. All I’d needed was a little incentive. Yes it can chew through it if it wants to badly enough but trying to get into a cage is just not high on most wildlife’s list.

The good part is that the new version has–and it’s not in Amazon’s picture–small bright red ribbons hanging down from the top that blow in the wind and startle birds and rodents, and there was no sign of that cottontail today.

Cheating on their vegan diet
Monday July 12th 2021, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I put two tiny squash seedlings to a 15″ pot when none of them were growing at all, figuring it was better to give them a chance than tossing them all straight out, and a month later two plants suddenly finally took off–both in the same pot, of course.

The one that’s dominant is (finally a female flower today after all the males, showing that it’s almost certainly) a zucchini; the smaller one at bottom has yet to announce itself and may get yanked out because you only need one zucchini plant and you’re not supposed to have them that mushed together, are you?

And then there’s this other pot. A squash sown at the same time, transplanted at the same time, treated the same way. Might be a butternut, might be my sister’s Italian white zucchini, might be another green zucchini. All carefully labeled, once upon a time. But it is definitely a bit silly, and I continue to debate trying to somehow get the littler guy in that other pot over into this one before it gets crowded out entirely.

Clearly, planting them inside in the winter did not get any of them the least bit ahead and they got so root bound in their 4″ squares that they couldn’t cope. Or at least I think that’s why.

Anyway. At 23″, apricot 2021 seedling #1 has grown an inch and a half since Friday. I understand now why that other guy said he was able to harvest his first fruit off his tall ones on the third year. Nice.

And on a random note, just because it’s so strange: white-tailed deer caught on camera. 

Eating birds. And eggs.

Deer. I’m trying to grok this. Eating the adult nesting birds, their young, and their eggs. They tested by putting out quail eggs and the deer said why thank you very much! It says elk have been caught eating endangered sage grouse and whatever’s in their nests, too.

Foxes, raccoons, and–deer. Who knew?

Fly free
Tuesday June 29th 2021, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

(Picture courtesy of SCPBRG)

She was fine last week when they banded her and for days after.

There were two peregrine falcon chicks in San Jose this year, a male and a female, hatched after the original nesting attempt failed.

This week, the female started having seizures. Over several hours, she made it out of the nest box into the middle of the runway.

And at last she was gone.

There is a possibility that rat poison had made its way up the food chain and that being larger than her brother she had eaten more of it, but we’ll never know for sure. Please never, ever use the stuff outside.

He seems to be fine.

Her mother stood sentry on the ledge above for hours, keeping her safe. But the young one did not move. Grace came down beside her and stretched her wing wide over her daughter’s lifeless body, and again today. The male eyas tried to nudge his sister.

And then he stood on the lower ledge below his mother, taking in the world he will soon fly off into on his own.

And now he has a name. Phoenix.


Thursday June 17th 2021, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Wait, what? Live in a towering 2977′ Tinkertoy/Lego/AtAt mashup on a lot that is smaller than the footprint of my current house? $1.6M? And it’s only been on the market for 706 days? What? C’mon, people, snatch this one up, pronto!

I was looking at video of the San Jose peregrine nestlings pushing/falling/jumping out of the box today and the thought suddenly occurred to me: I had never really noticed that the dark feathers that grow in first and most prominently are the ones in their faces. The ones that make them look more like peregrines to their parents. (Debating to add about that moment years ago when a two day old hatchling that had barely achieved the white fluffball stage died and a few hours later the parents fed it to its siblings. The kids were hungry. Thus my thought that blackening cheeks are likely protective.)

In the 97F heatwave over here, two of my apricot seedlings grew visibly since yesterday, three did not, and the last one seems to finally be kicking the bucket after a long decline. But it may yet surprise me.

Falcons on defense
Wednesday June 09th 2021, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Two of the three San Jose peregrines hatched and it is amazing to see them next to that remaining inert egg: they were that small, a week or two ago, and now they’re scooting around the box on their butts with those enormous feet.

That 18th floor ledge with a nest box with shade has become a valuable spot. Today, Hopper2 (they’re named after Grace Hopper) was finishing off a meal where the kids couldn’t see him when he heard something and jumped up on the ledge his mate was on. A third falcon swooped at her  (about a minute in on that video), feet out ready to fight for it, but thought better of it on seeing Grace in immediate maternal defense mode and that there were two of them right there.

It looks like just a swoop and away in the video, with the dad chasing after (“And STAY out!”) –but the still the cam operator got captures the moment. That is an amazing shot. 

When the sun doesn’t go down
Thursday June 03rd 2021, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

My photos, again, so while I wait for them to come through I’ll riff on the moose that a photographer posted to The Last Frontier on Facebook.

Alaska. The Kenai Peninsula. I don’t know that I have permission to share his work here, so you’ll just have to picture it yourself.

There’s a McDonald’s, the siding of the building rough-hewn wood fitting into its surroundings, while otherwise the place is unmistakeably the golden arches.

The pick up window at the drive-in is open and the moose is leaning as far in as its broad, blocking shoulders will allow it to reach. The view is from its side and away back a bit (the photographer’s not dumb.)

Summertime, says I, post-weaning.

One coffee, de-calf-inated. To go.

Scrub those off the list
Saturday May 29th 2021, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life,Wildlife

The problem with only focusing on what you want, she groused silently at the scrub jay, is that you cut off what you could have had.

I had chased it out of my Stella tree on seeing it yanking away in there. It got its not-yet-dark red cherry. The rest of the cluster, pale and small and far too unripe to nourish anything yet, was left on the ground.

Carrion our wayward son
Friday May 28th 2021, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Sing it with me, Have a piece when he is done…

Andy: Mom and Dad can do it. I flew before anybody. I can do this, too, I know I can.

The fledgling stands on the prey with both feet, gripping it hard, preparing to take off to eat breakfast someplace more interesting than home because it’s no fun when there’s no sibling around anymore to try to grab it from you. Grip, flap, lift: an initial try at getting it up to the light fixture. Nope. Go back, grab it again (how DO the folks manage talons and wings at the same time?) get it up there, did it, great!, okay this time lift it up to the ledge.

He did it!

Then, starting at about 7:30 in the video, yelling all the way as he drags it and its drag against the concrete turns him slowly around in the little wind tunnel he’s creating and suddenly Whoops!…

Every cat who ever licked its paw in a defiant show of, I meant to do that… Yeah.

(P.S.) If you’ve ever gotten on your own case about not getting something done, you’re in good company: this house is like our first one, which was a split-entry where the builder only finished the upstairs and left the downstairs as framing and insulation only so that first-time owners could afford a place and put in the sweat equity themselves. We did that.

Fifty years. I’m seeing the raw plumbing for maybe a bathroom, possibly a downstairs laundry room if they once intended a separate living quarters, a bedroom, closet, and family room down there at the least. It’s a nice house.

But that insulation and lumber have been waiting a long time for someone to put up with the hammering and disruption and noise. (Can we get rid of the ivy while we’re dreaming.)

Suddenly wanting to inspect my skylights
Friday May 21st 2021, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Wildlife

I don’t know if it’s the sheep’s-rear-stinky wool wedged in the tree keeping the squirrels out or the sounds of squawking peregrine fledglings occasionally coming from my computer, if they can even hear that from outside. But whatever, something’s working and there’s still fruit on the trees.

Speaking of squirrels, I’ll mention it here for my mom, who’s not on Facebook: my cousin Jim reports that he and his family were watching a movie tonight when they heard a thud, scampering, and lots of squeaks. Everybody went running to see what on earth?

A squirrel (it wasn’t a very big one) had fallen through the skylight, the cat had chased it, and it had leaped for the nearest hiding place–which happened to be the toilet. Somebody had the presence of mind to whip out their phone and hit record for posterity. It was trying to get out, it was now trying to retreat and hide from them but wait let’s not drown, and the poor thing looked like a Mark Rober video reject.

They got a big thing of Tupperware and corralled it and Jim felt it shivering through the plastic. He got it outside, I’m sure shutting the door behind him first so it couldn’t dash back in, and tried to let it go.

It just stayed right there and kept shivering.

His daughter’s studying to be a nurse. They got some rags and bundled the poor soaked thing up and she confessed to petting it for about ten minutes to calm it down while offering it some cat food. Which it finally nibbled at.

At last it went off to go be a squirrel again at owl o’clock. Watch that curfew, kid.

Jim reports (not needing to mention the whole pandemic thing by way of context) that it was the most exciting Friday night they’d had in some time.

Tuesday May 18th 2021, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Re the flare: today was the good day I was wishing for during the last several, and thank you, everybody.

Meantime, San Francisco got its first peregrine fledge today (his closeup is here), and then the second.

Having lived all his life till that point in a protected, shaded, thirty-third floor spot, Cade, named after the late founder of the Peregrine Fund, found himself on the skyscraper across the street with the wind trying to blow the last of his baby fluff off and–turning his head: Wait, what’s that? He bounded down the granite after it.

He was chasing his shadow, just like every little kid ever born. It was adorable.

Well, that wasn’t working, and he turned back to his corner perch to figure out when it would be safe to open those wings wide again, because, bird, it’s windy out here.

And then there were falcons
Sunday May 16th 2021, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Wildlife

The problem with chronic diseases (yeah, just try to scare me, after 31 years I’m onto them) is their ability to randomly yank one’s attention when you don’t have time for that nonsense.

As if we ever do.

I tried to figure out what I might have eaten that neither of them had. Hmm. Nope.

The day after my second shot I had a flareup of lupus and Crohn’s symptoms both but didn’t tell my doctors because what could they do, tamp down my immune system? After demanding it get to work?

It gradually tapered down and was almost gone, so today was a surprise (did I do that yard work too early, did I get a UV dose?), but at least breathing doesn’t hurt. And that is huge.

Today’s Crohnsishness is a lot better now than it was this morning; I got some good food down and am hoping it was just a passing bug.

Meantime, the San Francisco peregrines, other than the female who hatched four days late, have flapped their wings at the edge of 33 stories up but so far have quickly turned around to be facing home sweet home in case doing so carries them off anywhere. Here, about seven minutes in.

The one with all the white fluff still at the beginning of that video is Echo, the female who hatched four days after her siblings. She’s behind, but she’s catching up. Even jumped up there once and got her first view of the whole wide world laid out all the way down to where the winds can’t carry a tune.

The bees and the birds
Wednesday April 28th 2021, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Wildlife

With blueberries, cherries, plums, apples, and peaches already underway and the pomegranate and mango blooming I was a bit overdue for watering the fruit trees and it got unseasonably hot at 83–they needed it.

So there I was as I got to work, wondering why I’ve never gotten around to paying someone to install a drip system and realizing it’s because I like the rhythm and the process in getting out there and paying attention to each thing I’ve planted.

It hit me from halfway across the yard.

Now *that’s* how I remember those mango flowers! They’ve been opening for weeks but the nights have been cold and the scent just wasn’t the intense perfume it had been. I’d wondered if maybe I did lose some of my sense of smell last year after all?

Apparently all it had needed was some heat. My tropical tree was absolutely reveling in it and telling the world that this is how it’s supposed to be! Celebrate! Bring on the honeybees! It was throwing a party for the hive across the fence.

The side door next door nearest both opened wide and I hope the neighbors got to enjoy it, too. It was absolutely heavenly.

On a falcon note: the San Jose nest got three eggs in their do-over and are quietly incubating.

Peregrines start brooding after the third egg arrives.

Which means when the San Francisco nest had their fourth egg it was laid late, hatched late, and has been noticeably smaller all along.

The parents feed the eyases first that try hardest to get to the food–Darwin at work–and the little one would beg and stretch right with them and fall over on his beak. He just wasn’t as steady and he could not get as high up there as the others. It’s like a short person playing basketball: you can have a lot of talent, but… He (a lot of us are assuming male; we’ll know Monday at banding) was usually the last one fed, and sometimes the meal was pretty scant by then.

Parents simply won’t feed one that they don’t think will make it and there were murmurings of concern amongst the watchers. But they did, they fed him, he’s the spare to the heirs and there is no lack of pigeons in San Francisco so he’s gotten enough.

Today the mom flew in outside their nest box with a meal rather than straight in and it was the little one that hopped right out of that box and came for it, grabbing some himself when he thought she was going too slow.

The others perched on the edge, watching: how did he *do* that?! Finally, one hopped down and joined them, then a second, but the last one just stayed up there watching, not hungry enough to risk that very small leap.

Four hours later, they were all out of there and doing some exploring. Another meal.

Another week or two and the parents are going to drop the plucked prey in front of their grabby sharp-edged youngsters and make a break for it.

I typed that and immediately a new video showed up: that is not what the dad had wanted to do just now but that’s what happened. Have you ever seen a falcon do an eye-roll? It was hysterical. He circled behind them, trying to figure out how to get into the scrum as the meal in the middle got torn four ways. He gave up and left.

The mom flew in, looked the camera dead in the eye, like, Oh come ON, let’s do this RIGHT, snatched under there and grabbed the food away and started feeding the suddenly noisily begging babies acting like babies again.

There was just not much left at that point, though, so she was off on the hunt for more. Came right back and fed them again, this time with both parents there keeping an eye on their boisterous kids.

Who tried to flap their wings during their exploring, but with the feathers only barely starting to grow past the baby fuzz they kept flopping over like the little guy.

Who watched them and then did it, too.

Monday April 19th 2021, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Peaches, coming along.

The thorns that came out from the rootstock of the Page orange, now guarding the figs and allowed to grow (to a point) for that very reason.

It still always surprises me somehow to see not just anticipated and hoped for but actual fruit growing out there.

Oh and: Grace the falcon laid a new egg this morning before dawn. Inside the nest box. Where her second clutch will be safe.

Not a figment of imagination
Wednesday April 14th 2021, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

I actually googled yesterday re whether or not Black Jack figs produce breba crops, because mine never had; I’d seen a few tiny dark stubs over-wintering and gotten all excited about it till they’d dropped off in the spring, but that was it.

I found arguments about whether or not they were really only a seedling of Mission figs that came out bigger, but no answer.

I’ve been taking photos of that tree these past two weeks as the leaves have been coming out just because I love how they look, but I never saw any sign of fruit. Nor all winter. Nothing. And yet there are two of these today! Figs in April! The leaves haven’t even finished growing to full size yet!

This past winter felt long and chilly and yet it was the first one in memory where it never went down into the twenties. That might account for it.

I know brebas are supposed to have much less flavor and sweetness than the crop the tree puts the whole summer’s heat into.

But who cares when August is so far off. A roasted fig stuffed with cheese, maybe a little honey drizzled on at the last if it’s not naturally sweet… Okay, so, put something else in the oven with them to justify the time in there. Blueberry cake or something.

They’re so big already. I put some clippings from my husband’s last haircut around them to try to fend off the rodentry. Not right up against the fruit itself because I figure chances are good that any birds still nest-building are going to be thrilled to find those locks, but, in the vicinity.

Meantime, halfway around the house, the juncos are waiting for the Morello cherry leaves to hurry up so they can hide the nest they want to build.

It’s blooming slowly from the ground up.

Oh, and in case you needed it: Mick Jagger gave the pandemic lockdown a piece of his mind yesterday.