Category Archives: Critters

Slower Than The Speed Of Smell

Last night I posted some quick pictures at the last minute about 23:50, pausing in the middle of a marathon packing and panicking episode. Then, because this really HAS to get done this weekend, I went back to loading the truck.

Being a good neighbor (even though it doesn’t matter because, hey, we’re moving away!) I was working hard to keep the noise down. I didn’t haul any of the big metal shelves up the big metal ramp into the big echoey metal truck, I tried to step quietly, etc. Which was going well. Right up until the point where something in the garage made a big metal screechy sound.

Ever seen a Rube Goldberg machine?

I make a big metal screech sound, standing near the entrance to the open garage door…

…which made the dog across the street two doors down start barking madly…

…which startled and freaked out the skunk that was trotting down the sidewalk on my side of the street…

…who did what skunks do when threatened…

…which, being just 50 or 60 feet from me, suddenly made me want to gag, vomit, and die, not necessarily in that order…

…which didn’t matter to the skunk, who was no longer being threatened and was now in front of the open garage and seeing all of the light figured something was up (perhaps he’s been talking to the lizards?)…

…which left me gagging and dying and trying to figure out how to dissuade the skunk from coming INTO the garage while at the same time not startling him again.

The skunk finally decided that there was probably nothing edible in the garage and the Freds would just have to figure it out on their own. But I got to spend the next hour and a half wondering if anyone in the neighborhood had a spare gas mask.

You’re right, Donielle, it’s an ADVENTURE!!!

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The Rise Of The Freds

While packing and loading and so on, “the Freds” continue to act bizarre and to multiply. We’ve seen them in the yard for a few years now, but you’ll see one here, one there. I think the most I’ve ever seen at one time is three.

Now I see four and five and six at a time, and over the course of the day at different spots in the yard I’ll see twelve to fifteen of them. They’re not wearing name tags, but they appear to all be different just based on size, shape, and some color differences.

I’ve seen a couple of the “back yard Freds” hanging onto the stucco, but up until today I’ve never seen any of the “front yard Freds” doing it. I guess they’ve been comparing notes and taking lessons from each other.

I’m also seeing them where I haven’t seen them before. There was one of them way out by the curb, nearly getting stepped on when I was loading the van for a trip to storage.

And there’s another thing. ALWAYS in the past if I got within eight to ten feet, they were gone! Into the bushes, into the tree, under the porch, wherever. I never before got within about five feet of one – except of course for the one that ended up in our toilet. Now? I got within about six inches of this guy and he ignored me.

Ditto for this guy. That’s not a shining example of the iPhone’s amazing telephoto lens – that’s a wide angle shot from about three inches. This guy never moved, except to turn his head and swivel his eyeballs to keep an eye on me.

The lizards know something is up!

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Mourning Dove

It (he? she?) was in the tree this weekend, making those noises.





Giving me lots of side eye as it (she? he?) wondered how close I was going to get with that stupid camera.

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Fearless & Foolish

I managed to snap a couple of quick pictures of my two new friends from the other day:

Here’s Fearless Fred when he charged up near me, just a couple of feet away.

A good way to get yourself stepped on!

A few minutes later, Foolish Fred followed me around to the other side of the car.

Bizarre behavior for these little dudes – I hope it doesn’t lead to them being eaten by a crow!

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Lizard In The Sun

It’s been rainy here off and on for several weeks now, an odd weather pattern for this time of year. Given the gray and gloom, we haven’t seen a lot of “the Freds.” But today was sunnier if not much warmer, and at least one of the larger lizards was out to catch a few rays.

Not the biggest one I’ve seen by any means – I suspect it’s one of the handful of little ones that I first saw about two months ago, now with a bit of growth.

Some of the online references (San Diego Zoo, for example) say that this species can live 10-15 years. I don’t think we’re seeing the same lizards for that long since I suspect that the local bird population (crows and mockingbirds, primarily) have been seen catching the hatchlings.

It was a nice day to be out sunning, especially with shelter and a hidey-hole just inches away.

Yes, that is the, “Why are you bothering me and if you move one inch closer I’m going to vanish under this patio!” look.


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The Fungus Among Us

In the cool, damp morning light, the humongous organism living under our yard poked up a few scouts to see if it had really, really rained the other day.

When I first saw the yard covered with mushrooms decades ago after we had first moved in, I did the usual all-American thing and tried to figure out how to kill them. After all, they destroyed that putting green look that I wanted for my yard!

I found out that all of the various fungi and similar fauna and flora are interconnected underground and it’s almost like one huge organism that’s far larger than any elephant or whale. I also found out that my yard looks just fine when it more closely resembles a salad than a carpet.

And, yes… That makes it the humongous fungus among us!

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I could hear it,┬ábut couldn’t see it. But the sound was unmistakable to someone who knows it.

Being way up top in the tree made it tough to focus the camera. (Different kind of focus than what I ranted about on Sunday.)

There it is! No sign of a red patch on the head, so it must be the female. I’ve seen the male around from time to time and they form monogamous pairs, so it makes sense.

This tree’s started to die off in the last six months or so, just like the matching one did about ten years ago and the birch tree did three or four years ago. In each case, I always saw the woodpeckers pounding away as the trees turned brown. I don’t know if the trees get sick and the bugs move in on the weakened tree, or if the bugs move in and are the primary cause in making the trees get sick and die. Either way, it’s a meal for the woodpeckers.

What, better hunting up there? Okay!

Even though it’s fall, much of this tree is still covered in leaves. Except for the parts that have turned brown and brittle. The sound from her hunting and feeding wasn’t tremendously loud – I only heard it because I was standing under the tree. I’ve heard woodpeckers in the neighborhood “drumming” in the spring (I’m guessing it’s these two, they’re not that common here) and they can be quite loud, heard from a couple blocks away.

Hunting for dinner at the very top, just before she flew off. As you can see, this tree might not make it to the end of the year. It’s a “city street tree,” planted by the city in the median strip between the sidewalk and the curb back when the houses were built. I suspect this whole housing tract had the same species of tree used everywhere, but now about 2/3 of them are missing. Instead we have quite a variety of trees that have been chosen to replace them.

The woodpeckers don’t care. They’re just here for the bugs.

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