Category Archives: Critters

Critter Tracks

While working on the Christmas lights this holiday weekend, it was immediately obvious Friday morning that some critter had been using my car as a perch of some sort. It’s been really, really dry and dusty and there were muddy tracks all over it.

Onto the hood…

…up onto the windshield…

…and then meandering all across the roof.

The critter had obviously just crossed through some mud, probably from the dirt around the roses next to the driveway. Given the tracks I’m guessing it was a raccoon, which are known to be around, although I guess it could also be a cat or an opossum. But my money’s on raccoon. I’ve seen one in the yard that was probably in the 30-40 pound range. I’m not sure what this dude was doing on the car, but no harm, no foul. Maybe he got spooked by the sprinklers turning on and was just trying to find a dry spot.

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Slightly More First Light 2021

As predicted, I feel a lot like I’ve been beaten by folks with baseball bats after spending yesterday schlepping, lifting, carrying, hauling, climbing ladders, balancing precariously on ladders, and generally doing things for one day that use extreme physical exertion and agility and which I haven’t done in a year. (Funny coincidence, that.) Let’s see, I can either get in shape and stay in shape so that next year this isn’t a sudden and painful event or I can just do nothing and then bitch and whine about it next year on the weekend after Thanksgiving…

Oh, who are we kidding. Plan B!!

Today I did get out and get up another six or seven sets of lights.

These along the driveway, threaded among the rose bushes (currently sans roses), are very nice.

Above the garage door the “spider’s nest” of colored lights got hung. It is so tempting to take that big Halloween spider ornament and hang it in the middle of this!

Speaking of critters, remember a couple weeks ago I mentioned seeing a large (18″ to 24″) alligator lizard out on the porch? No pictures, but I did see it again and get a very good look at it yesterday. It’s moved into the garage and was not happy with me sweeping up and cleaning at the end of the day. It scurried out, flipped me off, then scurried off to shelter under the piles of boxes and crap stored in the garage. It’s every bit of eighteen inches long, a lovely critter, and definitely an alligator lizard and not just a bigger fence lizard.

The (photographic) hunt goes on!

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Moments Of Zen

It was windy. A pretty steady 20+ knots with gusts to 30+. The wind chimes were working overtime.

And dry. The hummingbird feeders were empty and Little Bastard was pissed. Every time I went out into the back yard he was buzzing me, reminding me that the feeders were empty. I finally took them down, cleaned them, and put more nectar in them.

After dark the clouds and fog of the past several evenings were gone (of course!) and our three current planetary visitors were still lined up nicely.

For those of you needing an assist to ID them:

Keep breathing, folks.

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Speaking Of Big Birds

Let’s ignore the ignorant insanity being displayed by prominent guanopsychotic politicians while they accuse Sesame Street characters of being Communists. (A phrase I NEVER thought that I would have to use!) Today, while cleaning up the breakfast dishes, out in the back yard landed two REALLY BIG BIRDS!

I’m used to seeing them up in those pine trees on the hillside below us there in the background, or up on the power poles out in front by the street. This is the first time I’ve seen one one the ground and fairly close.

They circled the yard about ten feet up, then this one landed and the other went up on the patio roof. (High cover for this mission?) It was shocking just how big this guy is when seen up close like this. I’ve seen wild turkeys on the ground and they’re not much bigger than this.

Given their soaring flight, the huge beaks with the curved tips, the hackles around the neck (not easy to see in this shadowed position, but playing with Photoshop and pushing the contrast and brightness, you can see the rough feathers there), this pair were obviously ravens.

A great way to start the day!

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Demons Or Clowns

The question is, as always, are they horrible little rat bastard demons, or fuzzy, cute, silly little clowns?

For a long time I thought demons. Probably with fleas and bubonic plague.

Then I saw how cute and silly and funny they are, hopping and scurrying all over the yard.

Then, of course, I realized that they’re doing all of that hopping and scurrying so they can eat all of the bird seed that gets put out. So I’m back to little rat bastards…

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Painted Lady

I’m pretty sure this is an American Painted Lady butterfly.

They’re common, but tough to photograph since they rarely sit still for more than a second or two, if that. Normally they’re flitting and fluttering and doing butterfly things as they drift past you in the air.

For whatever reason this one kept landing at my feet when I already had my phone/camera out for something else. So, okay – it’s ready for its closeup!

Happy to oblige.

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The Juncos Are Back!

They’re back, as I had hoped for!

Last October we started seeing a dozen or so of these cute, funny little birds in our back yards, the black-headed juncos. Then in April, they vanished, being migratory – except for Solo Junco, who stayed through the summer. (I mean, going to Canada for sex is great, but so is eating steady all year round, I guess?)

Looking back, it was October when they showed up last year, so I was on the lookout. Late last week I saw three of them. A couple days ago I saw nine or ten. They hop around and scatter and flit and fly all over the yard, so sometimes they’re hard to get an exact count on, and also it makes it tough to get a group photo. But thanks to the new supercomputer & high-end camera that I carry in my pocket, this afternoon I caught at least five in a single picture, out of the eight or nine that were there at the time.

Click to enlarge – can you spot the five juncos? Don’t be fooled, there are seven birds shown. Two are members of the flock of house finches┬áthat we have here year around.

The five juncos are circled in red, the two finches in green. Also not shown (off to the side) are the mourning doves, California towhees, and squirrel. Not to mention the lizards (which, to be honest, are mostly starting to hibernate for the winter.)

Welcome back!

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Fine Feathered Friends – Spotted Towhee

“What happened to all of the bird pictures?” I hear you asking. (No, really, I hear it.) Good question. “Life,” would be the answer, but said in character as Marvin the Paranoid Android (aka Marvin the Manically Depressed Robot).

But there are plenty of unseen bird pictures from earlier in the year, including a couple that I’ve never shown, so here you go!

I’ve only ever seen this guy four, maybe five times, and I’ve only gotten decent pictures twice. He’s a Spotted Towhee.

We have LOTS of California Towees. They’re pretty plain looking, dark, dark brown or gray.

The Spotted Towhee is quite stunning in comparison to their California cousins.

Black head, brownish-red belly, white band at the throat, black and white speckled back.

This one was living in our bushes for a month or two, from late April to mid July.

Not sure why this one moved on, especially given all of the free seed that gets scattered about every day.

However, since I only ever saw the one male, perhaps even daily free means wasn’t enough incentive to keep him here when female companionship was needed.

He obviously didn’t mind sharing the dinner table (i.e., the back yard) with the squirrels, mourning doves, California Towhees, juncos, and other residents.

I’ll keep an eye out. Maybe he’ll come back with a female that he’s regaled with tails of a California paradise.

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Hunting Alligator Lizards

No pictures, yet. But I’ve seen it.

First, happy to report that yesterday’s goals of getting some down time were met. Groceries, football, a nap (naps are SO wasted on toddlers, they have no clue how wonderful they are) – it was an excellent start. Of course, tomorrow’s Monday, but little steps.

Anyway, anyone who’s read this site for any length of time has seen lizards. Almost all are fence lizards, at most about eight or nine inches long, most smaller, some very small. At first I thought they were California alligator lizards, but it seems that they’re in fact western fence lizards. The body size and shape gives them away. The alligator lizards are long and thin and can get bigger, well over a foot long, while the fence lizards are shorter, thicker, squatter, and rarely get over nine or ten inches.

Knowing that now, I think the only time I’ve seen an alligator lizard was the one at the old house about four years ago. The one that showed up in our toilet in the house. Fredzilla.

Looking through the pictures you can see how much longer Fredzilla was, how much longer his tail was in proportion to his body, how skinny he was, how his head shape is different. Best guess – California alligator lizard.

(As always, I’m guessing, not a herpetologist.)

So a few days ago, new house, no Fredzillas here, starting to see fewer of the fence lizards as it starts to cool and they start go bed down for the winter. Out on the front porch, tucked away in the corner, there’s one of those big plastic bins that you get from the hardware store that are used to stash away about fifty feet of garden hose. I picked it up and slid it four or five feet until I got to the end of the connecting hose…

…and underneath was an alligator lizard that was probably 20% to 30% bigger than Fredzilla. It was over two feet long if it was an inch. And it was just as surprised as I was.

In about two seconds it had scuttled back under the hose reel box where I had put it down. I considered lifting the box up again, but a) it was heavy and I didn’t want to throw out my back, b) I was awkward to lift and I didn’t want to put it down on top of FredZilla II and squish it, and c) I didn’t want FredZilla II freaking out and heading for parts unknown where I would never see it again.

For now I’m assuming it’s still under there from time to time, and in the vicinity in general. I do have to move that hose reel box back at some point, so maybe I’ll set up a couple of cameras to watch when I move it back to see if it’s under there then. If not, I’ve got a trail cam that I can set up at ground level out there, maybe that will catch some photos of it.

The hunt is afoot! Photos only, no captures or injuries or death. Is FredZilla II real or just a hallucination of my aging brain? Time to gather evidence!


Everybody have a good week, starting with Monday tomorrow. Face the day and your fears head on, kick ass, take names. EGBOK!

 

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Unwanted Guests

Being where we are and the ecosystem we’re in, we get gophers. Annoying little bastards, they’ll ruin your lawn in weeks if allowed to. Our gardeners deal with them as needed. But this morning…

As soon as I came to a spot in the house where I could see out of the sliding glass doors to the backyard, it was obvious this was no simple visitation from gophers.

It was GOPHERZILLA!!!

The other problem with them, especially since the back yard is on the edge of a sizeable hill, is that if left unchecked the gophers can dig enough holes and tunnels to undermine the stability of the hill. Given enough gophers and a good soaking rain this winter (please, we could REALLY use that rain!) then a chunk of our (rented) house ends up in the downslope neighbor’s back yard and the house gets red-tagged and we’ve got 24 hours to find a new place and move out.

Not my idea of a good time.

So the powers that be have been notified and in a couple of days someone will be out to encouraging the gophers to move to someone else’s yard. In a couple of days.

In the meantime, tomorrow morning might be “interesting.”

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