Category Archives: Critters

Not The Greatest Of All Time

Not the GOAT…

…but just a goat.

What? Doesn’t everyone have goats at their Christmas party?

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Owl Sounds

The predicted storm has arrived and we’ve gotten about an inch of rain down here in the city, twice that or more up in the mountains, and above about 5,000′ there’s snow, which has made a mess of travel between LA and Northern California and LA and Las Vegas. Outside now it’s about 43° and raining steadily.

Over the sound of the rain and the furnace I can hear a couple of our owls. They’re close, but when I went out into the cold on the front porch I couldn’t see them.

They sound pretty much as they always do. Shouldn’t they sound different? Shouldn’t they sound pissed off and cold and wet and hungry? Or are owls endowed with a stoic reserve in our anthropomorphic pantheon, oblivious to the weather good or bad, just accepting what is as what is?

Unless it’s a drastic difference, I doubt I would be able to detect the difference between a bored owl, a horny owl, or a cold and wet and pissed off owl.

Instead all I hear is the same old hooting, haunting, echoing across the street and down the hill to the responses from the other owls. Who sound just as stoic.

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Owls, Coyotes, And Meteors

There was supposed to be a decent chance of a “meteor storm” tonight for an hour or so. It sounded like a click-bait headline, but I had seen a few legit sources talking about it, so I went out to take a look.

The odds were against me. The radiant, the point in the sky where the meteors seem to be coming from, was low near the eastern horizon from the US West Coast. Viewing was to be much better on the East Coast and in Europe, where the radiant would be high in the sky. Plus, there’s always all of LA’s light pollution. And right now we’re just clearing out after our first rain of the season, so there was a lot of haze and a few scattered clouds.

I went out anyway.

It was cold, at least, “LA cold.” The temperature was about 54°, which is balmy by Midwest standards for November, but chilly by wimpy LA standards.

The owls were hooting. I heard them for the first time in weeks last night, but when I got home from the office there were at least three of them, maybe four, in the trees just a few houses down. By the time it was “at least potentially maybe meteor storm” time they had moved off a block or two, but were still easy to hear. That hooting can be heard for miles, the sound really carries.

The coyotes were howling. There’s a pack of them that lives down at the bottom of the hill – at least, that’s where I always hear them. There’s a fairly large flood control basin down there that’s all filled with brush and the creek channel leads right up into the wilderness area around Castle Peak (you saw it burning about this time last year), so it would be ideal for them. I don’t know who or what they were chasing tonight, but they were loud.

To my surprise and delight, there were also a couple of meteors. No “storm” where they were expecting as many as 20 to 30 meteors a minute (from a dark sky, on the East Coast, with no clouds, etc) but I did see two long, bright ones and three or four dimmer trails.

Did anyone else see any of them?


Filed under Astronomy, Castle Willett, Critters

Bold Lizard

I went out into the back yard (it was about 89°F – sorry to my friends in the sub-freezing climes) and spooked a lizard.

This is one of the “tree Freds” – they’re often found sunning themselves on the side of a large tree just off to the right in this view. I went out for something, Tree Fred felt that caution was in order, and he bolted for the bushes along the fence, seen behind him.

But he stopped to watch me. He was a bold lizard today.

I had time to go in and get my good camera with the telephoto lens and Tree Fred was still waiting.

I took a couple of pictures from across the yard, just after I came out onto the porch, then started slowly walking toward him, a couple steps at a time.

Every time I got closer I expected him to bolt, but he was a Bold Lizard!

I was getting a lot of side eye, and I’m pretty sure he knew that he was much faster than I was. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he could make it into those bushes before I could blink, if he so chose.

I finally got within about five feet of him, then backed off in respect for his ectothermic lifestyle. He had a nice, toasty spot on the sidewalk and who was I to deny him those solar photons? I promised to keep on taking any crickets that I found in the house and releasing them back into his bushes. I’m going to assume he appreciates it.

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Lizard Update

The “new” house (we moved up here in May, 2018) has almost as many lizards living in the yard as the “old” house (so far, none of them have appeared in the house, thank god) and it has a wider variety in terms of types, colors, and sizes. There are routine sightings almost daily, but for the most part the little guys are skittish and tend to scurry off into the bushes or under the car or up a tree trunk long before we get near.

But in the last couple of days there have been a couple of closer encounters.

First, during that big wind storm (and accompanying brush fires) a couple weeks ago, the cover for the barbecue ended up off the grill and in a pile on the porch. Yesterday evening I was picking it up. Given what’s in the yard, my biggest concern was the likely possibility of black widow spiders (they were there and got squished). What I didn’t expect was the biblical plague of crickets hiding underneath the cover. THOUSANDS of the little guys.

Fortunately I’m not bothered at all by crickets, so I simply started shaking the barbecue cover like a sheet to flick off all of the crickets. Which is when I saw the lizard on the inside, clinging on for dear life as I flapped the cover in the breeze. I didn’t want to hurt it, so I simply dropped the cover and then pulled it back so the lizard was exposed.

I expected it to take off toward the bushes like a bat out of hell, but was surprised that it took a few minutes and some nudging before it mozied on.

In retrospect, I think it was giving me the stink eye because those zillions of crickets were probably a feast of unbelievable magnitude for the lizard and I had gone and screwed up everything.

Yes, I did. It’s what I do. (Ask anyone.)

This evening I was taking the trash cans out and found this guy sunning itself on the driveway. It also wasn’t at all interested in moving so long as I wasn’t interested in stepping on it.

Back at the old house there were a couple of lizards that I saw repeatedly and I thought that they had actually gotten acclimated to me. When I was packing the car to move out, they would come right up to within a couple feet and watch. This guy had a similar behavior, but I don’t recall seeing him before.

There was a tiny, tan lizard that’s been running around by the garage doors, but just two days ago he was maybe a fifth this size. If he’s grown this much in two days, in a week it will be the size of a T-Rex.

Pretty sure that would violate the “no pets” clause in our lease…


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That Raven? Or Maybe…

Last night’s post was put together and posted quickly, as you could no doubt tell from the timestamp. At the end when I threw up a few words, I was wondering if the birds shown were crows or ravens.

Today I was thinking about that and went to check out what the Internet might have to say about it. (It beat being nauseous over the political news!) I found this from the Audubon Society.

Which gave me conflicting results.

The three big things I’m looking at are the tail, the beak, and the ruffle of feathers on the chin.

For a crow, the tail is square, while for a raven it’s more wedge shaped.

For a crow, the beak is a bit longer and thinner, while for the raven it’s shorter and thicker.

The ruffle of feathers is far larger and more pronounced on a raven.

So if you look at the first six pictures from yesterday of the first bird, it looks like a crow.

If you look at the final three pictures of the second bird, it looks like a raven.

At which point I realized that I was probably an idiot and shouldn’t be operating heavy machinery since I was making stupid assumptions. Specifically, I was assuming that both birds were either crows or ravens.

I think I was dealing with one of each.

Does anyone have any thoughts or more expertise to shoot down my theories, or confirm them?

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That Crow

Here they are in all their glory!

Actually – crows or ravens? There’s someone I follow on Twitter, I’ll have to check their notes.

Also, that last photo, with the eye thing going on? That’s some serious “Game of Thrones” worg action going on!

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