Category Archives: Critters

Raccoon Wrestling (DEFINITELY A Euphemism)

Tonight as they’re trotting around up there I know there are at least four. I haven’t stuck my head up there (not a particularly good time to be climbing in the dark, especially to invade the territory of some potentially pissed off critters) but at least twice I’ve heard them quite clearly walking by in single file (to hide their numbers, no doubt) and it’s not that hard to tell.

In the last year or two we’ve learned that they’re a bit solitary and usually the only time you’ll see two adults together is if it’s mating season. When you hear a larger group (like the ones in the other pictures I’ve published before) it’s usually a mother and her young, a grouping that can last up to a year and a half.

January – two of them, almost every night. June – at least four of them, almost every night.

One doesn’t need to be Marlin Perkins to figure out how we got from a pair to a full house. (Again, it might be easiest to download them all and then “flip” through them to animate the series.)






























Note the time stamps – that’s about three minutes.

Two hours later, she’s still looking a bit “rumpled,” don’t you think?

 

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Raccoon Wrestling (Not A Euphemism)

As I threatened to do yesterday, this evening I went up on the roof and pulled down the trailcam.

Are there raccoons up there? Let’s put it this way. It was about sunset, maybe a little after when I went out. When I unlatched and rolled open the heavy sliding glass door to the patio, which is directly under the entrance to their under-eaves hidey-hole, there was a clatter of feet above me as they scrambled back inside.

“Run away!! Run away!!”

As I was walking around on the roof, maybe ten feet from said hidey-hole entrance, I could just see a little black face peeking around the corner in the shadows, ready to sound the alarm if I did anything “funny.”

I did not do anything “funny.”

I did pull off over three months of pictures. Over 10,000 pictures. (I won’t put all of them up here, although that would be an interesting thing to build a twitterbot for…)

One of the first things I did find was an example of the kind of ruckus that I was complaining about last night. This series of photos covers about ninety seconds and makes the sort of racket that will wake me up all the way at the other end of the house.

For best effect, download them all and then “flip” through them quickly to more or less animate them.
























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The “Kids” Are Back Again – Again

I haven’t been hearing the raccoons up on the roof at night in a couple of months, but there was one last night. He/she must have been the scout.

Tonight it sounds like a freakin’ herd of them up there and they’re playing football, or tap dancing, or sumo wrestling, or something.

The wildlife CAM is still up there – probably time to check and see if the batteries are still holding out. (It’s been months – the batteries will NOT have held out. That’s a sucker bet.)

Meanwhile, a better use for the camera (once I put new batteries in it) might be to watch some of the possibly broken screens that lead to the crawl space under the house. While we regularly (once a month or so, maybe twice) smell the neighborhood skunk in the worst possible way, it’s always a situation where you smell it at both ends of the house, inside, outside, all around the town! However, we’ll occasionally get a whiff, not bad, not strong, and only by the garage and/or connected laundry room.

It does make me wonder if they’ve found a way to make a pest of themselves even more so than average.

Time to go hunting. With a camera, just to be clear!

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What’s The Buzz? Tell Me, What’s A’ Happening?

While we did build these hangers to be the home of flying things, we prefer fixed-wing critters.

No bees or beekeepers were harmed in the making of this story.

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Bird Brains

We’ve all seen parks where someone with a sandwich is subject to immediate attacks by flocks of pigeons, geese, ducks, crows, starlings, and just about every other kind of avian critter nearby. And that’s not to mention the squirrels and the raccoons.

However, all of those creatures have been taught over time to overcome their fear of humans. They’ve been conditioned to respond to the presence of humans and food in a completely different manner than would be natural for them.

Yesterday while eating pizza for dinner, I went outside and sat on the steps in the back yard. There were a couple of birds hopping around on the grass, pecking at seeds or bugs or whatever it is that blackbirds eat from our lawn. As I got to the crust on my piece of pizza, for reasons that I still can’t explain, I tore off a pea-sized piece and tossed it toward the birds.

It was a pathetic throw. I badly misjudged the wind loading on that tiny ball of bread and was only able to get it about three feet from me, barely out of kicking range. The birds were probably twenty feet away.

Prior to the toss my fleeting assumption would have been that the birds would fly away, startled, if I were able to get the bread near them. As I made a pure-de-suck throw, my assumption was that they wouldn’t even know it existed since it wasn’t anywhere near them. And if somehow they did notice the offering, there was no way on earth they would ever come that close to me.

I was wrong!

Immediately the two birds came hopping across the lawn, onto the concrete patio just a couple of feet from me. They pecked at the bit of crust and split it, then flew off into the bushes where I know they have their nest.

I had pizza crust remaining – it was time to test what was happening. I made a handful of additional crust ball bird treats and tossed them out onto the concrete. Over the next couple of minutes, the birds came back for all of them one by one. Even the ones that were just inches from my feet. Then they were back to ask for more. When I wasn’t quick enough to toss out more, they were at my feet, squawking at me in protest.

Cool. I fed the birds.

But where did they learn that behavior? I’ve never, EVER fed them before. I don’t see anyone else in the neighborhood ever feeding them. I don’t know of any bird feeders or other feeding methods in any neighbor yards.

Given all of that, how do we explain this behavior?

I’ve got nothing!

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I STILL Hate The Tax & Audit Season

I say this mainly because between one thing and another, this is the second night in a row where all of a sudden I’m noticing that the clock is at 23:50 and my brain is thinking it’s like 21:50.

Last night I thought that all of those pictures of Fifi were “critters.” Obviously not – but I will mention that, weather & mechanical issues allowing, Fifi will be at our SoCal Wing in Camarillo for a week starting next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, with no time to spare, here are some reruns of actual critters.

I hope.

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CSI: Front Yard

The evidence was everywhere. From a distance it looked like fluff, like fur, like that down that you find down near the skin on one of those rabbits, those mongrel cottontails that had been making such a mess of the flower beds in the neighborhood. I moved in closer to take a gander.

Closer inspection showed it to be feathers. A lot of small ones, only one or two big ones. The small feathers meant that it wasn’t a gander. Or a goose. Or a duck, or a cardinal, or a peacock, or an emu. That greyish white meant it had been a crow or mockingbird. Probably one of the neighborhood mourning doves.

No sign of any bones or blood, but plenty of feathers, scattered over a wide area of the lawn. Something violent had happened here, something deadly, something lethal, something fatal. The victim of this crime wasn’t stunned, resting, or pining for the fjords.

What could do something like this? What was big enough to take down a mourning dove with one swell foop and then carry its probably still struggling and squawking and squirming carcass off to feast on it elsewhere. There was that feral cat that’s been roaming the neighborhood and he had the look of being a member of that well-known bird killing gang, the Tuxedos. He could have done it if he was stealthy enough. But I knew this one. I had him sussed, I knew his measure. He had fallen off the wall last week after I startled him – that klutz wasn’t sneaking up on anything with wings.

No, this hit had all the earmarks of a Death From Above. Could one of those hawks have taken this critter out and carried it off for dinner? Sure they could have. And we see lots of them around hear. One dive from 1,200 feet, a fast flare, a flash of talons, a flap of wings, a liftoff toward a nest up in the rocks on Castle Peak – it would have been the deadliest touch-and-go you’ll ever see. But that’s not where my money was.

This was a nocturnal hit. This happened by the light of the moon, the stars, and that stupid streetlight that’s right there where it blocks my view of my telescope. I had heard that this Hedwig, this Archimedes, this Woodsy wannabe was back in town. He’d been out there hooting for the last week. Now I knew where he had been dining and dashing. I checked the video cameras to see if he’d been caught, but he was smart. The hit had occurred right outside the camera’s field of view. Now we would never have the evidence to convict, but I knew. Oh, yeah – I knew.

Safe in the light of day I walked back to my car, knowing that tonight I would have to walk back up to the house in the dark.

I would be listening for the rushing sound of wings coming up behind me.

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