Category Archives: Critters

Hummer Neighbor

We have four finch nests out on the back porch, although we haven’t seen them in the nests for a couple of weeks. I suspect the next generation of finches is out looking for their own nesting sites already. We saw all of the mating activity, we heard the tiny peepers, now all is quiet…

The other thing I did last week was re-fill the hummingbird feeders. We’ve always had the hummingbirds around, it was time to again make life a little easier for them.

See the two feeders hanging there? We immediately started seeing the hummingbirds feeding there. Then I started seeing them sitting on those vines, even when they weren’t feeding.

That was new. They kept coming back to a spot on the vines right between the feeders. Then I noticed they were carrying things.

Sure enough, there it is. A teeny tiny thing, a hundredth the size of the finch nests.

And where the finch nests are sticks and twigs, the hummingbird nest is made of fluff and soft stuff. Maybe some of that spare hair from a month ago.

The mama hummingbird flys off whenever anyone is anywhere near the patio, including any of us even being in the kitchen or dining room. We’re leaving them alone, but today I was curious…

Thank god for thin cell phones with good cameras, there’s no way to get a big camera into that spot! But yes, there are two very small eggs in there!

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Scamper

There he goes!! Wait for the “push ups” at the end!

Standard issue fence lizard. Now that it’s getting warm we’re seeing a dozen or so of them around the yard. By late summer it will be many dozens, depending on the attrition rate as the crows and hawks and other birds prove to be quicker than they are.

 

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Erratum – They’re Not Wrens

Remember the birds from the back yard? I called them “house wrens.” They’re not.

They’re “house finches.

(The Cornell Lab Merlin App)

I don’t share this with you simply because I know that some of you, out of an overabundance of politeness no doubt, have been biting your tongues for days, knowing that they were finches and not wrens but not wanting to rain on my parade. (I know no such thing.) No, I share this because I found this really cool free app!

I don’t know about Android phones, but if you’re on an Apple iOS device, look for the “Merlin bird ID” app. It’s from Cornell Lab at Cornell University and it will ID birds with a picture, by answering five questions, and possibly (I just got it this afternoon, so maybe?) with a live photo as you’re watching the bird? It doesn’t appear to be able to ID birdsong, but if you ID your bird from a picture you can hear a sample of the birdsong for that species and confirm the ID that you just completed.

Check it out, it’s cool!!

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The Wrens

I’ve mentioned the return of some of our fine, feathered friends.

When I get some time (way too rarely) and it’s warm, I like to go out on the back porch and read. These guys (and their neighbors) don’t take kindly to that. The guy sits on the BBQ and bitches at me. We have four nests currently in use under the eaves of the patio roof. The rest of them were all trying to play chicken with my head. But they weren’t anywhere near as bad as geese, turkeys, swans, or magpies can get. They never got within a few feet, just wanted to make sure that I knew they were there. Probably also showing off for the ladies a bit.

The males are all quite bright red at the moment, and extremely noisy. It’s a complex birdsong, very pretty, except when there’s a dozen of them doing it at full volume outside at 05:30.

The females have more drab plumage, the better to hide in the bushes and not get taken by a hawk. One day last weekend when I was sitting out here I suddenly had four or five of these little critters fly into the vines around one of the support poles, not two feet away from me. I was confused and surprised, but then one of the aforementioned hawks (probably a red-shouldered hawk, possibly a Cooper’s hawk) came busting by over my head, through the patio under the roof, and out the other side at about Mach 3. (Cool!!) He went hungry on that dive.

The females are not only more drab, they’re also much quieter. They have three or four little chirps that they use, but none of the complex birdsong of the males and at much lower volume.

That whole thing about the male of the species being colorful, brash, bold, and loud? It’s not just a cliche.

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Front Yard Bunny

Going out just after sunset, I want to see if it’s clear. Is the moon up? (Yes.) Is Venus up? (Yes) Is the sunset pretty? (Meh.)

Last night, instead I got a bunny.

Over there by the cars. As soon as I come out, he freezes.

I’m not going to spook him, but I’ll zoom a bit.

If I don’t move, you can’t see me! Right?

Well, no. As soon as I move, he’s under the cars, through the rose bushes, and into the neighbor’s yard. Good luck munching over there, Bugs! That astroturf has a bit of a plastic aftertaste I’ll bet!

Tonight, no bunnies in the front yard. The reason was obvious – Major was out there instead! Major is some sort of a mastiff “puppy” who lives down the hill. He’s still growing, as cute as can be, a real playful beast, “beast” being the operative term. He may be less than a year old and still growing, but you could put a saddle on him and I could ride him.

Tonight he had obviously seen the bunny, which is why I found him up near the house with his owner trying (and failing) to drag him back to the sidewalk. “Bunnies?” I asked. She was apologetic and promised to get him off our lawn. Not a problem, I wasn’t upset, I understand the dynamic. Then Major remembered that I’m the guy that likes to play, which is true, but in these socially distanced days I thought discretion was the better part of valor and retreated back into the house.

I’m assuming the bunny, having seen 100+ pounds of friendly (or not) “puppy” coming at them on the dead run, was now somewhere around Long Beach.

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Tuesday Lizard

Is everyone a little scattered, a little unfocused, a little off kilter?

The economy’s going into the toilet? Tens of thousands dead, headed toward hundreds of thousands, and it was 90% preventable if we didn’t have an evil, corrupt, ignorant cult in charge of our country? And we’re in our fifth (sixth?) week of working from home and sheltering in place?

Remember, this guy doesn’t give a shit. He’s giving me the side eye because I have that whole “much bigger than you and a potential predator” thing going for me and he would be just as happy to not be eaten, but COVID-19 and the GOP? Nada. Zip. Zilch.

However, on a more upbeat note, especially regarding lizards…

First of all, if you’re on Twitter and you like lizards, you should be following @Afro_Herper, who tweets out a ton of interesting things about lizards. She’s delightful! Even better, every Wednesday afternoon she posts a picture on Twitter and we play #FindThatLizard, sort of a “Where’s Waldo?” with scales and a tail.

After watching a bunch of lizards running around the yard yesterday, we had this exchange:

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Spring Bees

It’s been noted before, but whatever that purple flowering bush thing is around the mailbox, the bees are loving it.

All things being equal, we love seeing the bees buzzing around.

It wasn’t like there was a hive or a swarm surrounding a queen, although we’re starting to see complaints on the local FaceBook group about people finding them in their trees or underneath their eaves.

We’ve got some bigger critters that are nesting again – maybe I’ll pull those photos tomorrow.

For now, there are plenty of these guys who are perfectly happy to ignore me when I get the mail so long as I don’t do anything other than taking pictures.

Let’s hope we get that sort of tranquility soon.

I hope you’re all feeling well still and stay that way. Wash your hands. Stay home.

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