Category Archives: Critters


Seen soaring above our house a couple days ago. Obviously a raptor or hawk of some sort, but doesn’t appear to be a red-tailed hawk. We get a ton of red-tails riding the thermals on the edge of the San Fernando Valley (i.e., the “hills” in “West Hills”) and they’re pretty distinctive. This guy had a different cry, different body shape, and a much different tail shape.

Poking around on the web I think it might be a Cooper’s hawk, but someone with more experience and knowledge than I will have to confirm that.

I did see that he ended up landing up near the top of one of the tall trees just down the hill from us, so with luck I’ll get more chances to see him, perhaps even getting some better pictures for ID later on.


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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Flying, Photography

Lights In The Night Sky

Long day. Family events.

This evening we had a lovely gathering for home-made, wood-fired pizzas at the home of a dear friend of my sister-in-law. As evening fell and we sat around their koi pond, the fireflies came out.

I hadn’t seen fireflies since I was a kid in Vermont and Kansas.

It was charming and wonderful.

My watch beeped with a pre-set alarm. I had seen that there was a outstanding pass of the ISS over Virginia tonight. I let people know that it was coming up, and the entire party trooped out to the front lawn to watch.

Through the high, thin clouds and haze, we all watched the ISS go from the northwest, through the zenith, and fade off into the east, while around us floated fireflies.

It was wonderful.


Filed under Critters, Space

Freds & Bubbas

At the old house there was a growing population of California Alligator lizards, who I had collectively named “the Freds.” (See here, here, here, here, etc.)

It didn’t take too long to realize that there are lizards in the yard here at the new yard as well. Today was sunny and hot, so I got out the camera with the big lens (these lizards are a bit skittish, won’t let me get as close as the Freds did, but then again, the Freds knew that something was up as we were moving out) and did a quick survey of the back yard.

Some look a lot like the old Freds.

Some have similar body types, but much different colorations.

Some have significantly different body types, thicker through the body, shorter tails proportionately.

Look at this brute at the top! He’s built more like an iguana!

And his partner is much, much darker than all of the other lizards.

While some are almost sandy or a light green color.

Depending on the sun angle, some seem to almost be iridescent.

Some are possible hybrids, with thicker bodies than the original Freds but not like the brutes, but longer tails than the brutes while not being as long as the original Freds’ tails.

And they’re all very nervous, darting away and into the bushes at the drop of a hat. The presence of so many crows and hawks may up here may have something to do with that.

I’m figuring the thick-bodied, short-tailed lizards are related to the Freds, but some sort of different subspecies. I’m also figuring that we’ll call them Bubbas instead of Freds.

Finally, I’m figuring that neither the Freds nor the Bubbas will care what I call them, as long as I leave them alone. Which, other than taking pictures, I intend to do.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Photography

New Home Critter Report

Long-term followers of this site will know that at our old house we had raccoons, lizards, coyotes, skunks, rabbits, hawks, and various other critters roaming about. We’ve only moved a mile away, so I’m not expecting a lot of difference at the new place.

We have seen rabbits, far more than at the old house. There I would often see two, very rarely see four at once – here I came home on Wednesday night and found seven or eight of them at once munching on the lawn.

But by far the most prominent wildlife to date at the new house are the crows. They’re loud, they’re active, there are a lot of them, and they most certainly seem to be territorial and aggressive. Quite often when we go out to the front yard, the pair in the nest across the street will start cawing loudly and fly over to the telephone pole in our yard and let us know they’re there.

Today things turned weird with the crows.

We were spending the day moving stuff from the old house to the new (as well as throwing out a ton of stuff from the old house) and shortly after noon, while being screamed at by the crows, we noticed one of them near the ground in the neighbor’s driveway across the street, sitting on top of their car. It was weird.

Just a few minutes later, as we were leaving the house, this guy appeared on our porch:

He isn’t aggressive at all – he actually appears to be very subdued and possibly injured. The neighbor across the street shouted that she thinks he’s a youngster who’s been hurt or sick, and all of the frantic activity by the other crows is over concern for him.

It was definitely not any kind of normal behavior that I’m aware of in a wild bird, allowing us to get this close to him without so much as a twitch.

We went off and picked up our next batch of stuff, and when we got home, we found him here:

Again, he doesn’t appear to be concerned at all about us, nor does he seem inclined to move or leave. Very, very odd behavior, again leading us to think that he might be sick or injured.

Being that I’m a critter-person and being concerned that this big, beautiful bird might be in distress, I put out a bowl of water and food. The internet says that fruit and whole grains are the best for crows, so a half apple chopped up into what I hope are bite-sized chunks and a handful of Cheerios is the best I’ve got on short notice.

When putting it out, I put a few Cheerios and a chunk of apple right next to him, with the rest on a plate next to the water on the bench seat. Edgar (for so we have named him) watched me, but never moved, never flinched, not even when I put an apple piece and a couple of Cheerios only an inch or so away from his feet.

Sadly, as of right now:

He’s still sitting there, shifting around from time to time, but it doesn’t look like he’s touched his food at all. And if he sits there, a not-so-friendly neighborhood cat could find him easy pickings.

Good luck, Edgar! Eat and drink if you can! Heal! Fly away! Go scream at us from the top of the telephone pole. Maybe you’ll be cussing us out, maybe you’ll be thanking us – we’re good with either.

Update regarding Edgar’s condition to follow as needed…


Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Photography


The latest and greatest additions to the urban menagerie (coyotes, hawks, hummingbirds, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, rats, peacocks, mountain lions) are these guys:

Shortly after this picture, these two bolted for the street to cross over into the neighbor’s hedge. They were closely followed by two more who I had been totally unaware of, lurking in the bushes.

I’m just going to assume there are actually more than four, pending today’s response by the coyote contingent.

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Lizard Sunday

I don’t know if this is Fearless Fred from the other side of the yard, but he didn’t seem to bothered to have folks walking by just a couple of feet away all day, and even when I was holding the phone less than four inches away to take the last picture, he just sort of cocked his head and gave me that beady, reptilian stare.

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Filed under Critters, Photography

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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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters