Category Archives: Critters

Big Black Fred

This guy was sunning himself next to the trash barrels when I went out this afternoon:

I’m actually surprised by what the photos show him to look like in detail. From where I was standing and taking the pictures (about ten to fifteen feet away with a big telephoto lens) he looked to be solid black.

As you can see, he’s got a much, much more detailed and not quite as dark scaling pattern.

He was also pretty calm about standing his ground – I’m guessing that he’s pretty comfortable with the environment around the trash bins and the ivy and bushes immediately behind them, so he knew that he could get to cover very quickly. Most of the other lizards I see in the “new” house sun themselves more out in the open and are pretty skittish. This guy let me step up to within about seven or eight feet on this picture before he boogied.

But he was back out quickly after I dropped off the trash – I saw him back out there just a couple of minutes later. Something besides the sun had his attention.

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Spring Returns – Day Thirteen

For the second Sunday in a row it was nice and warm and sunny this last weekend. The previous weekend that warmth and wonderful weather inspired me to go out and shoot pictures of the back yard as it bloomed and budded and woke up to the warmer temps. (You can go see those earlier posts by looking in that box over on the right that says “Recent Post” – after reading this one, of course. There will be a quiz.) This last Sunday, since getting out of the house and walking around in the sun makes my smartass watch happy, I did the front yard. (For the record, wandering around the front yard on your knees with a camera taking pictures of “weeds” and bees will make the neighbors look at you oddly. This is to be encouraged. And is anyone actually reading this first paragraph or just assuming it’s the same every day?)

The neighbors might look at you funny for crawling around on the lawn taking pictures of weeds and bees. This guy is much more paranoid. And vocal. And aggressive.

We’ve been in the new house a bit over ten months now, and long-time readers will remember numerous mentions of the crows when we first moved in. Every time we came out the front door there were a couple of them swooping over the yard and being very noisy. “Every time” as in “Every! Freaking! Time!”

I wondered if all the attention we were getting wasn’t due to the one that started living on the front porch for a few days. I figured it had to have been sick or injured or afraid of flying and I always wondered what happened to it. We never found a bunch of feathers in the yard or on the porch, so if it went off and got eaten by a cat or coyote or hawk, it did it in someone else’s yard.

After Edgar (the sick/injured/psychotic crow on the porch) disappeared, within a week or two the crows disappeared as well. At least, the ones from the nest in the palm tree across the street that were harassing us. There are still plenty of crows around all over – but OUR crows were noticeably absent.

Until about two weeks ago. Now they seem to be back, or at least a similar group with similar habits. Do crows have a pattern of migrations over an area throughout the year? Our baseline is a little small on this data sample, but at least at first glance it seems possible.

The telephone pole by the driveway is their favorite perch. It gives them a good spot to see and be seen, and to squawk at great volume and with splendid agitation. I’m glad that I gave them something to feel threatened by, I guess.

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Spring Returns – Day Ten

For the second Sunday in a row it was nice and warm and sunny. Last week that inspired me to go out and shoot pictures of the back yard budding and blooming and waking up to the warmer temps. (See that box over on the right that says “Recent Post”?) This Sunday, since getting out of the house and walking around in the sun makes my watch happy, I did the front yard. (One must keep one’s watch happy!)

Down by the end of the driveway there’s another type of sage bush. My current best guess from internet image surfing is that it’s a Cleveland sage.

I’m guessing that’s not the Cleveland in Ohio – not a lot of desert plants there the last time I drove through.

As with the Mexican sage by the front door, this one is often covered in bees. It’s a good thing.

Interesting commute. With all of the bees, I wonder where the honey is stored around here.

Does someone actually have a hive in the area? Or is there something hidden in the walls of a neglected shed, just waiting for an accident?

Either way, as long as I don’t have to deal with the stinging and buzzing, I’m glad to have the little guys around.

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Spring Returns – Day Nine

For the second Sunday in a row it was nice and warm and sunny. Last week that inspired me to go out and shoot pictures of the back yard budding and blooming and waking up to the warmer temps. (See that box over on the right that says “Recent Post”?) Yesterday, since getting out of the house and walking around in the sun makes my watch happy, I did the front yard.

Right outside of our front door is this sage bush with purple flowers. We have a lot of “drought resistant” landscaping, including a number of different sage varieties. From some internet image surfing, I’m guessing this is a “Mexican Bush Sage” – put I’m probably wrong.

One thing it always has, 365 days a year, no matter the season, is bees.

I know some people get angsty around little buzzing things, but these guys have never bothered us at all.

Just like your mom said – you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone.

They’re actually pretty calming to watch. I’m thinking that none of them is lying awake nights thinking about audits or cash flow or work comp liability.

Probably.

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Spring Returns – Day Eight

For the second Sunday in a row it was nice and warm and sunny. Last week that inspired me to go out and shoot pictures of the back yard budding and blooming and waking up to the warmer temps. (See that box over on the right that says “Recent Post”?) Today, since getting out of the house and walking around in the sun makes my watch happy, I did the front yard…

…and I’ll start showing those to you tomorrow. But in the back yard, we have new avian neighbors.

This wasn’t here last weekend. I noticed it when I opened the bedroom curtains and startled the occupants.

So, of course, I grabbed my camera.

Not five feet away from the door to the porch was this lady, who was having no grief from me at all. A female house finch, very common in these areas.

She was not taking her eyes off of me, and there’s no doubt in my mind that if I had taken steps toward the nest, I would have had her buzzing around my head.

I take no shame in admitting that she would probably kick my ass if I went for that nest.

Meanwhile, twenty feet away instead of five, behind the porch support post, ready to lend moral support if there was an actual physical confrontation, was the male.

Lovely, plumage!” as they say. But we wouldn’t want to get any of that messed up, so if I want to make an omelette out of his potential offspring, he has to make sure that none of that gets ruffled.

He at least had the decency to look sheepish and ashamed, not maintaining eye contact.

Mom, on the other hand, was showing off how buff she was and squawking at me the whole time so that I would know who was in charge.

Got it! I’m mostly harmless and would like to just watch and take the occasional picture. Perhaps a bird feeder of some sort would soothe your troubled mind? (Yes, that’s an offer of a bribe.)

I’ll keep an eye open and an ear cocked for the sound of teeny peepers in that nest in the weeks to come.

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Spring Returns – Day Six

Spring had arrived (officially, Wednesday, the day after my birthday), at least for a couple of days. After one of the rainiest and coldest winters recorded in Los Angeles, followed by extremely windy conditions for a few days, we actually got a couple of relatively calm days this past weekend where it got up about 80°F. (More heavy rain, thunderstorms, chilly temps rolled in mid-week, with more coming this weekend, and next week, and next weekend…) While it was nice and warm, I wandered out and noticed that the yard was responding to the warm up by coming to life, so I grabbed a camera – and apparently got enough pictures to fill up almost a whole week of posts! (I think this is the last of them.)

With the warmth, out came a couple of the Freds. I saw the Tree Fred from the kitchen, but he had boogied for cover by the time I went out. However, this guy was soaking up the rays on the sidewalk.

These guys won’t let me get anywhere near them, unlike the ones at the old house. Not a big enough sample size to know if it’s nature or nurture – are those pinhead-sized brains capable of learning that I’m harmless and enjoy looking at them, or are these guys just more skittish?

Yeah, sneaking up behind me isn’t going to work either. This was the point where I took about one-half step forward and he was into those bushes at Warp Six.

Farewell until the next sunny day in the back yard!

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Spring Returns – Day Five

Spring had arrived (officially, yesterday), at least for a couple of days. After one of the rainiest and coldest winters recorded in Los Angeles, followed by extremely windy conditions for a few days, we actually got a couple of relatively calm days this past weekend where it got up about 80°F. (More heavy rain, thunderstorms, chilly temps rolled in yesterday and today, with more coming this weekend, and next week, and next weekend…) While it was nice and warm, I wandered out and noticed that the yard was responding to the warm up by coming to life, so I grabbed a camera – and apparently got enough pictures to fill up almost a whole week of posts!

While looking at the big tree of unknown species with the exploding umbrella-like leaves (I don’t think that’s it’s official Latin designation) I saw a flash of yellow. Way up in the top of the tree was this guy who WOULD NOT STAY STILL.

This was a classic case of “if you shoot enough pictures…” Statistics were on my side even though the bird wasn’t. “Flitter” was the word of the day as he hopped and bounced and swung and burst and jitterbugged all over the tree.

But even with that I could see the fantastic black & white polka dot pattern on his breast and the bright yellow patches on his neck and shoulders.

But what kind of bird is it? I’m familiar with a lot of the local species, but this wasn’t a common house sparrow. And the occasional goldfinch I see are all bright yellow, not just little patches. Maybe the coloration varies by sex or mating season?

There’s this thing called “the Internet” which lets you go searching for answers to questions like that. In this case, it brought me right back home completely by accident. The San Fernando Valley Audubon Society website is where I found the best description that matches this guy, especially the part about, “Another bird that never seems to sit still.” I’m pretty sure my new neighbor is a Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

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