Category Archives: Critters

Fine Feathered Friends – May 31st

As we put a stake in the heart of May and bid it adieu, another new bird showed up out of nowhere today.

Yellow birds stand out – we don’t get many of them. Which is why I was so surprised to see this one just a couple of days after the yellow-headed blackbird showed up here.

My first thought was that it might be one of the yellow-rumped warblers that we have all over, which don’t have what *I* would consider to be exceedingly yellow rumps, but maybe this was a different sex or subspecies than I normally see. But the Cornell Lab app says differently.

The Merlin app at Cornell Labs identifies this bird as a “Pacific-slope flycatcher.” It also notes that they’re almost identical and difficult to distinguish from the Cordilleran flycatcher – but the Pacific-slope flycatcher’s range includes Southern California and the coast, while the Cordilleran flycatcher stays in the mountains of Arizona and down into Mexico.

Which makes me wonder. I haven’t been obsessed with seeing and IDing different birds – but on the other hand I have been watching and keeping my eyes open and living within a mile or two of here for thirty years. So is there some improvement in my observations that has multiple new species being seen here in just the last few months? Or are we actually getting more variety and newer-ish species of birds coming into this area?

Beats me!


Filed under Birds, Critters, Photography

Finch Architect Failure

While last year we had a pair of finches that built a great nest underneath the porch awning right outside our kitchen window, this year we had at least three and possibly four or five nests being built. It was just never clear it was three (or four, or five) pairs or just one or two pairs building a couple of nests each to see which one they liked. A couple of the nest locations are up behind outdoor speakers, so it’s not clear if there are nests in there or just birds getting together for a quickie.

One of the pairs had built a pretty respectable looking nest, and for at least a week or two I was seeing “MomBird” sitting on the nest for hours a day. From this I started to think that there might be eggs and chicks coming.

Nope. This morning that nest was down on the ground.

There were definitely signs of occupancy (i.e., bird shit on the walls and beam) and some of it stayed up there, but most of it ended up on the ground.

No sign of any eggs in it, and I hadn’t seen MomBird in a few days, so this might have been a swing and a miss.

Maybe they’re off on the other side of the porch, up near the house where the speakers are. Or maybe they’re up in the gutters somewhere, or a tree of some sort.

Better luck next time!

On the other hand, the house finches are a long way from endangered around here. There was one point this afternoon when I counted over fifteen of them out there feeding at once, and I can’t even start to count how many are flitting around in the trees and shrubs at the same time.


Leave a comment

Filed under Birds, Critters, Photography

Doctor Lizardo Returns For The Summer?

You remember Doctor Lizardo, who always hung out underneath the van in the driveway? At the end of last fall she had apparently lost her tail but had gotten some very nice green scaly highlights. Then it looked like she had pretty much grown her tail back out and was seen a few times in the spring. Now I think she’s back, although there may have been another small bit of color change.

This was taken a week ago, while the van was still here.

There’s another lizard that’s been showing up here from time to time, much darker, almost black, and with a missing tail.

I thought that The Doctor was gone and a different color, but looking back through the photos and posts, I think this might be her.

The green shading is gone, and it was quite distinctive in November, but that might be seasonal or temporary.

I notice that the rest of the coloring is very similar to the previous photos.

But what I really notice is the re-grown tail on this lizard. I know that the Good Doctor had lost her tail just before going into hibernation in the fall.

Now this critter has the full tail, but it’s very prominent where it grew back. The scaling is completely different from that point back. In addition, this lizard didn’t get spooked at all by me, even though I was within five feet or so, and that was always a trait of Doctor Lizardo.

Is she back? Is this her? Maybe some of you can compare scale patterns and colors to the pictures from November and earlier last year and see what you think!

Leave a comment

Filed under Critters, Photography

Eating The Sweet Grass

I caught this Leporidiaeic friend chomping away on the tall, sweet grass at the side of the yard. We see them in both the front and the back yard daily, but they’re usually eating the regular green, lawn grass.

It was funny watching that long stem of grass disappearing as he nibbled it in, like a string of spaghetti being slurped up.

But then he went for the next mouthful.

It was too cute. And this was not a particularly small rabbit.

It looked like the top parts were the tastiest and he was stretching to get them.

Nibble, nibble, chomp, chomp! There goes another one!

Wait! Are you looking at me?

He must have been convinced quickly that either I didn’t exist on the inside of the kitchen window or that I was (mostly) harmless.

Back to lunch! (Given the hawk activity around here he was enjoying himself way more than I would have recommended, but I’ll have to assume that he know what he was doing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Critters, Photography

Cackling Raven

I’m sure there are actual official names for the sounds that this raven is making, but I don’t know them, so I’m going to go with “cackling.”

He was probably 40-50 feet overhead and just sounding off in all of his glory. Of course, so were the wind, the lawnmowers (tomorrow is trash day, so most of the gardeners are out in front of it), the motorcycles, the planes overhead…

I think you can still hear him, sounds a lot like some exotic percussion instrument from South America, clacking and clicking his staccato clattering. (Although the compression that YouTube uses might have wiped out some of the finer audio details.) In particular, at about the 16-20 second marks it comes through, and again just before the end at about 0:26.

I hope you can hear him!

Leave a comment

Filed under Critters, Photography, Video

Fine Feathered Friends – May 02nd

A new visitor! I’m very excited, especially if this one sticks around and brings friends.

I had noticed, briefly, because these little flying gremlins are quick, a flash of red on one of the hummingbirds zooming around the yard. With the new feeders, there are more of them – “more” meaning that it seems at swarming/feeding time just before sunset there are maybe 8-10 of them zooming about instead of 4-6 of them. I know we have Rofous hummingbirds, and we have what I think are black-chinned hummingbirds.

I finally got a good look at this guy today and my first thought was “ruby throated hummingbird” because I know I’ve heard of them and it’s a widespread species. Then I found out that they’re rarely seen west of the Mississippi and never on the West Coast.

So what is it?

The Cornell Lab Merlin bird ID app immediately told me this was a male Anna’s Hummingbird. That bright magenta head is a dead giveaway for this part of the world.

The biggest issue I’m having right now is that (as the hummingbird literature discusses) we have a dominant Rufous hummingbird that tends to chase off other hummingbirds from the feeder. In order to prevent that, we need to put up two or three other feeders around the yard, away from this one. That should allow others to come in and have the “boss” Rufous abandon his territory. Or at least chill out a bit.

And I’ll get the chance to get some better pictures of them all. They are a wonder to watch as they zip and zoom about!

1 Comment

Filed under Birds, Critters, Photography

Dos Conejos

The big crowds of bunnies that occur in the front yard don’t happen until well after dark. Earlier, starting a half-hour or so before sunset, there’s usually two rabbits in the back yard.

If there’s an owl around (do those trees off the edge of the hill look familiar?), this would be their time to make a move.

1 Comment

Filed under Critters, Photography

The Very Large Grasshopper

I remember grasshoppers when I was a kid in Kansas City that were maybe an inch long or so. This isn’t one of those.

This guy was at least 3-4 inches long. Probably venomous, probably had two inch long fangs hidden there someplace, probably would go for my eyes and inject things into my brain where they would fester and grow…

Okay, sorry, three-year old Paul sort of took over there. Don’t even get me STARTED on snakes…

As always with small critters, it’s a matter of how many half steps can you carefully take toward them before they flee. (And if they do are they going to fly off into your face and go for the eyes… Again, sorry.)

Nope, didn’t fly for the eyes. Instead went to the hedges.

This might not have been his best strategy, since that hedge is full of birds. Some of them, like the juncos and finches, aren’t much bigger than he is.

On the other hand, the mockingbirds, towhees, and the crows and ravens from above will take him for a snack in a hot second.

He finally managed to get away from my side of the hedge and my prying camera at least. Good luck with the birds!


Filed under Critters

Rabbits A-Go-Go

I mentioned a few days back that we have a growing collection of rabbits that hang out on our lawn at sunset and sunrise. Coyotes don’t want to climb the hill – that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

Tonight about twenty minutes after sunset (so the pictures are a bit grainy and dark) I went out to check on the sky. (Cloudy? A bit. The moon? Visible, about four days past new.)

As I opened the door, two rabbits that were right outside the door bolted for the neighbors’ bushes across the street.

These three froze, as did I. (For those of you keeping score at home, that’s five so far.)

This guy was down by the mailbox. (That’s six.)

There may have been more down around the corner on the side yard – I didn’t check because they ALL would have bolted out into traffic.

Biggest takeaway? Yep, that’s right – don’t walk barefoot on the front lawn!

Leave a comment

Filed under Critters, Photography

Fine Feathered Friends – April 14th

Another new visitor. This one made their presence known first by their call. They’re LOUD and very distinctive. (Listen to the first song recording, credited to “Oklahoma, April 06, 2012 Recorded by Wil Hershberger | Macaulay Library“)

Given the volume, I spent a few days trying to hunt down a larger bird, maybe something the size of a robin or jay, or the California Towhee. No joy.

When I did find them I was delighted – they’re tiny. “Tiny” as in “smaller than the cute little chunky Juncos!” They’re barely bigger than the hummingbirds!

Now that I know what I’m looking for, I’m finding them all over the place. There might not be as many of them as the wrens or the juncos, but there’s at least a dozen or so, maybe double that.

They’re constantly flitting about through the bushes and hedges that separate our neighbors’ yards from ours, along with the juncos and finches and towhees. Those hedges are turning into quite the little aviary.

I’ve also seen them hanging out in the small bushes behind the roses that line the driveway. That was surprising. There’s not that much cover there, but they make the best of it. But at the slightest hint that I’ve seen them and might take a step in their direction – “poof!” There’s a cloud of them heading across the street into the big hedges in the neighbor’s yard over there.

Tiny, loud, with that BIG tail sticking up like a flag or the rudder on a 787 or C-5. Welcome to the aviary!


Filed under Birds, Critters, Photography