Category Archives: Critters

Finchlings

Lucy & Ricky’s little brood are growing quickly. Over the past week-ish…

Thursday, May 19th

Saturday, May 21st

Saturday, May 21st

Sunday, May 22nd

Tuesday, May 24th

No chicks were harmed in the taking of these pictures! That’s sort of why they suck, I can’t really see what I’m taking pictures of, I can’t focus, and I can’t take more than one or two at a time. I’m waiting for Lucy and Ricky to clear out, jumping up on the lawn chair, sticking the camera up there against the rafters and sort of kind of having the lens pointed in the right-ish direction, and desperately jabbing at where I hope the camera trigger button is and hoping for the best.

But now they’re starting to look like birds. And they eat ALL FREAKIN’ DAY LONG.

Ricky & Lucy must be exhausted.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Birds, Critters, Photography

Squirrel Tsunami

I had mentioned somewhere a few weeks back (here it is) that the squirrel population seemed to have exploded. Spring! Love is in the air! Or at least, hormones!

We have one squirrel that lives in the big tree on the left in the back yard, and another that we’ll see often coming up from the pines on the hill in back. Sometimes, rarely, there’s a third that comes over the chain link fence from the neighbor’s yard on the right. But a month ago I saw two adults leading two tiny squirrel babies through that jungle gym of pine tree branches back there, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I saw the whole group.

Along with a handful of finches, mourning doves, and a couple of juncos, they were decimating the bird seed that gets put out every day. Curiously, there was also a rabbit way off in the far corner, under the bushes. We used to have them all of the time, but didn’t have any for months and months.

The compression on photos sort of sucks, so here are the four of them highlighted.

I will say that when I first got up there were three of them out there. This was an hour or so later, and while it might be likely that it’s the early morning three plus one other, one of these days I might walk out and find seven of them there.

It could happen!

Leave a comment

Filed under Critters, Photography

Finch Hatchlings

While all of this lunar eclipse hullabaloo has been going on, Lucy‘s been sitting on the nest on the back porch and Ricky’s been feeding her.

In my research re: house finch husbandry I had seen that this was a sign that the egg hatching was imminent.

Then I started occasionally seeing Lucy gone, but Ricky at the nest. He was dipping his head down into the nest and something in there was moving.

A-HA!!

I haven’t gotten a decent picture of the chicks yet, mainly because getting this close will get me dive bombed by a couple of house finches that are trying to peck my eyes out. Since I like my eyes just as they are, i.e., unpecked, I’ll try to respect the privacy of the finches. Or at least not try again until I have some decent safety goggles.

It looks like all four eggs hatched. It’s tough to see heads popping up at feeding time, so I don’t know if all four still are viable.

Part of the problem is that Ricky and Lucy are extremely gun shy about letting me even look at them from inside the kitchen. Their nest location is directly across from the sliding glass door out onto the patio. If I get within five feet of the door, they’re outta there. So at feeding time, I’m actually standing on the far side of the kitchen, as much out of sight as possible, watching with binoculars and the big telephoto lens. But that angle (and shooting pictures through the glass) sort of sucks. I have seen at least two little heads popping up with maybe a third, but the four of them never have lined up for a proper family portrait.

How antisocial, especially considering that I’m not even charging them rent!

Leave a comment

Filed under Birds, Critters, Photography

Fine Feathered Friends – May 12th

Well, “feathered-ish” at least. Perhaps “potentailly feathered.”

We’re at about the time when I would be expecting Lucy & Ricky’s eggs to be hatching – but there are a lot of variables. We don’t know exactly when they were laid, the gestation period is 12 to 16 days, etc. But soon. Very soon.

One thing I would note is that I’ve seen Ricky hanging around the nest more than usual and twice it looked like he was feeding Lucy. The article I read on finch gestation said that for a few days just before hatching and the first week or so after hatching the female will sit on the next constantly wit the male feeding her. So, maybe it’s a sign?

Also this evening we got a huge racket going on out in the trees out back. (See yesterday for a picture of the trees.) The crows were sounding the alarm, and the red-shouldered hawk pair that live down in the canyon below us were up shrieking in our trees.

Seeing and hearing the two of them up close (maybe 20-25 feet away) didn’t suck.

Leave a comment

Filed under Birds, Critters, Photography, Video

Lucy & Ricky Have Four Eggs

Last night I commented on how Lucy was sitting in her nest most of the time for the last few days and speculated that she might now have eggs in the nest.

She is. Four of them.

Gestation is 12 to 14 days, and she’s been on the nest for three or four days, so I’m guessing ten days until they hatch, give or take a day or two. Updates to follow.

What I don’t get is how those four eggs came out of that one tiny bird. There’s some space-time continuity issues that we’re dealing with here!

3 Comments

Filed under Birds, Critters, Photography

Lucy Gives Me The StinkEye

It appears that Lucy and Ricky are happy with their nest building and have settled down to domestic life. Where last week they were flying in and out all day long, while Ricky would constantly be making quite the racket as proud papa house wrens will do, now Ricky comes by every now and then while Lucy is sitting on the nest almost 24/7.

I’m no certified bird dude, but I suspect that means there are eggs in the nest and she’s sitting on them.

From where this nest is, any activity out of or near the sliding glass door there will have her bailing and bitching about it. These pictures were taken after very slowly and carefully approaching the door at a time when I was hoping there would be enough glare off of it so she couldn’t easily see inside. She spooks easily.

Most of the time, even if she doesn’t fly off, she’s giving me the stink eye the whole time I’m there. I’ve tried to talk to her and promise that I’m (mostly) harmless, only interested in helping her and watching her nest, but she’s not buying it.

Two years ago we ended up with three fledglings out of five eggs. Last year and this year in the other three (at least) nests, the finches are building them where we can’t easily see into the nests. I’m sure that I can hear little chirps begging for food, but I don’t know how many. Maybe if Lucy goes off for a quick brunch with the girls I can take a quick peek for eggs while refilling the humming bird feeder.

We shall see!

Leave a comment

Filed under Birds, Critters, Photography

Former Alligator Lizard

I was stressed today (taxes) so I took a long walk (3.62 miles) this evening, first to get some exercise, and secondly to get the tax payment envelopes to the post office.

In the process there were MANY lizards, almost all of them the six to eight inch long Western Fence Lizards. (Do a search for “lizard,” or “Fred,” or “Bubba” on this site. Pictures galore!) Along retaining walls, in driveways, on the sidewalk scuttling into the bushes as I approached, on the trunks of trees. Once you start looking for them and noticing them, they’re all over the place. Generally trying hard to be where you’re not.

Along a long stretch of sidewalk which was mostly covered in trash, weeds, and bone dry grass that’s ready to go up like a torch when a tossed cigarette butt hits it, I saw ahead of me a much larger lizard, obviously not a Western Fence Lizard, but a California Alligator Lizard. It was stretched out in a nice, sunny, warm spot on the sidewalk and I felt a little bad about disturbing it, but it was right in the middle of my path. But as I approached, it never budged.

As I went by (I was in a hurry, I was feeling the burn, I was still stressed over the taxes) I took a glance and it seemed healthy. No blood, had its tail (they tend to shed them if a predator grabs them by the tail) and all four legs, no obvious wounds.

Huh.

On the way back about twenty minutes later I was on the lookout. And there it was, still.

Despite its lack of obvious cause of death, it was 100% immobile, even when I was within inches of it.

Given how fast these little dudes can move when spooked, I’m gonna stick with the “dead” prognosis.

Nose to back legs it was about a foot long, with another foot from the back legs to the tip of the tail.

Looking around, there was an apartment building right there, lots of kids playing in the parking lot, lots of families, so I’m wondering if a cat didn’t catch and kill it. They’re known to do that a lot. The only thing that doesn’t fit that theory is that most cats won’t kill it, they’ll bring it into the house and release it. Go figure!

The other possibility is that it’s a fake lizard and there was a hidden film crew nearby for a reality TV show and they wanted to see what folks would do when they found a two foot long lizard in the middle of the sidewalk. Me? I took pictures of it! No mystery there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Critters, Photography

The War Continues

Hint – we’re losing.

I remember having gopher & mole problems when I was a little kid in the KC suburbs. My dad didn’t want to use poison, not because of any sentimental reasons for the rodents, but because there were eight kids running around the yard and kids are stupid. Instead, he would hook up a couple of garden hoses and ram them about 20 feet down the holes, then turn on the water for an hour or so until the entire yard had water popping up from all of the holes.

Despite the questions I have about the efficacy of that method, with the price of water in SoCal these days, that sounds like a perfectly good waste of $25,000 worth of water, so let’s give that a hard, “NO!” On the other hand…

CO2 is heavier than air and will sink. This is why folks have died in certain industrial environments when the tank or tunnel or bowl they’re working in gets flooded with carbon dioxide.

I have a couple of expired CO2 fire extinguishers. I can also get dry ice, which is solid CO2, which will turn into gaseous (and heavier than air) CO2 as it sublimates. So what would happen if I shot off these CO2 fire extinguishers into a few holes, following them up with big chunks of dry ice shoved down deep into every hole I can find, then sealing them off with dirt. Wouldn’t that CO2 stay down in the holes and tunnels, more or less, suffocating the little varmints?

Circumstantial evidence would make me think that it wouldn’t work or would have some other side effect, since I don’t know of any professional exterminators who use that method. It seems so easy, and relatively cheap, so if it would work everyone would be doing it, right? Conversely, since no one does it, it must not work? Right?

Or else I just revolutionized the critter elimination industry. Either way.

Leave a comment

Filed under Critters, Photography

March Rain Aftermath

The squirrels again came out on the soggy side this morning.

They seemed less than thrilled about it. Californians, on the other hand, loved it.

It rarely rains in LA in March, but we’re grateful for it, especially this year, which is quickly turning into the third (fourth? fifth?) drought year in a row.

Meanwhile, our two regular soggy squirrels brought friends.

I was told there was a fourth out there as well, but I never saw all four together. Plus, there was lots of running around, chasing, hopping, up the tree, down the tree, and so on. Lots of that springtime, barely concealed squirrel lust stuff. For all I know there were six or seven of them in a regular squirrel bacchanalia and in 38 to 46 days we’ll be hip deep in little squirrels.

Whatever.

In between all of the other shenanigans they were cleaning out the bird food that had been thrown out, so I threw out a couple of handfuls of the bigger, “critter” food for them. Gotta keep your strength up…

It’s raining again, even though it’s the tail end of the storm and expected to stop soon. We’ll take what we can get and ignore the opinions of the squirrels. I mean, really, they have brains that are only theeeeeeeeeeeeeese  🤏🏻 big.

You know – like politicians. (Ba-DOM-dom!! 🥁 I’ll be here all week! Tip your waitress!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Critters, Photography, Weather

Close Encounter Of The Furred Kind

Before dinner I was taking a break for a few minutes, sitting out in the back yard in that white chair out toward the edge of the drop off down the hill.

The sun was warm, it was quite pleasant, probably about 70°F, the strong winds of the last several days gone. I sat for 15-20 minutes, skimming social media on my phone and enjoying the weather.

Sitting very still, apparently.

At the edge of the hill there’s a little terrace, about five feet down, with a set of steps over on the right, by the ice plant. Down the hill, along the outer edge of that terrace, there’s a chain link fence, that may or may not define the edge of the property. (There are a couple more chain link fences running parallel to it horizontally along the ridge, but no way to get down there and just ivy and weeds covering the hillside. I rent, so I don’t care where the property ends, but it could also be at one of those fences.)

I heard something hit the chain link fence and then wiggle it. I had my suspicions.

A few second later I saw movement at the edge of the yard, above the terrace and just four or five feet from me. Whatever it was had hit the top of the wall behind some of that tallish, decorative sage grass that grows there so I couldn’t see it and it couldn’t see me.

I stayed very still.

And around the corner of the clump of grass came my suspect.

(May or may not be the actual squirrel.)

I expected it to bolt, but noooooo! It started to creep forward toward the yard behind us, oblivious to my presence. For about three feet. Then it froze.

Probably no more than an inch or two from my sneakers, it didn’t even raise its head, just moved its eyes, almost in cartoon fashion.

Jurassic Park Remove Glasses GIF - Jurassic Park Remove Glasses So Intense GIFs(Yeah, that’s the attitude!)

I still hadn’t moved, but quietly said, “Something I can help you with?”

Friends, I will bet anyone $5 that if you go examine where that critter was standing you will find a little pile of squirrel shit.

The squirrel levitated at Warp Factor 8 over to the big tree back there and then sat about 15 feet up, clicking and chattering at me. Obviously, this was all my fault!

I couldn’t have caught or chased it to save my life. I was laughing too hard.

Gotta keep that chair there and spend more “quiet time” reading there. Who knows what or who might drop by next?

Leave a comment

Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Photography