Category Archives: Birds

Dear Tom, Which is it?

An eagle or a hawk?

Eagle one

He was born in my backyard. Eating something in the yard across the street.

Eagle two

Which is he, an eagle or a hawk? Anyone?

Or maybe just a handsome guy? His favorite perch is the crest of my roof. (He rips meadow voles in half and drops the heads onto my deck for me to sweep up.)

And here’s a pick of Dylan checking out the world…

Dylan Rose 26

Dylan Rose 2 months.

XOXO! Julia

P.S. Just got this one–

Dylan Rose 41

She’s a pixie!

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Dear Tom, the misadventures of Jake and his bestie.

I wish I had photos but these days life is too busy for photos.

Jake and I went for a hike along the river. I chose a trail he loves. It’s a grassy trail that meanders through a flood plane. One one side is a slough, on the other side is the river. There are no roads. He can’t get killed chasing cars. There are no bicycles. There are only birds, the occasional fox, coyote, river otter, beaver and mountain lion. All good.

Oh, farther down the river, actually farther north along the river, is a place I’ve cristened Rabbitzville. Cuz there are like a million rabbits. But Jake and I headed south. There are fewer rabbits. Perhaps only a thousand rabbits as opposed to a million rabbits.

Jake and I crossed the slough via a makeshift bridge of boards and driftwood. Jake ran right through the water, while I picked my way across. When we reached the trail I let him off leash. I mean, c’mon, it was just us. There was nobody there but Jake, Julia and ducks.

We had a great time. He romped up and down and around, running in big circles like a puppy. It was a terrific hike. But then Jake scared up a rabbit. He scared up a jack rabbit by stepping right on him. The rabbit flew across the meadow, Jake in pursuit, because if there’s one creature he can’t resist, it’s a rabbit.

He chased that sucker for at least half a mile and then the rabbit dove into the slough, right into a huge patch of xanthium strumarium. Jake froze. When I saw him freeze I knew what had happened.

cocklebur

OMG. Those horrible horrible awful terrible cockleburs. They are the stuff of nightmares if you are a long-haired dog. He made his way back to me, walking like he was in absolute misery. Egg-shaped sharp stickers were matted into his hair, everywhere. His armpits, his belly, his chest, his legs, his tail.

We had a two mile hike back to the car. Once we got home I cut out as many of the stickers as I could. But I couldn’t shave his armpits or his belly. The stickers were matted right up against the skin.

He had to spend the entire day at the vet’s, sedated. They removed the remainder of the stickers, or so we thought. I’ve since found four more, had to cut them off his thighs. Yikes!

The same day his bestie, Hastur, was sprayed by a skunk right outside her front door.

Oh, California. Where the wild things are.

XOXO! Peace out. Julia

 

Dear Tom, Remember that skunk?

Well, she apparently lives under our deck and she has a litter. I can’t fence her out of the yard away from her babies. I just can’t do it. So we’re learning to live with the situation. At least there is no odor. When they babies grow up and everyone leaves, we will figure out a way to close the gaps along the sides of the deck.

In the meantime, we are in the midst… wait, let me clarify. I am in the midst of rebuilding our broken fence (the rotting areas of the back fence and side fence the skunk uses to get in and out of the yard)– so I’ll have to cut a couple holes in a couple old boards. I’ll replace the boards later. I’d rather cut holes than have her rip down the new boards or dig beneath them.

I say ‘I‘ because Oscar is out of town and has been for two weeks. Which allows me to get stuff done. No offense, Tom, but husbands, aside from you, say they’ll complete a project yet somehow never get around to starting it. At least that’s been my experience. Of course in this case it’s just as well. As my plumber once said – “Do I diagnose your husband’s patients??? Well tell him to keep his hands off my toilets!!!”

I got new carpet installed in his home office. (OMG that carpet was soooo awful!) I’m fixing a broken coffee table- yeah, me, as in I’m doing it myself- so I can move it (can’t move it with a broken claw foot, it’s too heavy and I don’t want to break it worse) along with all the other furniture in the family room in order to replace the big threadbare throw rug. And then I’m tackling the hardwood floors. I’ve been studying up on how to refinish worn areas.

Yep. Jake and I are going to town. Speaking of Jake…

His robins are back, in the same nest. Mama robin has laid at least four eggs. I’m so busy feeding her worms I have no time to write. Boy, does she have it good. Since robins have a relatively short lifespan, I figure giving her and her babies a leg up is the least I can do. She sits on the nest, flutters down to the worm feeder for an occasional bite. Gets a drink out of the bird bath, maybe takes a plunge or two, and then heads back to the nest. She never has to leave the yard. Sweet. She’s even willing to share the feeder with the towhees, who have babies of their own, and two pairs of mourning doves. She’s pretty nasty to the blue jays though. Can’t say I blame her but I do miss their squawking.

What does this have to do with Jake? He hangs out in the yard with the birds. They love him. He keeps the predators at bay. None of the songbirds fear the dog. They hop all around him, preening, feeding, bathing, drinking. He likes birds. Now the squirrels… they are another matter altogether. And that skunk… Jake has grown wary.  He won’t go outside at night unless I turn on all the floodlights first. And even then he sniffs the air before he sets one foot on the deck.

He’s been a great companion in Oscar’s absence. Not hyper. Rather, he’s showing a lot of self-control. I think it’s because I’m pretty chill while Oscar is pretty loud and sporty, (kinda like Sporty Spice) and he gets him revved up.

Yesterday Jake and I had to wait on the side of a trail for thirty minutes. We happened to hit a bend in the river trail the same time as a kids’ 5-K. He and I needed to cross right at their turnaround point. There were so many participants, and the trail is so narrow, we were forced to wait until the end of the race. But you know, he just lay there like an angel and every single kid was cooing and fawning over him. Fortunately he likes kids. But if you’re an old lady in a floppy hat, beware. Jake hates nothing more than a floppy hat. Fortunately we didn’t see any floppy hats yesterday, although today we did see an old lady wearing an enormous floppy straw hat and, of course, even though she was across the road Jake had to bark at her.

Well, I’ve talked long enough. Will chat again soon. Love, Julia XOXO!

Dear Tom, strange midnight doins’…

Here’s what happened last night~ So I’ve been sleeping in one of the other bedrooms because Oscar has a horrible cough. Yes, he got super sick ten days before I left for my father’s 88th birthday, and yes, he’s still coughing like a maniac. (Doctors don’t go to see doctors.)

Anyway, this particular bedroom juts out over the backyard. A tree grows almost into the bedroom. I can open the window next to the bed and step right out into the tree. If there was no screen, the tree would actually be in the bedroom. It’s kinda nice. I leave the shade open so I can watch the birds in the morning.

(When the kids were younger we taught them that the tree was their escape route from the second floor in the event of a fire.)

So last night I woke up. At 4:11 a.m. This weird noise woke me. I can’t quite describe it, but it was loud enough to wake me. Didn’t really disturb me much though, because it sounded like it came from the creek on the other side of the main road behind our court. Was a low-pitched sort of howl or growl.

I turned over and closed my eyes, ready to drift off, when I heard it again. This time, it was louder. Sounded like it was coming from my court, near the front of my house. A definite low-pitched growl or howl.

I thought – “Huh.” Once again, I turned over and closed my eyes. Not ten seconds later I heard it again. It sounded very close, as though it was coming from the side of our house near my garden. This time I sat up. I could hear the dog rustling around in the hallway outside my door.

The next thing I heard was this awful hellaciously loud low-pitched howl/growl from right beneath my bedroom window, directly under the tree. The dog began barking up a storm and launched himself down the stairs. I could hear him throwing himself at the back door.

I turned on the bedroom light, left the room, flipped on the big overhead hallway lights, called for Oscar- who did not answer as in he did not wake up- went downstairs into the kitchen and family room, flipping on lights everywhere.

Jake was desperate to get outside. I turned on the backyard floodlights and opened the back door. The dog leaped from the door to the edge of the deck in a single bound, and he made a beeline for the redwoods and the back fence. As I watched, he proceeded to pace up and down the back fence line for fifteen minutes, his nose right up against the fence. You know, back where we have that easement.

Finally Jake pranced back to the grass, hackles raised, tail in the air, and peed. At last he came inside.

He and I both went back upstairs. I turned off lights. Oscar still slept. I went back to bed and heard nothing else all night long.

I figure it was either Bigfoot or a couple of mating mountain lions. I know what raccoons sound like. Not a raccoon. Not a coyote. No way. Too loud to be bobcats. And a bear couldn’t escape that fast and besides, it would probably break the fence.

Again, all I can say is, “Huh.” I’m stumped.

California – we coexist with wildlife. As long as I have Jake I don’t mind a bit.

20160401_163607

My Hero.

 

 

Dear Tom, Bigfoot struck again!

Seriously. No frakkin’ shite.

I’ve been keeping quiet about this because y’all will think I’ve lost my marbles. Well, maybe I have…

Two weeks ago, about 7 a.m., I went out into the backyard. I was alone. Hubs had left for work and the dog was already in the car. Usually the dog goes out first thing in the morning, but that particular morning he refused to go outside and instead wanted to get into the car to wait for our hike. Thus I figured I’d take the opportunity to feed my wild birds. It’s hard to feed the birds with the dog around because he barks like a maniac.

The setting:

My backyard. We have a fenced backyard. A line of majorly tall redwood trees. A six foot wide easement behind the fence that used to run all the way from the main road to the end of our block, opening into what used to be an orchard. On the other side of the main road is forest, a creek bed, and more forest. Both our gates are padlocked. Locked. No one can get in without either climbing over, in which case Jake would go after him, or breaking down the gate. Which would make a whole lot of noise.

It was a cold morning. Maybe 28′. Frosty. I went out to check my mealworm feeders first. When I walked back to the deck I spotted this footprint on the first step leading up to the deck~

20160114_081951

I did a double take. That is not my foot. Besides, as you can see, I was wearing flip-flops.

20160114_082001

If you’d been there, you’d actually have seen that the foot was much wider than mine, (not to mention the fact that my little toe does not look like that!) and you would have observed that the person/thing only placed a portion of its foot on the step. I couldn’t find any additional footprints because the deck itself was wet.

I freaked out.

20160114_082052

My husband said- artifact. I said- artifact of what? A foot?

And it gets even weirder. Just last week I found two footprints on the step leading up to the deck~ a right foot and a left foot, huge footprints. I ran to get my husband and grab my phone so I could take a picture. Unfortunately as we both ran outside, Jake ran out with us, tried to take the turn too fast, crashed onto his side, and rolled right over the footprints (the deck was icy) and he smeared the prints. We could see them, but not clearly. Not like the print above. Jake smushed the toes. Here’s what remained after his smears had dried somewhat and the deck had thawed- you can see the dog hair where he fell:

20160130_091822

So what am I to make of this?

A. How did a person manage to climb over a six foot fence, at night, yet make no noise whatsoever? Because German shepherds do bark… at everything.

B. Why would said person be walking about barefoot when it’s cold and wet outside? We do have winter here…

C. Why are these feet so dang big?

D. Why me?

In other news, we went to the PBR in Sacramento- OMG! It was soooo fun!

Miss you, Tom! XOXO! Julia

 

Dear Tom, I am loving my birdies!

I get so much pleasure from watching and feeding my birds, hours and hours – despite the occasional hawk. But of course I love hawks as well and want to be one in my next life- not anywhere near a wind farm though. Wind farms are deadly to raptors.

Here’s the list of birds in my backyard:

Towhees.

Spotted Towhees.

Mockingbirds.

White Crowned Sparrows.

Golden Crowned Sparrows.

Savannah Sparrows.

Fox Sparrows.

Hooded Junkos.

Dark-eyed Junkos.

Western Scrub Jays.

Blue Birds.

Robins.

Cassin’s Finches.

House Finches.

White-breasted Nuthatches.

Goldfinches.

Bewick’s Wrens.

Cedar Waxwings.

Olive-sided Flycatchers.

Red-eyed Vireos.

Warbling Vireos.

Mourning Doves.

Bullock’s Orioles.

Anna’s Hummingbirds.

Black Phoebes.

Oak Titmouses (Titmice?).

Evening Grosbeak.

Mountain Chickadees.

Chestnut-backed Chickadees.

It’s so much fun because they know me and they know Jake and we are both allowed to get very close to them. In fact, they love having Jake about because the redtail hawk won’t bother them when he’s outside.

Things are a bit better. As I await surgery to repair my hip– gotta get that repaired before I can get the knee surgery– I joined a health club, and I’ve been swimming and rowing every day. I’ve had to decrease my hiking to two miles a day, four days a week. That’s about as much as I can do and I’m still pretty slow. Tomorrow I hope to visit a sports medicine physical therapist. If there is a way to avoid hip surgery I’d just as soon find it, but a torn labrum does not heal. It can only be sort of fixed. Regardless, I did get two batches of lemon curd made yesterday. Yay! Already gave most of it away. And I’ve frozen the juice for two more batches. Of course the tree is still loaded with lemons. Want to come help me harvest? 🙂

Perhaps I’ll get around to photos one of these days.

Needless to say, 2016 isn’t looking quite as bleak as it was just a week ago. Of course don’t ask the poor hubby – he’s the one responsible for insane Jake’s exercise now! He might have a different opinion of 2016, especially since his team, the Minnesota Vikings, lost today. He’s a Minnesota native.

(I’ll whisper this secret down a deep well at midnight- While I found Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to be marginally entertaining, I also found it to be pretty much a disappointment. My son and I had a long discussion about it today. Sometimes a discussion can make a less interesting movie more interesting. He liked the movie, but then he’s been a big Star Wars fan since he was a baby. Me? I expected better, although when one considers the three horrendous prequels, The Force Awakens was genius.)

Oh! The PBR is back! Gotta love those bulls! I’ll give you a little taste. I know most of you aren’t as blood thirsty as I am. (Big Airtime fan here):

Love you, Tom. Miss you! XOXO! Julia