Archive for the ‘Backyard Naturalist’ Category

Dusk Visitor

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

I found this young skunk just outside my back door, foraging on seed fallen from the bird feeder.   He/she? wasn’t fussed by my presence, but just the same, I closed the door quickly and quietly!

Rain Respite

Friday, December 18th, 2009


The “girls” were waiting for me to get up, this Saturday morning, hoping for a handout.  They can really bore holes into your soul, it seems!  Or at least make a person feel downright guilty.  It had rained for the last couple of days, and they were also drying out at a safe location, free of dogs.

This doe and first-winter fawn were mutually grooming each other in the weak winter sunlight.


The mildness of the day and the break in the rain must have made the old matriarch sleepy, and this is what happens when all conditions are right:


Frozen Fog & Other Winter Discoveries

Friday, December 4th, 2009


As I walked in a winter wonderland of frozen fog today, I heard the unmistakable sound of geese honking above me – they sounded tired, and they sure are late at flying south.  So I sent them a prayer for safe journey and told them to come back in the spring.  They were beautiful.

It was extremely cold this morning.  I don’t like being cold when I walk.  I have a metabolism that takes a lot of stoking to get going, so I tend to just be cold at the get-go.  So I layered myself from top to bottom.  By the time I pop out of the front door, I look like a cartoon Michelin Man (my jacket is black too).  But I was prepared!

The fog had rolled in as it has for the last week, but it had frozen and was snowing fog:  a powdery white, like powdered sugar.  It covered everything and what tried to thaw out the night before had frozen.  Even the spiderwebs were frozen!


The soil has dried somewhat since the last rains, but the moisture in the air collects at the edges of things, like this oak leaf:


When I got to the highest point of the hill I was on, I looked out – above the fog layer – into the valley below.  I was glad I was above it.  The sun felt great, and the fog-snow sparkled as the sun hit it.  It was a glorious walk, and I’m glad I didn’t have to drive in it today.  And I stayed plenty warm!


Winter Mushrooms

Monday, November 30th, 2009


On my walk yesterday I came across a totally rotten felled tree trunk filled with these tiny mushrooms, which were sprouting from various crevices.  You can see just how small they are by comparing them with the pine needles nearby.  They were exquisite fairy mushrooms.

The recent rains have brought out lots of fungi and lichens.  The mosses are brilliant kelly green.  So while the last of the beautiful fall leaves are falling to the ground, we get a little sideshow from the lowly spore germinating lives that proliferate in damp dark places.

Rutting Season

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Well, it’s that time of the year when any mature single blacktail buck seeks single willing doe in estrus.  This little clip shows one buck smelling the air for signs of a doe ready for mating.  You rarely see mature bucks with racks in town.  Usually they go about in bachelor groups throughout the year on the fringes of town.  But they throw all caution to the winds and come rampaging into town to seek their intended.  I nearly ran into one of two bucks chasing after one doe in heat as he raced in front of my car one early evening.

This is a group of does and some fawns from this spring.  The unfolding “show”  has them all upset.  The doe that this particular buck is after is quite agitated.  At one point you can see her urinating to attract the buck to her scent, and he follows his nose.  So no doubt we will see the results next June….

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Happy Spooky Halloween!

Saturday, October 31st, 2009


For some reason, I felt my legs take me up to the old pioneer cemetery for a walk.  It was a rather gloomy, fog-shrouded, rain-drippey kind of day.  When I realized it was Halloween, I thought, “Well, how appropriate!”

Seriously, though, I had a great walk.  The fog made everything very quiet and I could hear chickadees and jays in the distance, moisture dripping here and there.  The rain had made beautiful streaks on the smooth barkless madrone trees, which reminded me of a great watercolor idea.  The air was refreshing after being inside the overly-dry house and office.  That’s one of the worst side effects of central heating (besides the energy expenditure and expense) – everything gets too dry!

I came across this really weird manzanita trunk.  Somehow, it fits in with the entire Halloween, spooky cemetery feeling of the day.


But all was not gloom and spooky.

At my vet’s office, this perky little dog came dressed up for the occasion.  Love the garter!

She seemed to love it – or maybe it was just the extra attention she got.  In any case, she got a lot of smiles today.

So Happy All Hallow’s Eve  for all you who celebrate it.


Live-Action Turkeys!

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

I snuck up on the turkeys this morning, so here you can see them in live-action.  Sorry about the quality and the noise.  I was shooting through a window with a screen, neither of them particularly clean!

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Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast?

Friday, October 16th, 2009

birdfeederWild turkeys, that’s who!

These guys have begun a morning ritual in which they stop by after it gets light in the mornings.  They check out any sunflower seeds left from the previous day’s foraging by wild birds and racoons or skunks that clean up after them.   There usually isn’t much to find, but turkeys are not the brightest bird minds out there.

Still, by poking their sharp beaks into the lower feeder, they can manage to pick up a few morsels now and then.

They are getting just the right size for a Thanksgiving meal – fortunately, no human in town will consider them for eating, thank goodness!

Feline TV

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

cat tv1For the last two weeks, since gophers invaded the empty lot next to my house, this calico cat has become totally addicted to watching gopher holes.

She comes in the morning and stays out all day, watching, hoping for some movement.  I see her leave when dusk starts falling and/or rain begins falling.

She apparently gets enough thrills out of her watching to make it worth her while, but to each her own!

This is one dedicated feline…and woe betide any gopher dumb enough to surface!

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Deer Matters of Life and Death

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

deerfamilyOne of the deer families is doing well and taking time to chew cud of an early morning.

This photo was taken the morning after I found a very dead yearling buck in my back yard.  He had not been a thriver all his short life.  He had some sort of skin condition that made his coat very sparse, although it seemed to have improved since the spring.  But his antlers grew out strangely.  One short one, and one just a stub.  He was clearly not doing that great.

So it was no surprise to find him dead.

I used to wonder where deer went to die – either when they grew too old to chew or graze; or if they were sick or injured beyond hope of healing.  Well, most seem to disappear into the wild and be never seen again.  But at least two of them spent their last seconds in my yard.

Death seems to be very much an accepted part of a deer’s life.  This family calmly chewed their cud within sight of the dead buck.  I thought maybe it would create bad mojo for them to be so close.  Apparently not!

And why do does typically deliver twins?  Well, the likelihood of one of the two fawns dying is so great that the deer gods have decreed that twinhood is the rule, rather than the exception.

So, while it is sad to see a closely-watched member of the ‘hood’s deer pass away, I’ve learned from the deer that it is part of life.  I hope I am as gracious and calm about death when my time comes!