Yellopig Is Free

Or, Recreating A Life From Scratch

Spring Critter Roundup 2014

It’s easy to take pictures of flowers — they don’t move around much, and don’t seem to mind when I come around pointing my camera at them. Critters are a different story. They’re usually shy, and for some reason they seem to find me a bit frightening, LOL. My trick for getting pictures of the most timid ones is… Reflector-filmed windows, Ha!

So one recent morning, I opened the blinds to find there had been some new excavations in the front yard. Caught in the act!

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I had to go out and explain that the decorative red rocks always look so much more, y’know, decorative when they’re on top of the dirt.

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Awww, that’s just too cute!

You know what would be handy? If cottontails ate Cryptantha instead of lettuce and spinach. See the clump of Cryptantha at the bottom right of that picture. GAH, it’s everywhere! Anyway, the hare was evicted from the front yard, but it hasn’t gone far.

This episode was followed by the yearly battle of the Pyrrhuloxia with her reflection, or rather with several reflections, since there seemed to be one in every window of my house.

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She was particularly offended by the reflections on the east side of the house, and would go from one to the next to the next, pecking at the windows, round and round, all day, every day for about two weeks. Meanwhile, the male was in a nearby tree ignoring the whole battle.

Pyrrhuloxia are also called “silver cardinals”. The males are much prettier, with the black mask and the tall red cockade, but still mostly silver-gray. They’re still around; I see them sometimes, but mostly I hear them. Their call is officially “whit-CHEER”, and it does sound like that early in the year. Later in the year, they seem to lose the rhythm or something, because the call starts coming out backwards, and then it sounds like “CHEE-whit”. It’s the reggae version I guess (you know, it starts on the back beat). Anyway, hearing this over and over all day, my mind wanders off with it until it sounds like

Chew it! Chew it, chew it, chew it! CHEW it!

And then I’m hungry.

OK, now you’re going to look at the next picture and ask “What the heck?”, so I’ll tell you what it is first: it’s the thermometer on my patio (at the left in the picture). It’s a copper-looking disk about a foot across with a Kokopelli design and a large orange “hand” (pointing upward in the picture). The thermometer is attached to the beam across the top edge of the patio; the beam is seen on the right in the picture. The space between the thermometer and the beam is a little over an inch deep, to hold the thermometer guts, and leaving plenty of room to make a nice, cosy home for a big brown bat.

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“Big brown bat” is its real name, also Eptesicus fuscus. It isn’t actually very big, maybe as big as your palm. I first found out I had a bat one morning a few years ago when I heard a kind of chittering sound on the patio and couldn’t find the bird that was making the sound. It seemed to be coming from a deep crevice between a viga and the porch ceiling — just the kind of place a bat would hide. I have a bat almost every year now, and last year it discovered the space behind the thermometer, formerly occupied by what I always call the “thermometer lizards”, since they lived there. This year, the bat and one lizard seem to have a kind of time-share arrangement for the thermometer space, and that seems to be working out for both of them.

And — the boys are back!

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It’s a larger group this year, maybe five or six of them, and I’m not seeing the one with the torn ear. They’re eating the bottom edges of the mesquite trees, keeping them trimmed to about 4 or 5 feet from the ground. Which I appreciate, because this way I have to do less pruning myself. They’re going to wish they hadn’t done that though, when the mesquite pods get ripe and all the limbs within reach of the deer have already been stripped.

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He may have just realized his mistake…

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