Birds of Wisdom: A bit of Goofing Off

DSC_0017I’ve been working extra hours these past few weeks, so when my client called to cancel this morning, I was (mostly) relieved.  I decided to treat myself to a much-needed thirty minutes of goofing off.  I sat in a chair facing the garden, played a game on my phone and within minutes had a sleeping cat on my lap.

It wasn’t long before my eyes drifted out to the usual wildlife antics.  Foraging squirrels raced around the garden, so round and full I’m amazed they can still move.   It looked as though they were working as a team.  You don’t see that every day! It’s usually ‘every squirrel for themselves.’  The light grey squirrel moved across the lawn, into the shrubs and then used the camellia trellis like a ladder.  I should have jumped up for the camera then, but I was busy goofing off.  Right behind him was a dark, brown squirrel, following his every move. It looked like a game of follow the leader.

Just  outside the window, a small bird flew from branch to branch in the maple tree.  Then he turned and appeared to be looking in the window.  How could I ignore an invitation like that!?

Camera in hand, it was still incredibly challenging getting his picture.  He darted from branch to branch, up, down, back up.  Then he flew to the neighboring yard, and within minutes was back again.  Perhaps he could see his own reflection, though he never went for the window.*

I’ve decided he was keeping an eye on me, making sure I stuck to my goofing-off schedule before getting back to work.  Meanwhile, he was keeping plenty busy for both of us.

Are you taking some time to goof-off during this hectic season?

*It’s disheartening to hear a bird fly into a closed window. One theory is that the sky reflects in the glass, and to the bird thinks it can fly through. These clever decals Window Alert: Protect Your Songbirds act as a ‘stoplight’ for the birds.

 

Three Dogs: Clever, Sweet and Knotty

This is Titus. He’s a Doberman Pinscher by breed, but clearly a retriever at heart.  I fell in love with him on the trail last week when he ran by carrying…a log!

titus with stick

Titus the Clever

He’s still a puppy, just a month away from his first birthday. According to his companion, Monique, Titus is quite fond of sticks.  He carried this one around like a twig amazing all passersby.

Isn’t he clever?

titus without stick

Titus drops his stick

I meet plenty of dogs along the trail, especially when I’m walking with my friend, Karen and her dog, Dylan.  Dylan is number one, but it doesn’t hurt to flirt now and again.  No worries, Dylan.  You’re still the apple of my eye.

Isn’t he sweet?

Dylan

Dylan the Sweet

Last week I encountered the most unusual dog of all.  You might even say he’s knotty.  We stood eying each other for quite some time. I even snapped a picture to be sure I wasn’t imaging things. Back home, pictures downloaded, there he was clear as day.

Isn’t he knotty?

dog tree

Knotty Dog?

Never a dull moment on the Almaden Quicksilver trail.  That place has gone to the dogs.

Halloween Countdown:

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Blog Love: A beautiful piece of embroidery from the talented Marlene Herself at In Search of it All.

If Fences Could Talk

We’re finally seeing some fall action here in San Jose, which for us means cloudy skies and temperatures south of 50 F (10C).  It also means perfect hiking weather!

Almaden Quicksilver trail view

Almaden Quicksilver trail view

My walking partner cancelled this week, so I took myself up to the Quicksilver trail for a ninety-minute hike.  I love social hikes, but now and again, it’s great to go alone. I’m able to tune in more to the nature around me, to see things that I might have missed.

On my recent hike, I noticed the number of fences running along the trail head and into the hills as I climbed.  Wooden fence posts seemed to be re-joining the landscape. Once tall trees, whittled into fence posts, forgot all about formalities. They were gradually returning to a natural state.

decaying fence

Like the understudy in a play waiting in the wings, here was their chance to shine. Each fence post took on shape and character, gathering moss, lichen and weathered decay. Fences meant to keep trespassers out quietly invited small guests in. Signs of a woodpecker, insects and moss were everywhere. I had the sense that if i lingered awhile, those fences would tell me a story.  That perhaps I wasn’t alone after all.

If those fences could talk, what do you think they would say?
crossing fence posts fence with barbed wire fence with lichen

Halloween Countdown:

lacy pumpkin

All dressed up: Lacy pumpkin

Nature’s Garden, No Tarantulas

The good news (if you’re a tarantula) is its mating season.

Additional good news (for arachnophobics) is I didn’t spy a single one on my hike this week. You may safely continue reading without any surprises herein.

I’ve really missed my weekly hikes along the Almaden Quicksilver trail. Hiking trails feel like nature’s garden, a place to enjoy flora and fauna and if your lucky, a bit of wildlife.  I generally hike with my friend Karen and her sweet dog, Dylan. They weren’t available this week, so I decided to hoof it alone.

I bent down to take a photo of some fall leaves, when two women approached and said “is that a tarantula?”  Momentarily confused, I realized the hikers thought I was taking a picture of one of our eight-legged friends. The hikers I spoke with saw three tarantulas on the trail that morning.

Off I went in pursuit of exercise and wildlife (with four legs), careful to keep my eyes down whenever I approached a patch of shade. Years ago a tarantula crossed my path on a hike around this time of year. They’re actually slow-moving and quite docile, so other than the startle factor, I wasn’t concerned.

One of the amazing things about hiking this trail is how quickly you feel like you’re away from the city.  I can get there by car in 15 minutes. I love that.

Given the long, dry year we’ve had, things were looking pretty brown.  Even so, I loved the smell of fall in the air, the shadows in the trees and the view of downtown San Jose.

Come have a look at one of the quicksilver trails: nature’s garden, and as promised, no tarantulas.

McAbee Road Trail head

McAbee Road Trail Head

Potpourri of fallen leaves

Potpourri of fallen leaves

trail incline

The first steep incline (no spiders here)

view of silicon valley

A view of Silicon Valley and the dreaded smog we have this time of year.

parched earth

Parched earth

tree cave

‘Tree cave’

Remnants from the Quicksilver days

Remnants from the quicksilver mining days

The bottom of the hill

The bottom of the hill

camouflaged deer

A well camouflaged deer

Almaden Quicksilver County Park

Sensuality in the Pines

Not all days are equal. You take the highs with the lows. One of the constants, though, at least in my view, is the healing power of the great outdoors.

After a particularly trying day I took a short walk in the woods in nearby Felton. The restorative powers of nature are a marvel. The dappled sun on the forest ‘walls’ inspire tranquility. Conversely, the commingled fragrance of the forest floor, intoxicate. As you settle in, you can hear the lyrical qualities of bird in song, rustling leaves and the crackle of a seed knocked loose from above.
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The forest emulates a lover’s embrace with a throaty voice, tender song and a musk of its own.

Sensuality in the pines.

forest floor

Forest musk

forest canopy

Going for a spin

the woods

“Lost” in the woods

hiding places

Hiding places

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Fall Creek,  Felton, California

Butterfly Sips from the Nectar Bar

I spotted this little lovely on the pansies this morning as I was sweeping the walkway. What a striking contrast against the purple flowers.

Initially, I thought it was a moth, but upon reading, it has the characteristics of a butterfly.  I’ve seen butterflies alight before, but this is the first time I saw one drink nectar from the flower.  How charming!

It’s a pleasure sweeping and raking pine needles after a storm, at least until the blisters form. Everything smells of nature’s musk.  There is nothing quite like it.  Do you think my little visitor agrees?
Orange butterfly

Orange butterfly on pansy

closed wings

PJ’s Nectar Bar at The PyjamaGardener

Told Off by a Squirrel

Have you ever been told off by a squirrel? They’re not shy about letting you know how they feel.  They stand their ground, swishing their ample tails in a circular motion, while building a vocal crescendo. It starts with short, shrill bursts, almost a scream, then progresses to a long bark.  I’ve heard them telling each other off many a time, but today they directed it at me.  The only thing I wanted to take was a picture, but clearly he perceived a threat.

squirrel crossing

Telling me off

When I stepped outside there were three gray squirrels on the lawn, alternately burying peanuts and chasing each other away from their private stash. They scattered into the trees, then raced around and around the pine tree in what looked like a frenzied game of  chase.  Eventually they peeled off, one by one.  I thought they were gone.

squirrel in the pine tree

Squirrel in the Pine Tree

One reappeared on the fence, with another peanut in his mouth and began his vocal tirade. I don’t know how he managed to make so much noise with his teeth clamped down around the peanut.

Our neighbors to the left feed the squirrels fistfuls of peanuts every day. The little rodents are so brazen, they’ll come in her back door and help themselves.

The gray squirrels in our area don’t hibernate due to the mild climate. But with the cooler weather, they ramp up their activity, squirreling away nuts and seeds all over our back yard. Clearly I was an impediment to that progress.

squirrel in the tree

Squirrel Crossing

During the summer months, I found shells on the patio table and on the seat of one of our chairs. I rarely saw the squirrel in action, but apparently he stuffed his cheeks with the nuts, then sat down at my table to eat them. He left without bothering to clean up.

I think it’s time I shake my own ample tail to let him know what I think of his manners.

Halloween Countdown

tower 'o pumpkins

Tower ‘O Pumpkins