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.

 

Hummingbird Migration: Garden Traffic in Decline

I’m going to make an extra effort this year to track the hummingbirds at our feeders.  Just one day after musing about their migration habits last week, I read Joan Morris’ column in the San Jose Mercury News.  One of her readers sent in the following:

Dear Joan: I’ve been feeding the hummingbirds from my patio in the same Palo Alto location for more than 10 years now.

Ms. McClellan of Saratoga, who wrote regarding how often her feeders need refilling presently, is probably experiencing what it is like to feed the migratory hummers that pass through our area each fall and spring.

Her Saratoga neighbors probably need to refill their feeders as often during these several weeks while the birds fatten up before moving south.

It will quiet down any day or week now as winter shows more and the migrating birds finish their trips south. Just a few hummingbirds stay over winter locally, and nectar needs will drop.

Then in the spring there will be another, shorter surge of feeding needed on the hummingbirds’ migration north.

Gavin Tanner

I have noticed the increased consumption of nectar at the feeders (we have three).  It’s really cooled down in the last few days, finally feeling like fall. My California Girl uniform of a thin t-shirt and cotton sweater are no longer enough to keep me warm.

I found an informative website called World of Hummingbirds. They have a form on their site for reporting migration habits in your area.  They ask you to wait two full weeks till the last sighting, before submitting details.  I’m looking forward to taking part in this one small way. They use the collected data to: “help researchers around the world better understand and protect hummingbirds.”  I’m all for that.

magnolia feeder

Magnolia feeder: All business

hummingbird green bottle feeder

Beautiful red throat

back garden feeder

Back garden feeder

multiple hummingbirds at the feeder

A rare event at our feeders. They’re usually too territorial to share all at once.

Kitchen window feeder

Kitchen window feeder

Halloween Countdown:

lindy with pumpkin

Lindy Lu loves pumpkins

 

Nature’s Costumes: All Set for Halloween

Our kitties are all set for Halloween. They’ve gone the simple route with their costumes, unlike yours truly who likes to complicate things. I managed to alter a pattern and cut the pieces to my dress this weekend, but with my husband traveling out of the country and my busier-than-usual work schedule, I’m down to the wire.  And speaking of wire, our wireless connection went down as soon as he left town.  Nothing makes me feel dumber than trying to trouble shoot modems, routers, wireless connections and the like.

I studied theater arts in college, with an emphasis in costume design, so it’s fun to dust off my sewing skills once a year.  Halloween is the perfect time of year.  So, I’m sticking to the things I do know (sewing and gardening) and through the magic of mobile phones, our internet is finally up and running.

With that wireless business behind me, I’m back to focusing on costumes.

First up, Mouse the Mighty. I know, I know, he’s not even my cat but try telling him that.  Here he is sporting his Inspector Clouseau costume.

My sweet Lindy is taking the softer approach. Here she dons a head full of strawberry plants for that special Strawberry Shortcake look.

Slinky Malinki is all dressed in black. She’s emulating the children’s story book of the same name: Slinky Malinki…

Beijing is a teenager, and a tired one at that. She’s sitting out the whole costume thing this year, preferring instead to monitor the treats. She’s a natural.

Beijing on the sill

Beijing, the teenager

What’s in a name:

Mighty Mouse: He’s named by our neighbor’s daughter.
Lindy: She came home from the Humane Society already named. We also call her Lindy-Lu.
Slinky Malinki:  Once a stray. We named her after a slinky black cat in a children’s story book of the same name.
Beijing:  Also once a stray.  My son named her Beijing, because she’s neither white nor orange, but beige.

Halloween Countdown:

chocolate pumpkin

Chocolate pumpkin. This tasty morsel was a gift from my Pilates instructor. Yes, I do see the irony in this.

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:

DSC_0005

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

Kitty in Search of a Play Date

Our three kitties love the time we spend in the garden. One by one they join us outdoors.  We installed a cat fence-in system over 16 years ago to keep them safe, so they have the run of the garden without the dangers of street-life. It’s been the best of both worlds.

lindy in the grass

Lindy in repose

When we first installed the system, we monitored carefully for possible escape routes.  Our fab felines quickly settled in and we let out a collective sigh.

Beijing in the grass

Beijing enjoying her solitude

Then…Mighty Mouse came along. Mouse belongs to a neighbor, but he prefers life at our place. He’s also the Harry Houdini of the cat world.  He knows the ins and outs of our house and garden, and makes himself at home wherever his little paws carry him.  Mouse navigates his way into our yard by crossing the neighbors gate along the top of the shared fence. From there he weaves through the Jasmin vine, over the netting and across one of the broken standards we keep meaning to fix.

This weekend he joined us in search of a play date.

mouse under the orange tree

Mouse looking up

bird on the fence

Our furry friend listened to the birds rustling in the orange tree for a while, but lost interest when Lindy came outside.  He circled her for a game of patty-cake, but she was not amused.  Her bent ears sent a clear message of annoyance.  Mouse wised up and moved on.

Mouse and Lindy play

Fun and games

Next up, he tried to engage Beijing.  She was busy snoozing, pressed against the warm rock wall, when Mouse slyly meandered nearby.  He inched closer and closer, sitting down each time in the dirt.  Before he could dangle an inquisitive paw, Beijing stood up, braced her shoulders and vocalized her first warning.  Unperturbed, he held the higher ground.  ‘I have no time for this nonsense,’ she seemed to say, as she turned her back and returned inside in what I can only imagine was disgust.  I found her sphinx like in the entry way, wondering when the intruder would be heading home.

Mouse and Beijing play

Let’s play!!!

Beijing stalks

“I’ve had it!”

Slinky avoided Mouse altogether, staying hidden in the side yard till the coast was clear.

I think it might be time to place an ad in the personals: Handsome young kitty, in search of a play date.

Do they have eHarmony for cats?