The closest stop sign is over a mile away and the first traffic light is 5+ miles down the road. A visit to the grocery store is almost 30 miles round trip. It's quiet here; just the sound of toads and coyotes at night. It seems very still, but when you look close there's always something happening. Read on about a few things we've noticed over the past few years.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Empty nest syndrome

Found this empty nest in the hedges on Sunday. 
So sweet to think some cute baby birds were chirping for their Mommy to bring them a fresh worm.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pine cones

We have a large pine tree in front of our home.  The tree is healthy and is loaded with pine cones.  I bet there must be hundreds of cones on this tree.   Here's the funny thing...the tree has zero cones below it.  It must drop cones at one time or another but I never-ever find them.  Could it be a ground squirrel scurrying off with this booty? 
I'd like to find out, this is quite puzzling. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

California State Bird

I'm pleased to find that the "California Quail" is my state bird; and due to their plentiful existence its easy to see why.  The bird pictured above is a male.  As in much of nature, the male is significantly more colorful.  Below is the female.
Quails live communally with at least two adult females and two males along with all their young.  They call this a "covey".  Females typically lay 12 eggs once (sometimes twice) a year.  All adults in the covey care for the young.  Nests are found on the ground under or near bushes. 
Quails like to take daily dust baths and feed on seeds, insects, and leaves.  Adults are just a tad smaller than a pigeon, and the babies only look to be about the size of my thumb when I've seen them in the yard. They don't make much noise, just a soft gentle chirp.  They mainly travel by foot and only fly when frightened.  Quail reside here year round, and the California Quail is only found along the Western Coastal States and British Columbia.  My bird feeder is visited daily, I love watching them feed.  Often in the late afternoon, a male will come out of the brush and jump up on top of a rock.  He studies the surroundings for safety and then calls/chirps to the rest of the group to come along.  They climb over the rocks past him and take their dust baths or walk the grass looking for insects.  The male keeps his post and continues standing guard watching out for his group.  When the group is done they head back in the direction that they came from and when the last one has passed the male he will take a final look around and then join the group. 
They're very sweet birds to watch.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


We see lots of coyote activity.  Some people see them as a danger or a nusense but I love them.  During the past couple of weeks I've found coyote scat outside my home several times.  I noticed it was loaded with some kind of wild berry.  This peaked my curiosity because I couldn't figure out where they were getting wild berries from - berries don't grow native here.  This very morning I saw four roaming around looking for breakfast.  Well, the berry mystery has been solved because these four coyotes were pulling the red pepper clumps off a wild pepper tree and were gobbling them up.  I had no idea they ate these.  One of the reasons I love the coyotes is because I'm a dog lover and I love the whole "pack" mentality.  So seeing the four of these pups together was great.  While our brushes with the coyotes have been frequent over the years, I've never experienced any danger of my own (not recommending anyone try and make friends with these wild animals).  I've found they usually run as soon as they spot humans.  One time we were sitting in our garage and a coyote trotted right by the front of the open garage door.  He went to our neighbors house and helped himself to the dog food.  He would take a bite and then position himself to watch us while he chewed.  Then he'd take another bite and turn to watch us again.  
Of course they often visit the chicken coop but have never been able to get in.  Once when I was pulling into my driveway I caught one trotting right alongside my car.  I stopped and rolled down my window and called to him.  He paused and tilted his head and then left.  It was pretty neat.  One of the biggest benefits of these guys is their help in keeping the squirrel, rabbit, and rodent population down.  At night when I hear them yap and yowl in excitement because they caught dinner I do a fist pump!  

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cricket with an attitude!

Found a couple of these on my back patio this weekend.  It's amazing how much they look like a leaf.  I've heard them chirping like crazy a few times and tracked them down by sound to find them sitting and munching on leaves in our orange tree.  When cropping this picture I noticed that this guy is flipping me off!  Can you believe it? 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

California Buckwheat

Here is a close up a very common plant in Gavilan Hills. The California Buckwheat.  This plant is native to SW USA and Mexico.  It grows on scrubby hillsides and dry river washes.  Our property is covered with them.  They bloom late winter through early spring with a white flower and as the summer goes on the flower dries into a beautiful rust color. 
This is my husband's favorite native flower.  It's popular among the bees because of it's nectar and I've even watched squirrels climb the stronger stalks and nibble the flowers off the bush.  Of course as a native, this plant is superbly drought resistant.  Some of the plants have grown 5' across and 3' high and can be quite dense.  We've weeded other plants away from this bush in designated areas of our property and used it for exclusive landscaping on certain hillsides.  It's really quite a pretty plant for all four seasons.