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.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

kangaroo rat

These are in a "protected" status in our area, lots of controversy surrounds this mouse - no harm is supposed to be done to them.  In the early morning, my vehicle headlights often catch them running across the road.  I know they are a favorite treat of the hawks and owls and I can't say I mind that too much.  Notice how long the tail is in this pic. 
Weight: 1-6 oz.
Length with tail: 6-12"
No. of Young: 1-7, 3 avg.
Lifespan: years in the wild
Typical diet: seeds, grasses

Food-hoarding is done by the the use of external fur-lined cheek pouches that are used to transport food from the harvest location to the storage site. This fur lining allows for seed transport with minimal water loss.

Kangaroo rats have highly developed hind legs, they live in deep burrows that shelter them from the worst of the desert heat. They have a water-efficient metabolism.  Their kidneys are four times more efficient at retaining water than those of humans. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tuxedo Bird

Even nature likes to dress up once in a while.  This bird hangs around my patio and perches on my fence – all day, every day.  Seeing him so often, I started calling him my little “tuxedo bird”.  Doesn’t he look to be wearing a black tuxedo coat with tails?  His species is actually called “Black Phoebe”; he’s part of the flycatcher family which happens to be the largest family of birds on earth.  This bird lives from SW Oregon down to South America.  They don’t usually migrate.  The sexes are identical in appearance and the juveniles plumage is brown, turning black as they mature.  It's mainly insectivorous waiting on a perch before flying out and catching prey mid-air. This explains why I never see it at the bird feeder.  Last spring we had a week or two period with lots of mosquito and daddy-long leg activity.  One time I watched this bird chase a bug just to drop it and chase another, and then another.  Somehow he managed to grab 4 or 5 bugs in his beak at once – legs sticking out and all.  Quite a cute sight.  These birds always live near open water.  They make an open cup nest which is placed under a cliff or a bridge and is cemented in place with mud.  I don’t recall ever finding a nest however.  I'll be on the lookout. 

Monday, January 10, 2011


I don't like 'em.  I know....I know.....They eat rodents, and blah blah blah.  If I find them out in a field, I leave them alone.  When I'm rolling up the garden hose to hang it up on the side of the house and I turn my head towards the house and find a tarantula 6 inches from my nose hanging on the stucco - the trantula is going to lose!  Stay off my house.  Stay out in the fields.  He ran down the stucco after I grabbed my weapon.  I snapped his last live picture before he met the bottom of my shovel.  
On another occasion - one morning I opened the door from my house into the garage, I looked down and SURPRISE, a tarantula was gazing up at me.  If I had not looked, he would have been smushed under my shoe - dead center inside the garage, no pun intended.   I can tolerate them out in the field around the house - I've done it plenty of times, I just can't bear the thought of them in or on my home.  I've toughened up a bit and I'd like to say that next time I find one, he won't become a murder victim - I'll grab a shovel and take him out to the field - I hope I can follow through on this promise - only time will tell.  Here's a little black and grey guy crossing the driveway last summer.  He was lucky enough that he lived to see another sunrise.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Squirrel Skull

Found this about 100 feet outside the house. 
Check out the holes where the molars go

The molar just to the right of the tip of the screw looks quite human except for the size.

Eye sockets seem quite large

Monday, January 3, 2011

Red velvet ant

It's not really an ant.  It's a wasp.  They look so fuzzy I want to pet one but I've read their sting is painful.  No wings on this insect, I often see a lone soldier out for a walk in the spring or summer.  Their common nickname is the cow killer. Like other wasps, they can inflict repeated stings, this must be what spurned their nickname.   

dead squirrel

I don't know what killed this squirrell but I noticed some bees swarming and knew something was dead.  I found the bees eating the eyes and climbing in and out of his open mouth.  The only good squirrel is a dead squirrel.  Squirrels are a huge pest.