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.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hawk down

This morning's walk found a hawk down, the last few minutes of his life slipping away.  When I spotted him I assumed he was dead and turned him over on to his breast.  I was surprised to see his eyes move and his tail feathers rustle just a bit.  I didn't find any trauma on him, either old age or disease took him.  I returned with my camera and snapped this photo, by that time he was gone.  He was a big bird.  About 18 inches from beak to tail.  Sad to see him go. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

saved by my pup

I came within inches of stepping on one yesterday.  I was walking on the side of the road and the snake was inches from my path.  My dog alerted me by spotting it first and letting out a quick growl.  At a glance the diamond pattern led me to think he was a rattler but he just had a regular snake tail.  I think he was a California Gopher Snake.  I also saw he was slowly retreating into the brush because he looked to have been seriously injured on his mid-section.  He was about 3 to 4 ft long.  Thanks to my pup for his alertness by saving me from stepping on a snake. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

funny coyote

A few days ago I had my windows open on a pleasant afternoon.  I heard a coyote start barking and howling.  After a few minutes of this coyote continuously barking it peaked my interest enough to step outside onto my patio with my binoculars to see if I could spot its location.  By narrowing him down by sound I located him to be very roughly a half mile away - across undeveloped land.  He was standing on a berm howling.  He was far enough away that I could watch him bark (through the binoculars) and then a second later I would hear the bark.  Well, I was starting to wonder why he was just standing there making all this noise for a long period of time and then I saw for myself why he was barking. I watched two dogs run towards his direction, and then run past him on a straight course.  At one point they only looked to be a few feet away from him.  The dogs continued across the hills on their straight path.  It was a large black female who looked like a recent mother and a brown male pitbull type dog.  The coyote had been making all this noise because they were crossing his territory and he was powerless to do anything.  They were larger and better fed, and there was two of them.  He was barking to drive them off but it did absolutely no good to deter them.  At the moment they passed him, I noted that he did nothing except continue sitting and barking.  He didn't even stand on all fours.  After the two dogs ran off I looked back at the coyote who was still barking and I did a loud whistle at him.  He stopped barking, turned his head and looked in my direction.  He then resumed barking.  I whistled again, and again he stopped and then resumed barking.  After a few more back and forths between us I went back in the house and he piped down. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

rabbit population

The rabbit population is out of control this year.  I don't know exactly why but it seems we have hundreds more than the previous years.  They eat most anything that's green so it's been a real challenge to keep our plants alive.  We got a new dog recently and I have to say he is quite a good hunter.  While we do have a so called "rabbit proof" fence up, it doesn't keep the rabbits out of the yard.  Our dog has caught about 20 rabbits in a three week period INSIDE our not so rabbit proof fence.  He also caught and killed a gopher snake yesterday.  He loves hunting.  I hope we don't find a rattler in our yard, I don't want to see our new dog get hurt.  While I don't like the thought of the bunnies being killed, I know they "trespassed" into the dog's yard.  My husband commented that the dog must be catching the dumb rabbits where as I was thinking the dog's catching the rabbits who are smart enough to get inside the fence.  Either way, the dog gives them a swift chomp on the neck and it's over for them quickly.  He then drops them in the yard for us to pick up later, fortunately he doesn't seem to be eating them, just killing them.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

out for a walk

So dry, no wonder the fires burn so easily. Even though everything looks dead, it's still pretty to me.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

it's migration season

They are flying south for the winter.  The activity at the feeders has been astonishing.  I've counted up to 8 birds at a time at this feeder.  They are drinking 5 cups of sugar water a day.   At dusk it gets crazy, they nudge each other out of the way to get a drink.  If I stand still, I can stand just 2 feet from the feeder and see them up close and personal.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Free rides, hop on the Possum Express

I've seen two this week...I don't see them often.    At first they look like a house cat but a glance at that ugly bare tail is the dead give away

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

first raccoon

I saw a raccoon in Gavilan Hills for the first time. 
I've heard they are here but now I can say I saw one myself.    
I caught sight of it crossing the road early one morning on Lake Mathews Drive.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

bones outside a squirrel hole

This is the entrance to a squirrel den in the side of a steep cliff.  The squirrels took bones that the dogs had left laying around and have brought them to their squirrel hole.  The bones were treats from the butcher to our dogs.   I guess they were enjoyed by the squirrels too.

Monday, July 30, 2012

His eye streak looks like a gas tank gauge

Is it half full or half empty?  With a vivid red streak near his eye, he caught a lizard in my garden.  He shook it in his beak until it fell to pieces.  He ate the lizard in about five bites.  Roadrunners live in mated pairs in a territory year round.   I see this guy all the time combing the area for food.  I love his feathers, so aero dynamic.  They can run up to 15 mph, usually chasing food. 

Yesterday he was running around the property and he ran up near the outside of the chicken coop.  He stopped and was looking inside.  All of the chickens were inside the coop but quickly ran outdoors to check him out.  They stood on one side of the fence looking him over and he stood on the other side looking at them.  They are about the same height.  After about one minute of gazing at each other, he resumed his roaming.   I thought it was kind of funny. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012


It looked like a sun faded red hose on the side of the path.  As I approached it slithered off into the brush.  It really was a pretty snake. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

tarantula hawk catches dinner

I think I found a tarantula hawk's nest near the base of this cyprus tree. She drug her dinner under the brush.  A few minutes later she emerged and then flew off and landed on some nearby flowers and checked them for pollen.  Take a look at the fangs on the tarantula.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

They boast "a million roses" at any one time

Smells so good, the scent of roses in the air.  
Mt Baldy is in the background. 
This was taken just after sunrise at the nursery this morning.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Black Phoebe's Nest

They moved in on the bracket holding the DirecTV dish. 
We had to move the nest.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Phainopeplas in the hood

Last week I noticed a new bird.  I ID'd him as a Phainopeplas - aka the "silky flycatcher".  He was parked in a pine tree and watched me by tilting his head like a parrot.  Occassionally I'd see him swoop out to catch a bug and then return to his perch in the tree.  A day or two later I noticed a female was with him.  The female is grey with the same red eyes. 

This is what I found when I read up on them.  They are from the Baja peninsula where they have an early spring breeding then they fly to a more mild climate (like Gavilan Hills for instance) for a second breeding season.  They stay for about a month.  Two weeks is spent by the couple keeping the eggs in their nest warm (yes, I spotted their nest at the top of the pine tree) and the next 19 days are spent raising the young.  Then they eventually migrate back to the Baja peninsula. 

They mainly eat bugs and berries but unlike other birds, they have a second stomach that digests the "shell" of the berries, while the inside of the berry goes to the first stomach.  Also, while this bird is known for being kind of quiet, it can imitate some other bird calls including the red-tail hawk's call. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I'm out for a walk on a paved neighborhood road.  Several hundred feet ahead of me, something is in the street.   It looks to be fresh cut lumber on the road.  As I continue walking towards it, the lumber moves and I realize its some kind of four legged animal.  The animal turns and faces me.  The animal is tawny in color.  What animal is four legged and tawny colorer?  A mountain lion?  A bobcat?  The animal begins to run towards me, I turn and run like I'm going to be eaten alive.  I few seconds later I turn to see if the animal is still chasing me.... it is.  Fortunately, I spot a van approaching the animal from behind.  As the van reaches the animal I'm now able to accurately measure the size of the animal against a familiar sized thing - the van.  I realize the animal hardly reaches halfway up the tire and rim.  What I thought might have been a mountain lion was actually a tan colored Pomerainian dog.  What a fool! 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Northern Mockingbird

Ever heard the song of the mockingbird? I have a one word description: T-A-L-E-N-T!  They mimic other birds' songs and each version is repeated three times.  They often sing at night too.  Mockingbirds have territories of 1 - 2 acres per couple.  They sing to defend a breeding/feeding territory against other birds, cats, and snakes.  From head to tail they are 11" and feed on insects, lizards, small snakes, and fruit & berries.  They also come to feeders.   This bird is found in all states of the continential US except Oregon and Washington.  I love hearing their's a wonderful lullaby I listen to on summer nights when sleeping with the windows open.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

snake print

This is a snake print I found in some soft dirt.  He looks to have been pretty healthy.  It's snake season, for sure.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

King of the road

A small California King Snake flatened on the pavement

Lampropeltis getula californiae

AKA:   The California King Snake

It was really hard getting the snake to pose for this picture, but I finally convinced him!   I caught him crossing the road while on my walk this afternoon.  He paused for a second when he saw me and then he quickly slithered off the road.  I figured he was some kind of garter or king snake - I had to view a lot of pictures on the internet before I found a picture that looked just like him.  I read up on the California King Snake and this is what I found:
California Kingsnakes eat almost any vertebrate they can overpower such as rodents, other reptiles, birds, and ampohibians. All kingsnakes are non-venomous but are powerful constrictors and generally kill their prey through suffocation. The "king" in their name refers to their propensity to hunt and consume other snakes, including venomous rattlesnakes. California Kingsnakes are naturally impervious to the  venom of rattlesnakes but are not totally immune. They feed on rattlesnakes when the opportunity arises and a rattlesnake will make an easy meal for a hungry kingsnake, but they don't seek out rattlesnakes specifically nor consume them on a regular basis. Rattlesnakes and California Kingsnakes are not enemies and may be found sharing the same piece of cover (i.e. plywood, tin, rocks, crevice, etc.) in the wild while completely ignoring the presence of the other.

When disturbed, California Kingsnakes will often coil their bodies to hide their heads, hiss, and rattle their tails, which, if done in dry vegetation, can produce a sound somewhat resembling that of a rattlesnake's rattle. They are considered harmless to humans, but if handled it is common for this species to bite as well as excrete musk and fecal contents from their cloaca.  Kingsnakes shed four to six times per year at which point they go "opaque", meaning the snake's skin becomes dull and its eyes will turn a milky color. Like all snakes, they usually shed in one long piece, which includes their eye scales. Juvenile snakes will shed more frequently, up to once a month, than adult snakes because of their faster rate of growth. The California Kingsnake lays eggs as opposed to giving live birth like some other snakes.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012

hummingbird babies all grown up

These are the same two babies I had shown on the April 22nd post.  Apparently they have no trouble flying because they took off like rockets.  Here is their empty nest.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

These are few of my favorite things

When the dog bites, when the bee stings...when I'm feeling sad.....
I simply watch my favorite things…and then I don’t feel so bad.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Red tail hawk baby chick update

One baby chick has disappeared from the nest.  It could have been pushed out by it's sibling because of competition for food, or just may have died due to a health problem or other reasons.  Regardless, we're now down to one chick.  The remaining chick has trippled in size since birth 3 weeks ago but still has it's all white fluffy downy feathers.  It's now feeding itself on what Mama and Papa hawk bring to the nest and even spends time grooming it's feathers.  It's about half way through it's "childhood" so to speak.  Prediction:  I'm expecting it to take flight from the nest on or about May 17th.  

***UPDATE 5/19/12:  The chick was there on May 17th...but gone on May 19th....pat,pat,pat...I'm patting myself on the back for the accuracy of my prediction.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Baby hummingbirds

My husband took this photo of two baby hummingbirds in our yard a few minutes ago.  The opening where the two babies are lying is about the size of a quarter.  These two napped peacefully in the sun.  Do you see their black beaks?  Check out how their feathers are starting to sprout. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

crumbling wall

This old shack has been abandoned for years, Mother Nature is taking back over.  Check out the window in the center of the wall.  Erosion from a hill on higher ground has washed dirt around this shack so that just about 5 or 6 ft of the 9 ft wall is visible. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Someday I'm going to get a real camera.  Until then my 8 yr old Kodak and narrative will have to do.  This furry guy jumped back and forth between two holes trying to dig out some kind of vermin.  A juicy mouse or a fat squirrel maybe?  He watched us as we mowed our lawn.  We'd stop and watch him dig for a while.  I hope he got his meal.

Monday, April 9, 2012

red tail hawks hatched today

Yesterday Mom and Dad nested on the eggs and kept them warm.  This afternoon I noticed Mom was standing on the side of the nest instead of on top of it.  Then I saw two white fuzzy heads pop up with their beaks open begging for food.  Mom complied by placing smalls shreds of meat into their mouths. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Unfortunately I came across this snake while hiking last week.  Except for a long black flickering toungue, it never moved.  I spotted it at 15'.   Check out the black and white rings at the tail just before the rattle. I took a few photos and then retreated.  The next day I very carefully retraced my steps and found a dead rattlesnake 30' from the first encounter.  I didn't have the courage to inspect it.  I'm not convinced it was the same one although it did have a diamond pattern.  Ugh....this is really bothering me. I know sooner or later I'm going to see another one.   

Here are some facts about the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake:
Life expectancy is more than 20 years but is typically shorter because of hunting and human expansion. Solitary outside of mating season, they are one of the more aggressive rattlesnake species because they rarely back away from confrontation. When threatened they usually coil and rattle to warn aggressors.
In the winter they hibernate sometimes with other species of snakes.  Usually inactive between October and March, although occasionally they may be seen sunning themselves on warm winter days.  These snakes can go for up to two years without food in the wild. A 5½ month starvation study showed that the snakes reduced energy expenditures by an average of 80% over the length of the study. The most interesting finding was that the snakes grew during the study, indicating that while the snake's mass was shrinking, it was putting its resources into skeletal muscles and bone.

This snake is key participant in the food chain and it is an important predator of many small rodents, rabbits, and birds. In turn it is preyed upon by a variety of larger mammals and birds, such as coyotes, foxes, and hawks. It is primarily a nocturnal animal, hunting for its prey on warm summer nights.

Gestation period lasts six or seven months and broods average about a dozen young. The young only stay with the mother for a few hours before they set off on their own to hunt and find recluse, thus the mortality rate is very high. Mating occurs in the spring and the females give birth to as many as 25 young, which may be as long as 12 inches in length. The young are fully capable of delivering a venomous bite from the moment they are born.