June 29, 2014

Morning's surprise

I am still trapping mice in the two live traps in the garden. Just one, two, or three a night, thankfully nothing like the seven I once caught in one trap. But this morning I opened the lid to find this guy. I am sorry, I would have liked him to stay and be a partner in mouse removal. Hint, this is not a rattler but a baby bull snake.

The trap is in the backyard in the shade, propped open, and I hope he finds his way out before it gets too hot. Forecast is for 100 degrees, but a chance of rain is in the forecast this week. Hurry monsoons!

This vinegaroon was on the porch when we came back, and made Emma leap. Just trying to get out of the light after a night's foraging, but they are intimidating. Poor guy had lost his tail.

June 11, 2014

A summer afternoon

The new litter of Harris ground squirrels has discovered the pencil cholla. The new growth is apparently very tasty, and the plant is taking a hit. But it is large and can do with a bit of a trim, and having this nibbled is better than having my potted plants attacked, so I just enjoy the antics.

Pencil cholla is a prickly cactus, so there is a procedure to be followed. First, you launch yourself into the plant from the patio so you get to the good parts without getting too many stickers. You pinch off a small, new, section. Then you rub it all over with your paws to get the stickers off. You clean your paws to get rid of the prickles, generally with eyes closed as this is the nasty part. You can now eat this delicious tidbit. After you do this dozens of times, you cool off on the smooth concrete. It is the life!

June 9, 2014


Several quail families come and eat the seed spilled from the bird feeders. We have two kinds: Gambel's and scaled quail. The brood usually start out as about a dozen chicks. Eggs are laid over a number of days, but they hatch all at once and the chicks are immediately able to walk and eat on their own. They are about as big as golf balls and can run like the wind.

Over years of watching the goings on from our own breakfast table, we have concluded that also in the bird world there are parents who care and those that could not care less about their kids. Gambel's' appear to be better parents than the scaled. Dad has guard duty and scopes out the situation before Mom and the chicks appear, and she keeps an eye on the kids while everybody eats. No surprise, there are more Gambel's than scaled quail and some parents bring every chick to adulthood.

The males are adamant about running off other families, and are not afraid to take on Roadie or her brood should they come too close. One Gambel's father gets the prize. He appeared at the feeders with twenty-one chicks and no mate, and has been able to keep the whole family together. He does rule his brood with an iron foot, no wandering off too far or you will be chased into the flock.

June 8, 2014


It is June. It is foresummer. It is hot. We are doing our best to stay cool: watering pots, the garden, the animals. Every couple of days I run a small sprinkler in the coop yard for a couple of hours; the hens love it and it drops the temperature there by 10 degrees. The garden is doing well, the tomatoes and peppers are indeed putting on heft and if some rodent had not nibbled a tiny cantaloupe, I could have bragged about looking forward to a melon soon.

The most fun is watering the horses. Cody, being an Oregonian loves it the most, but Bueno is not shy about butting in. Literally. Not Buggsy, the Arabian. "Are you kidding? I am a desert horse, and water makes my hooves melt".

After getting good and soaked it is time for a roll. Mud is such fun! We will have to go out in an hour or so and do the fly spraying. It is summer!

June 1, 2014

Feed me, feed me, PLEASE

The three young roadrunners are still around, making a pest of themselves to their parents. But they are at least trying to catch their own food; we watched one of them in pursuit of a butterfly, doing laps around a tree. This young one came up to the patio door, saw its reflection and put on the "I am but a young and hungry bird, please feed me" act. Mom and Dad still do provide some sustenance, but encourage independence.

Young quail are at risk, as are the young ground squirrels, and even very young cottontails. But not all goes the roadrunner's way. An adult gamble quail father will chase an adult roadrunner and pull feathers to protect his brood. Dan saw the cactus wren bombard a roadrunner who had no place to hide and just took the hits. And I saw a round tail ground squirrel run off two young roadrunners who apparently got too close to his den.

On separate occasions we have watched an adult roadrunner with a small bunny in his beak, screaming for dear life, and with mom in hot pursuit. I had to draw the line here, as did Dan, and interfered. In Dan's case the roadrunner dropped the bunny, who ran into an abandoned badger hole. I took the other bunny back to his den in a kitchen towel.

Still, there are no sightings of lizards at our place, and I am sure that some young animals fall to that mighty roadrunner beak. We all have to eat.