Saturday, September 19, 2009

Baby Lizards, Baby Birds, and Baby Raccoons

The twins are back. I am watching their black-masked faces as they watch me from the table where I feed the squirrels. They pat around the table with their paws, feeling for sunflower shells that still have the seed inside. I slid the door open a few minutes ago to toss out some bread and cranberries and they scampered off, but now they've returned. They prefer the cat food, which I set out before I go to bed, but I don't like leaving cat food outside. Our neighbors bring home cats and leave them to roam, refusing to feed them, hoping they will take care of rodent problems, but instead the cats come to our house and eat the birds, so I try to avoid the cat food.

I nearly stepped on a baby lizard in my bathroom the other night. I was only half-awake, but as I walked past, I realized I'd seen to tiny black eyes staring up at me. I returned to the beige carpet and squatted down to look. Sure enough, it was a lizard so tiny it was translucent. I scooped it up in my hand and it did not struggle too hard. Either it was weak from being inside to long or it knew I meant it no harm. I set it outside the door and waited for it to scoot away to make sure it didn't jump back into the door jamb. It's so hard living here sometimes. I have to watch everywhere I step, check the doors before I close them, check my clothing and shoes for scorpions and toads. It's such a busy place.

The flock of brown baby birds has fifteen birds I discovered today. I did a very careful count. Most of them are babies. I searched and searched on the internet and finally found an exact match. They are Grasshopper Swallows, a somewhat shy and endangered variety of bird that has decided they are not afraid of me at all, though they're not particularly partial to my dogs. Chewy the chihuahua thinks it's funny to run to the sliding glass door and bark hysterically when the flock of birds lands on the driveway, so they will fly up into the grape vines, then fly back down. Then he barks and they fly away, then they fly back down. Then he barks and...

Last week, as I walked through the garage, I saw a grasshopper dying on the ground. It appeared to have a puncture in its chest and some of its legs were torn off, but it was still alive. I couldn't stand to see it in so much pain and I knew it didn't have long to live. I was frustrated and a little angry because I assumed one of the dogs had captured it and punctured its chest with a tooth. I scooped up the grasshopper and said a prayer, then dripped some sugar water nearby from the hummingbird feeder I had just filled. The grasshopper ate the water and died a few seconds later. Today, however, I learned that this is exactly how the grasshopper swallows kill their prey--they puncture the chest, remove the legs and eat the grasshopper. I think I must have disturbed a bird getting ready for dinner when I opened the door. The grasshopper swallows clearly explain why our property has not been over-run with grasshoppers in spite of the severe drought this year, and for this I am grateful.

I also realized today as I was researching birds that the smaller mourning doves that live in our yard are not small at all, they are babies! Mourning doves generally only have two babies at a time, and this is what I've seen, two smaller mourning doves hanging out with two larger ones. Generally, mourning doves migrate North in the summer and return in the cooler months. I think it's interesting that these mourning doves have stayed with us the entire year. Perhaps they thought it was safer to remain with a reliable food and water source!

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