Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Predators, Bunnies, Squirrels and Raccoons

I was lying in bed early this morning when a sparrow flew quickly across the patio followed by the sparrow hawk. It saddens me deeply to know that he has chosen our home. I'm sure he's grateful that I am fattening up his food. He probably sees my mustang grape vine as his private restaurant since this is where the baby sparrows spend their days. I realize he has to eat, I just wish he'd eat somewhere else!

There are white bumps all over the prickly pear cactus near the road. I found a blog discussing them. They are left by an insect, and when you press on the bumps a reddish-purple, sticky substance squishes out. Apparently, the native American Indian tribes in this area used this substance to dye their clothing. I believe this--it is really dark and does leave a stain!

I was walking through the yard late last night when I noticed a baby bunny on my bedroom patio. I stopped walking, but the bunny had obviously seen me, so I started to speak to her in my soft baby bunny voice. She sat down. She was looking through my glass bedroom door, most likely watching the cat. She must have realized neither one of us could or would harm her. Then she stood up and hopped toward me to the end of the patio, watching me.

I continued to speak to her, and she stood and stared at me for at least ten minutes. I wanted to share her with my husband, so I slowly backed up, and she did not run away. I ran to get my husband, but when we returned, she was gone. I put a dish of water and some food out for her in case she returns, but I think I'll go back to shutting the garage door again so the dogs go out the other side. It's much better that way, anyway. The little creatures tend to congregate in the back yard and there is plenty of room for the dogs to roam on the other side.

The one-eyed squirrel was back for the third day in a row and I am so happy that he is growing bigger and still comfortable with my back porch, even though Chewy the chihuahua keeps marking his territory on the legs of the table. The squirrels rarely jump on the table from the ground, though. They generally scamper across the roof and down the trellis.

Speaking of scampering--I was just falling asleep last night when I heard a loud scampering across the roof just above my bedroom. It sounded like two large animals chasing each other. I am guessing it was raccoons. I think they climb the branches of the trees behind the garage and leap onto the roof of the house. A neighbor was sitting in our garage once late at night when he was watching our house and he said he saw a raccoon climb past the window. I didn't realize they could climb, but it would make sense that it was a raccoon on the roof last night--they are certainly large enough to make that kind of noise!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Misty Afternoon

It was another cold one, but instead of the heavy rains that were predicted, we had a soft, cool, misty afternoon. We went for a drive near Austin and stopped near a field to watch a golden eagle that swooped down in front of our truck. I saw another large bird on a nearby pole and when I got closer I realized it was an American vulture. I tried to get close enough for a cell phone picture and he seemed to be posing for the camera--vultures are not as shy as I once believed.

While we were sitting in the truck, I heard a twitter and song that I recognized immediately as a flock of sparrows. They were small, with alternating yellow and black stripes on their heads, much smaller than the birds living on our back patio. Their song was so sweet, and precious. They appeared to be hunting for bugs.

This morning, there were two squirrels chasing each other in the backyard and a small group of sparrows bathing in the bird bath on the picnic table. I saw the dove, but only for a few minutes. She is a white-winged dove, and not very common to this area, so I am excited to have her here, but I'm not sure why she's alone. I feel sorry for her and wish I could cater to her needs better.

There is a small moth in our den and I thought about chasing it outside, but it's so cold outside right now and it seems pretty comfortable flying around the room. If it warms up tomorrow I will open the door and chase it back outside.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


It's cold out here! The sunflowers are still blooming madly in the garden, but it's beyond sweater weather in Texas and I'm actually wearing a coat outside! The squirrels and birds have once again taken over the yard as the toads and lizards are in hibernation. The goldfish are hiding at the bottom of the pond.

There are paperwhites blooming in my garden. I have always thought of these flowers as spring bloomers and I'm not sure if they have their seasons confused or perhaps they prefer a slight chill. They are beautiful regardless of their reason for blooming in the cold.

I threw a tarp over the mustang grape vines yesterday and secured it tightly to try and provide a little bit of protection for the baby sparrows. They are still in the same place, just outside my den. They seem to be very happy there and prepared to winter on my patio so I moved their food and water dishes a bit closer to the trellis. I have a clear plastic covering over part of the trellis to provide warmth and the tarp for security against some of the harsh winds we've had lately.

It didn't freeze last night as expected, but it got very cold! I was unsure of what the weather might do, so late last night I harvested in the dark. I brought in the last of my anaheim chilis and all of the basil and parsley. I have a huge bag of it waiting to be harvested. I also have tons of tomatoes still resting on the vine, but I think I will leave them there to take their chances. It is supposed to get cold again this afternoon, and I may eventually pull the plants and hang them upside down in the garage so the tomatoes can ripen on the vine.

There are standard yellow sunflowers blooming on the front slope. It is so funny, and glorious, to see blooming sunflowers in December!