Friday, December 10, 2010

Still in Colorado

I am still in Colorado. I miss my dogs and cat, my little sparrows, Mrs. Toady, the butterflies that appear out of nowhere any time of year, and most of all, my friends, the little squirrels. When I left in October they were hanging upside down by their toenails and stripping my pecan trees of all the pecans. Now, according to my husband, the leaves have fallen from the trees and the pecans are safely tucked away in little squirrely hiding places.

I've seen so many red-tailed hawks and kestrels in this Colorado neighhborhood! Last night, I took a picture of a bird sitting on a nearby rooftop, and when I enlarged it I realized it was a sparrow hawk. They are interesting hunters. They sit very still on posts and telephone wires facing the fields, then suddenly, without warning, they will dive straight down and snatch their prey.

We've spent a great deal of time at the park near Lake Loveland. It's been a wonderful, yet sometimes heart-breaking experience. The lake is wedged between a playground/picnic grounds and a high school. The high school students spend breaks and free time at the park. Many of these students are very polite and respectful, but there are always a few bad apples.

I can't even count how many times I've seen adults--not children, but adults--chasing the ducks and geese, tackling them to the ground, or unleashing their dogs to allow them to attack the birds. The children and I watched in horror as a teenager grabbed a red crowbar from his truck and chased the geese around the lake, just for fun. There must be close to a thousand Canadian Geese migrating on the lake right now. Last week, we pulled up to the park to find one was torn to shreds right in front of the parking spot. There are three large Egyptian Geese at the park. One day, they were fine. The very next morning, one of them had a broken wing. We've seen two Canadian Geese with broken legs. It's just shameful.

I've complained to the local Humane Society and sent extensive letters to the local Audubon Society. I would think they would have some protection under the International Migratory Bird Act. Hopefully, someone will respond with some sort of help for these glorious creatures. Hopefully...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I am once again in Colorado visiting my children and grandchildren and it has been a busy time, especially with the little creatures. I have been teaching my two oldest grandchildren how to search for creatures to photograph. The now know to whisper when we come upon a herd of antelope or a hawk perched on a fence post.

My grandson and I drove out to our old home in Wellington. We saw two sparrow hawks, three red-tailed hawks, a herd of antelope, and photographed a mated pair of Harris Hawks on the way back to school to pick up his sister. He calls the hawks "big birds" and whispers when he says the words.

Watching the antelope herd was fascinating, but it also made me miss Colorado terribly. I remember watching the large fall/winter herds daily as they crossed our hills and valleys, then they would split up into small family units in the spring and summer and wander beneath my bedroom balcony with the children playing behind them, leaping and chasing each other down the hillsides.

The herd we saw north of Wellington wasn't very large, but it had one buck and he kept a tight rein on the females. He didn't lead them away from us, which was nice because it enabled me to take quite a few pictures. He seemed more concerned with keeping them rounded up. When one of the females would step more than a few feet away from him, he would chase her down!

A few days ago, we also took a drive in Big Thompson Canyon. My son-in-law told me he knew of a spot where he could see bighorn sheep every time he went up the canyon. Sure enough, the sheep were there, hopping from rock to rock as if the stones were soft grass. They seemed perfectly content to have their photographs taken. Of course, they were on the other side of the river!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spider Tree

We drove into the next town for an appointment and on the way home I found another spider tree. I have seen three now. These are trees that are covered in large garden spiders, huge webs, egg sacs held in place with carefully spun webs.

It was raining softly when I got out of the truck. I looked down at my skirt and sandals and knew I was making a mistake, but I wanted those pictures! The tree is so perfect--old, gnarled, colorful and filled with spiders. It grows beside a huge field filled with grasses, and grasshoppers! Perfect for garden spiders. Oddly enough, the grasshoppers seem to line up on the tree branches as if they're waiting to become the next meal for one of eight spiders I counted on this particular tree.

As I stood in the rain taking pictures, I suddenly felt a shooting pain in my toes, then my feet and ankles. I looked down and brushed at my feet, but I couldn't see anything. I suspect it was baby red ants. Within minutes, my feet, ankles and legs were covered with blisters. They had actually taken chunks of skin from my feet.

And still I stayed, snapping pictures. I just didn't want to miss the opportunity. It was so painful it brought tears to my eyes. I pulled up my skirt and tied it, hoping the ants wouldn't climb up the hem. I couldn't believe how many egg sacs were tied onto this tree. Two of the spiders were wrapping grasshoppers for future meals, their bright yellow still showing through the spider's tight web. It's kind of gross, but the spider actually injects the grasshopper with venom and its insides turn to liquid, which the spider then ingests.

I feel a tremendous amount of sympathy for these grasshoppers. I think they are lovely with their bright yellow patterns and soft, gentle faces. On the other hand, there are so many of them that when I walked back to the car they were actually smacking into me as they flew through the air. These garden spiders play a very important role in controlling garden pests, even if it is a bit disgusting to think about!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Squirrels, Dragonflies, Hummingbirds, Vulture, Little Flowers and Awesome Sunsets

There is a young male squirrel who lives across the road in the forest in front of our house. He is a bit of a clown. My stepson took the dogs for a walk one day and happened to surprise the little fella as he was scampering up the sidewalk. The squirrel got down and army crawled into the trees. He loves to climb around the pond by my bedroom window, drink the water, eat the pecans, and hang between the branches of the crape myrtle, watching me through the picture windows. Chewy the chihuahua used to bark at him and scare him off, but Chewy has now realized it is much more fun to sit quietly and watch the squirrel play. I feel like he should have a name, like "Sammy."

I've been watching for dragonflies. It's that time of year and I love dragonfly pictures. We've been swarmed many evenings, but they don't land often. I have had some really great close-up encounters with tiny dragonflies. I am assuming they are babies because they are so small. Their faces look like robot faces. For the past few years, the dragonflies that swarm in the fall have been a silvery-blue, but this year we seem to have a lot of black ones with some kind of pattern on their wings. They are large and beautiful and fly so close to me I can reach out and touch them, but for some reason, they don't land very often. They spend a great deal of time chasing each other, which is most likely a mating ritual.

We are also getting swarmed at the hummingbird feeders. I am refilling the feeders every other day. This time last year I was filling them twice a day. Sometimes there are four and five birds hovering around each feeder. We have a lot of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds around our house this year. In years past the majority of the hummingbirds have had shiny green backs. Those are here, too, as well as some tiny gray ones. There is a gray hummingbird smaller than my pinky finger that likes to sit on the chain of the plant hanger and guard the feeder closest to the picture window. He's smaller than any of the other birds around, which is probably why he's so tough!

White-Winged Dove season has started and I have placed extra food on the tables to try and attract the birds out of the nearby forests. It seems to be working. We have a flock of close to fifty doves now that flutter around our house. These are beautiful birds with red eyes and feet, but they're not too big and I really don't understand the logic in hunting these lovely creatures. They certainly cannot have much meat on their bodies.

Speaking of hunting, the vultures have been flying very low lately. I read that there are hawks migrating through Central Texas and it's possible that there is competition for food. A black vulture was circling at tree top level over Chewy yesterday. It flew off when I stepped out from behind a tree to let it know I was there. A Turkey Vulture landed on our lawn a few days ago and I took its picture. When I enlarged the photo, it appeared as if the bird has something in its mouth.

I have challenged myself lately to photographing the smallest flower on the property. It's been a fun challenge, but I've found that the harder I look, the more teeny little flowers I find. Every day I find a new hidden beauty never noticed before, so many gifts from God.

The sunsets the past few days have been spectacular! I climbed onto the roof last night to photograph in all directions. It was awesome! Reds, golds, oranges. There was a storm to the south, clear skies to the north, clouds moving in over the mountain behind us and the sun setting in such a glorious fashion you could hear the angels singing. I want to create a scrapbook with pictures and stories of our life here in Texas for my grandchildren so they can know and understand the incredible beauty God has gifted to this land and I think these sunset pictures will demonstrate this fact quite well!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blessed Little Creatures

It's been so long since I've written about the blessed little creatures that live around my home and I feel as if I've neglected them in spite of the fact that I spend time with them every day. The baby squirrels of spring are growing larger and the pregnant squirrel has obviously had her babies. She was on the porch yesterday lying on her belly, propped up on her elbows, eating slowly from the sunflower seeds. She was probably enjoying the break from her young ones! There was a young squirrel exploring the pond a few days ago. He was creeping around the rocks, checking beneath the logs, and stopped for a long drink, then I think he might have noticed his reflection in the water. He seemed to hesitate a bit as if he was wondering if there was another squirrel looking back at him!

My husband and I went to Houston for the birth of my fifth grandchild, a little boy. While I was there, I wanted to take a picture of the robin that lives in my son's yard so I could paste the picture in my grandson's scrapbook, but the funniest thing happened with that robin! My son moved his car to the park across the street to make room for my truck while we visited and the robin moved with the car! The robin sat on the hood of the car and on the mirror for most of our visit, leaving once in awhile to find food and water. I took pictures, but never did figure out why he was behaving that way!

Last week, my stepson drove me to Colorado to visit my grandchildren. They have a new cat named Leroy who likes to sit in my grandson's highchair with his paws draped over the front as if he's waiting for a meal, but he does this all the time, even at night when everyone has gone to bed! Cats have so many quirky habits.

When we reached Colorado we stopped at a light near my daughter's house and I looked out the passenger side window and noticed a hawk had landed on a nearby post. My stepson drove off before I could get a picture, but I couldn't stop thinking about him. After my stepson unpacked the truck, I returned to the spot and found the hawk was still sitting on the post. I stood within a few feet of him taking pictures, then realized he was still there because he had caught a bird and was eating. It was sad knowing the bird had died, but at the same time, kept alive this magnificent, powerful animal. Life does work in circles.

Speaking of birds, the road runner is no longer hunting lizards. Apparently, he has now decided he prefers to sit in the trees in my backyard and hunt my hummingbirds. They seem to be on to his tricks, though. When the road runner is around, the bird feeders are noticeably empty.

I went to an appointment with my husband a few days ago and we saw a tree filled with black vultures and a few turkey vultures. I didn't realize they roost together. Then I noticed a huge, dead tree filled with orb weavers and their lovely, intricate webs. I also didn't realize they will live in close proximity to each other, but this tree had at least eight giant female orb weavers and many egg sacs. It was also covered with yellow grasshoppers, which may explain the presence of so many spiders--they had an abundant food source!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pregnant Squirrels, Dragonflies and Snakes

One of the younger female squirrels is pregnant. She is good-sized, but I can tell she is young. She is also very far along. Either that, or she is expecting four babies instead of two. The older female who lives in the back yard usually has twins a couple times a year. This female is very friendly. Her belly is a creamy velvet. Sometimes when she's eating seeds, she'll stop, sprawl, and let her belly rest on the cool glass of the patio table. I'm very careful to clean the food and water dishes for the creatures and I use only filtered or spring water in their water dishes, though they still drink from the ponds. Nevertheless, she eats well, and often, seems very strong, and I think she will have healthy babies.

I am excited for her. Her belly appears to have dropped over the past two days. I'm not sure if it works the same way with squirrels as it does with humans, but this could be an indicator that she is getting close to her delivery time. They generally mate in May/June and carry the babies 44 days, so it does seem right that she would be close to her due date. She is beautiful. She has that glow that pregnant creatures tend to have.

I spent the morning photographing a large, red dragonfly with her reproductive ritual, as well. She was dropping eggs into the pond. She would stop when the winds picked up and cling to the arm of the chair or a nearby branch. I took many pictures. At one point, she flew off to chase away another dragonfly, then flew right back to where I was taking pictures and when I leaned closer to get a better picture of her, she leaned closer to me!

I woke up this morning and glanced out the window to see a snake in the pond. I grabbed my camera and ran outside and it swam up under a log I set up for shade for the creatures. The snake let me take quite a few pictures. It stuck its tongue out at me a couple of times. They use their tongues as sensors, almost like a nose, to see if what they're facing is a threat, food, or a female snake. Obviously, I wasn't any of these things, so the snake just sat for awhile while I took pictures. It was a checkered garter. It may be Checkers, the garter snake that lived in the rosemaries on the side of the house last year. He's quite a bit bigger, but that would make sense.

I have been following the life and adventures of a golden silk orb weaver I named Alice, videotaping as she built her web and captured her prey and posting her picture on Facebook. I woke up this morning and noticed she had disappeared and her beautiful, three part web was completely destroyed. My husband thinks her web was destroyed by the fierce rainstorms we had last night, but if this was the case, she would have rebuilt. I think she was eaten by a bird, or mud dauber. While I was searching for her, I noticed a mud dauber fly in behind what remained of her web and crawl beneath the ivy. Mud daubers will kill very large spiders, carry them to their houses and stuff the spiders inside. Miss Alice was a very large spider, though. I do hope she's okay.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Rainy Day

There's a blanket of rain falling from the sky and squirrels at all feeding stations, their tails flipped over their heads like fuzzy umbrellas. They seem to eat twice as much food when it's raining outside, and it's been pouring! We're getting the tail winds and rain from Hurricane Alex, which is fine with me--these 105 degree days have turned the land a crispy brown and all it takes is one good rain to turn our world green again.

I took the dogs our earlier during a break in the rain. Buddy ran to the trees at the base of the driveway's slope and suddenly, a cottontail darted out a few feet then stopped. Buddy started toward the bunny, but stopped when I called his name. He turned around and continued sniffing the ground. The rabbit took a step toward Buddy and that was when I knew something was beneath the tree. I could also see that the rabbit had something small and dark in her mouth.

I ran down to Buddy and moved him away from the tree. I could see a nest beneath the tree. I turned around and the rabbit was still behind us with the dark object in her mouth. Buddy jerked toward her, then stopped and looked up at me. I shook my head and led him back to the house. I am certain there are babies in the nest and think it's possible that the mother had a baby in her mouth, as well.

One of my girlfriends was at the playground with her children when they discovered a snake. They tried to call the police and humane society and were confused that no one would come to remove the snake. They live in Arizona. I cannot imagine anyone responding to a snake call here in Texas, either. I think when you live in areas such as this you are expected to learn about the animals and how to avoid them and/or live with them. My friend's husband eventually realized it was a bull snake, walked over to the snake, picked it up and tossed it over the fence. Bull snakes

The incident did make me think about the way we approach wildlife, though. We teach our children about stranger danger, doesn't it seem logical to teach them how to respond to wildlife encounters? Many of the women who responded to my friend's post seemed to think it would be appropriate to grab the children and run, but if the child or parents is too close to the snake that would be a sure way to startle the snake into striking.

Back to the rain, our hummingbirds don't seem to be bothered by the downpour. We're already seeing three and four hummers at each of the feeders either eating or chasing each other about. I have another friend who was trying to take a picture of the hummingbirds outside his door and noticed two birds coming toward him, so he flipped on the video recorder and captured the two birds chasing each other in circles in a territorial dance. It's a fantastic video that I've watched more than once. It seems as though I never tire of watching God's creatures at play.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Baby Creatures...

It's been awhile since I've blogged. I have another grandson--Keller Elway Agnew--and he is beautiful, strong, and very intelligent. It was obvious within minutes that he recognized his mother and father's voices. However, he was also born with an infection and is still in the hospital--a serious reminder of how fragile life can be. He is surrounded by strong, loving, and compassionate parents and grandparents and has so many people sending prayers and loving, healing thoughts and energy to him, and I have no doubt that he will recover fully. I have been blessed by God with five beautiful grandchildren and I am so grateful. As I watch the little creatures out my window fly from tree to tree or scramble across the ground, I wonder how many of them will survive and I marvel at the miracle of life.

There are four juvenile cardinals on the property. I never see them apart. I know that some day they will leave each other and find spouses--cardinals mate for life--but for now it is nice to see them enjoying each other's company and protecting each other by calling out when they sense potential dangers--like my little chihuahua whose greatest thrill in life right now seems to be running into the yard barking to frighten off the birds!

There is another cardinal that seems to have made friends with a painted bunting. A young male painted bunting who is still getting his colorful feathers. This is an odd pairing, but I have yet to see these two marvelous creatures apart. They are always standing only inches away from each other, eating from the same dish or drinking from one of the ponds. Sometimes I wish I could read their minds or explore their memories and discover exactly what happened to cause these two birds to trust each other as they so obviously do. I know they, too, will some day part in search of mates, but for now, it's fun to watch.

I accidentally startled a very large raccoon this morning. I woke up at five and decided to make some tea, and when I walked in front of the door I noticed one of the largest raccoons I've seen sitting in the middle of the bedroom patio table, eating sunflower seeds. I think she must be the grandma. Female raccoons often live together for many generations. She glanced up at me, then climbed onto the chair and started to slowly slink away. She must have changed her mind, though, and realized I meant no harm because she had returned to the table when I came back into the room with my tea.

I was stung on the neck by a red wasp yesterday afternoon as I walked through the garage shaking a paint can. They do not like loud noises. I quickly covered the hole with charcoal to draw out the toxin, but I still needed to take a little allergy medication. Our garages are both filled with yellow wasps and mud-dobbers and we will have to do something about this because the garages are also filled with all of our boxes of books and such since we're preparing to move to New Mexico. I don't want to start unpacking and suddenly find my new home swarming with wasps! We usually just ignore these creatures. It's the red wasps we watch out for because they are so aggressive.

It's that time of year again and the hummingbird feeders are filling up with birds. I saw the tiniest hummingbird I've ever seen yesterday morning and I know it must have been a baby. It was half the size of my pinky. There is a lovely gray bird that seems to be competing with the black-headed hummer who usually dominates the feeder by our back door. She is very careful to watch and wait until the other bird leaves, then she darts in for a quick drink.

I stopped to put fresh water in Mrs. Toady's bowl last night, thinking she might like a cool soak after spending such a hot day in the toe of my black garden shoe, but she was already out of the shoe and sitting in the bowl! I am amazed by how much she's grown in the past four years. She filled the entire bowl. I can't believe she still fits in the toe of my shoe! It must be quite a struggle to squeeze in at night and turn around--she's always facing out. Obviously, she likes her home. I don't blame her. I love this house, I just wish it was closer to my grandchildren.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lizards, Hare, and Painted Bunting

I've had so many lizard encounters lately. I've made friends with a lizard that looks like a dragon. He lives in the agave plants by the back garage door and I think he likes the sound of my voice. When he comes out, I ask him to wait until I get the camera and he always waits. He likes to turn around and watch me and cocks his head from side to side while I speak. Once, my stepson uncovered a bunch of bug eggs for him and he was very happy. I am amazed by how friendly, and how photogenic, this lizard is when he poses for pictures!

I thought we had a strange-looking rabbit that visits the bedroom patio at all times of the day. It has a long nose, long ears, but regular-sized feet, so I knew it wasn't a cottontail or a jackrabbit. I finally figured out it is a hare. I see it at all times during the day--the cottontails usually come out at dusk and dawn.

It is not as shy as the cottontails. Once, one of the dogs chased it out from beneath the wysteria and Chew the chihuahua chased it between my legs and it just sat between my legs as if it knew it was safe. I led the dogs back inside and the hare stayed in the field, poking around for food.

There is a male Painted Bunting that has been visiting the food dish outside our bedroom window. It is rather small and the feathers on its back are still coming in, so I know it is very young. Painted Buntings visit our home often, but they are very shy and it's hard to get their pictures. I did get a couple of this one, though.

We also saw two red-tailed lizards mating on the driveway yesterday. At first, my stepson thought they were fighting because they were chasing each other around in circles, so I grabbed my camera to take their picture and we quickly figured out what they were doing. It's amazing how much larger the females are than the males. Like frogs and toads, they are almost 2/3 larger in overall body size.

Snakes, snakes, and more snakes...

It's been a very eventful two weeks! We have had so many snake encounters I don't even know where to start! I was walking the dogs when I suddenly noticed what I thought was a stick in the middle of the sidewalk, then I saw the tail end go straight up as one of the dogs approached and my heart started racing. I was certain it must be a rattler. I ran to the house with the dogs and grabbed my camera and when I returned, the snake was still there. It turned out to be a rat snake. My stepson and I followed it to some trees. It tried to climb the tree, then tried to climb into a hole in a tree stump and that's when I decided to stop taking pictures. I wasn't trying to frighten it, but it was a beautiful snake and I wanted pictures to share with my grandchildren.

A few days later, we were getting ready to leave for an appointment when we noticed the tail of a snake slip into the garage. This one was a bull snake, and he did not want to leave the garage! Bull snakes love birds and bird eggs, and we had a bird's nest with very noisy baby sparrows in a box on the top shelf just beneath where the snake was coiled up and hissing. The mama bird came in with some bugs while we were trying to coax the snake back out of the garage. The snake snapped at us a few times, but eventually returned to the forest.

The next morning, we woke up to a ruckus in the garage. I was afraid the snake had returned, but it was the baby birds leaving their nest. A few of the babies appeared to be a little immature for leaving the nest, but I think their parents might have pushed them out a little early because they were worried about the same thing I was--that the bull snake might return. The last baby fell out of the box and to the floor, but she wasn't injured. I put her back in the box and mama brought her some food. We ran our errands and when we returned, the last bird had left the box. They are still in the trees in the backyard. We seem them on the picnic table every day eating bird seed. It's so sweet to see multiple generations of bird families.

A few days ago, I did something I know I should not do--I went outside at dusk to fill the bird seed containers. I had the dogs with me and thank goodness I left them behind the fence. I was by the back forest, raising my foot to step beneath the cup that the doves like to eat from when I realized that beneath me was the largest snake I have ever seen. I slowly stepped backward, assuming it was another rat snake. I said hello and carefully walked backward to the yard, then ran the dogs inside and fetched my husband and my camera.

We really were much closer than we should have been, but it did appear to be a massive rat snake. However, when I focused the camera, I realized the snake had a triangular head and flattened nose. About the same time, my stepson said he thought he could see venom sacks on the side of its head. And again, at the same time, my husband had picked up the water sprinkler. The water spooked the snake and it pulled the rest of its body through the fence. At first, I thought it was lunging at my husband, then I realized it was simply turning around. As it flipped the back end of its body through the agave plants we clearly saw a long row of rattles. It was a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and was at least seven feet long.

Since the day we moved here I have had a feeling I would some day encounter a very large rattlesnake. I don't know why I had that feeling, I just knew that I would. I never felt threatened at any time by the snake, but I'm still having trouble falling asleep at night thinking about how I was standing with my foot above its head. Before I take the dogs out now, I walk out first and check the yard for snakes.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Colorful bugs, Butterflies, Doves and Squirrels, Snakeskin

Yesterday, I was outside taking pictures of the Hundred Year Plants in our backyard. These plants do not live to be one hundred years, but they do shoot up tall stalks, stalks that grow as much as six feet in a day, as they start to die, then baby plants begin to grow on their roots. It is a remarkable example of the circle of life. The stalk has buds on the end and these turn into flowers that are consumed by beetles. The stalk eventually dries out, then the plant dries out as all of the energy is sent to the baby plants.

As I was taking pictures, I notices some beautiful, colorful bugs creeping along the leaves of the plants. I saw these same bugs on the Prickly Pear cactus plants outside our back door. I took some pictures and posted them to the right.

I have been collecting flowers that I generally dry and use in flower decorations. Flowers such as Lamb's Ears, Dusty Miller, Lavender and Yarrow. At first, I concentrated on collecting as much as I could, then I began to notice how many of the yellow caterpillars were on these flowers, sliding up and down the stalks. I also started to notice the hundreds of butterflies on the flowers of these plants.

I took pictures of a few of these butterflies and caterpillars,as well. I decided it just wouldn't be right to cut down all the flowers and deprive the little creatures of food, so I decided to leave half of the flowers on the plants for the butterflies and bugs. I still had a huge harvest and will have plenty for my flower vases this summer.

Last fall, I cut some holes in a plastic butter container and hung it from a tree branch. I filled it with seeds for the baby squirrels in case they were too shy to come onto the back porch. I have discovered that the baby squirrels prefer my bedroom patio, in spite of the prospect of being disturbed by my chihuahua. Instead, the seeds are eaten by many white-winged doves. Often, when I look out my bathroom window, I see two or three of them at a time with their heads stuck inside the container, picking out seeds. As long as they are happy, all is well.

While collecting flowers, I glanced down and spotted a huge snakeskin under some plants. At first, I didn't realize it was just the skin. Instinctively, I pulled my hand back--it would have been wiser to hold still--and fell backward down the front slope. After I dusted myself off and located my shoes, I climbed back up the hill and found a very long snakeskin. I can even see where the snake's eyes and mouth were. I'm fairly certain it belongs to the large garter snake that has sat on my shoes on a few occasions.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Scorpions, Yellow Caterpillars, Lizards, Baby Squirrels

It was a long night last night. Just as I finished my yoga, I slipped my feet into my slippers and felt something sting or bite the back of my ankle. I immediately put a charcoal draw on the area and the pain left, but I still felt a little sick and head-achy. Then, as I prepared to get into bed, I glanced down at my slippers and noticed a baby scorpion creeping out! Because of my spiritual beliefs, I cannot harm a living creature and tried to capture it, but my husband got to it first.

He's feeling a little uptight about the scorpions right now. The night before, we were sound asleep when he suddenly jumped out of bed, shouting. He had a scorpion on his cheek. It didn't bite him, but it was incredibly fast and we had to chase it around the room for at least ten minutes before we caught it. Books, blankets, and the cat went flying everywhere as we tried to catch the little creature. I couldn't sleep then, either, so I did a little reading and discovered scorpions are actually considered a beneficial creature because they eat spiders and other insects that damage plants and get inside houses. I'm sure they have scorpions in New Mexico and I hope they're the same type because I already know I'm not allergic.

We now have yellow caterpillars everywhere. We practically have to walk on tiptoes outside to avoid them. They are much larger than the black fuzzy ones that brought the black and orange butterflies, and they are super-fast! They climb eagerly onto my finger when I try to assist them across the driveway so they won't get hurt, but then I have to rush them to a plant or they will crawl up my arm!

I have seen so many pregnant lizards lately. I think you can tell the difference because their stomachs are unusually large and flatten out very wide on the ground. I have accidentally dug up their eggs before, but re-buried them immediately and they hatched just fine. I noticed two red-tailed lizards on the driveway this morning and thought they were a couple, then they noticed each other and started chasing each other and wrestling around. It was kind of funny to watch, but I hope they didn't harm each other. They didn't appear to be harmed.

I think we have at least four brand new teeny tiny baby squirrels now. One has been appearing on a regular basis near the bedroom picture window. It climbs up and down the tree, is very timid, jumps when the wind moves a flower, and is absolutely adorable. I took some pictures of it today, but I have to take pictures of the squirrels through the windows and they don't always turn out very clear. I am praying that God will send me squirrels in New Mexico. I have never lived without squirrels and it seems to me that God has sent them to me for a reason. Squirrels tend to be intelligent and curious, and perhaps these are qualities God is trying to encourage in me, as well.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day Butterfly Swarm

I forgot to mention our butterfly swarm on Mother's Day! Last Sunday, we awoke to find the gardens filled with butterflies. There were so many that when we opened the doors to walk outside, butterflies would land on us and sometimes stay on out clothes when we went back in so we were catching them and sending them back out the doors.

There were yellow butterflies and red and black butterflies, black butterflies with blue spots and soft gray butterflies that only landed on the white, baby's breath-like wildflowers that grow near the road. I suspect that the red and black butterflies are from the fuzzy, black caterpillers that we've seen creeping across our driveways for the past few weeks. There are still many, many butterflies fluttering around our property, but I have never seen as many as we did on Mother's Day. It was a wonderful treat!

Elk, Squirrels, and other little creatures

I haven't written in so long! I was in Colorado visiting family. It was a stunning drive through New Mexico. As always, the crows flew alongside our truck as if guiding us to our destination. They always surprise me with their size and deep, dark beauty.

It snowed as soon as we reached Colorado. This was not surprising in one way. Colorado generally gets one last wet, sloppy snowfall in the spring, but this year, winter just seems to be going and going. We were surprised, however, to run across a herd of elk in town. Apparently, they have made themselves at home in a field on the outskirts of Loveland and are perfectly happy there. I posted pictures and discussed them on Facebook and many of my friends sent messages to tell me they had also seen them in smaller or larger groups. The herd we saw consisted of about ten or twelve adult elk.

We spent some time in Rio Rancho, New Mexico on the way home. I have been distressed about the move, worried about leaving all of our little creatures that live around our home in Texas and worried that I will not make new friends in New Mexico, but I was very happy to see lizards scooting about everywhere we looked, so I know there will be some friends for me there. I already know there are crows! We often see red-tailed hawks as we drive through New Mexico, as well. I suspect they also have raccoons, and know for certain that they have ringtails. The trick will be in finding the right house. I hope we can find some squirrels to make their home in our trees. I don't think I've ever lived without squirrels.

The young man who watched our house was diligent about keeping the feeders filled with corn cobs. I found many cobs scraped clean in the yard when we returned. As soon as I set out the seed, the animals returned and the gardens were filled with sparrows, cardinals, squirrels and lizards.

The day we returned we discovered a small lizard on the back screen. He was walking up and down, catching bugs. I told him he was welcome to keep this as his regular job. He stopped and cocked his head while I spoke to him. Then he let me pet his back, which really surprised me. He seemed to recognize my voice and I suspect he is the creature that has been living just outside my bedroom door, the one I feared might be a scorpion. He is very cute and dragony-looking with a white spot on his head. I think he was either beneath someone when they were painting or was pooped on by a bird.

The next day, my husband was working outside and the same lizard blocked his path. Steve tried to explain that he needed to get by, but the lizard wouldn't move. Steve finally knelt down and spoke with it a bit and after awhile, when it was ready, the lizard scooted into some nearby ivy. My stepson walked up a few minutes later, though, and the lizard ran out of the rocks and blocked his path. I think he's either being friendly or declaring his territory!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Snakes, Birds, and Squirrels

I was outside filling the seed dishes and the little golden squirrel was sitting in the tree chewing on a corn cob. He watched me work, but he didn't run off, or even stop eating. I think the workers on the roof are making so much noise that the squirrels are getting used to the constant disruptions and actually adjusting to having humans around while they eat!

As I was leaving this afternoon, I saw a snake slithering up the driveway. I was afraid it might go under my truck tire, or worse yet, into the wood pile and bite one of the construction workers, so I gently guided it with my shoes and hands back into the forest. It was very docile. Not the least bit threatened. It took a little help to identify it, but I think it was a Regal Ring-Necked snake. It was about a foot long, maybe longer, a shimmery silver color with a yellow band around its neck and a black head. I took some pictures, but a few people on facebook responded just from the description. Apparently, there is a similar snake called the Northern Ringneck that lives, of course, up North
There is a flock of teeny, tiny birds in the oak tree at the foot of the front steps right now. Their song sounds like a high-pitched chirp. I had to stand beneath the tree for quite some time before I could actually see them. They are the size of hummingbirds. They have cream-colored bodies and dark wings and heads, and when they fly from branch to branch it looks like they're hopping and skipping on the air.

The mustang grape vine is filling in on the den patio and the baby sparrows--who are obviously a year old now--are still hanging out in the vines, but they're not eating as much as they used to. In fact, they seem to prefer the back picnic table, perhaps because the construction workers are on the den patio so much of the time. I haven't seen the hawk since I put the fake owl on the fence.

Mrs. Toady was not in the garden shoe today. It looks as if she buried herself in a pot of mint on the patio, but I didn't dig around to check. I think she is also a little disturbed by all the noise. She does hide in the plant pots quite a bit, though, even when it's not noisy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ring-Tailed Cats and Rock Squirrels

We were visited by the ring-tailed cat again, but this time it was at dusk instead of in the early morning hours. My husband walked out the back door and saw the cat sitting in the tree, watching him. It is a fascinating creature with a head like a chihuahua--including the big, pointy ears--body like a cat and long, raccoon tail.

My husband spoke softly to the cat and the cat sat and listened. He didn't seem the least bit afraid. My husband stepped back inside the house and called for me to join him, and when we returned to the yard, the cat was still there, watching us. I talked to him for a good long time and he seemed to be enjoying the conversation, even if it was rather one-sided. After awhile, he simply stood up and made his way back into the forest.

My husband thought he had seen the cat come down from the roof, so I sliced some apples and put them on the roof along with sunflower seeds and corn kernels that I feed to the squirrels. The next morning, the apples were gone. He must have enjoyed the feast. I read online that miners used to keep them as pets. They would cut a hole in a box and keep the box by the stove. The ring-tailed cat would sleep all day, then climb out at night to eat the mice and rats in the cabins. Unfortunately, raccoons will hurt these cats, so I am hoping they don't cross each other.

The animals seem mildly disrupted by the roof construction, but I think they're figuring out a schedule. They know the workers come late in the morning, so the squirrels and birds have been showing up at the food dishes earlier and earlier. This morning, I heard them outside at sunrise. I checked the dishes and they were completely bare--not even a shell, which means the ring-tailed cat showed up last night. He's the only creature that doesn't even leave a shell. So, I filled all the dishes and shut the door, turned around and the squirrels came scrambling down from the roof to eat.

We had a rock squirrel in the window a few days ago. It was a small baby and I think he was looking for a bird to eat. He was in our bedroom window. My husband and I spoke with him in soft voices and he turned and scratched on the window, which was unexpected. Chewy the chihuahua ran through the house and out the back door, then straight for the window. Suddenly, he stopped, turned, ran down the stairs and stood quietly on the front lawn. I think he realized that if it came down to a battle, the rock squirrel would probably win! I went outside to get the dog and the squirrel ran between my legs, down the stairs, down the driveway, across the street and into the forest that faces our house. He will be back, I suspect, like all predators. Now that he knows we feed the birds, he also knows our house is a good source for food.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


We are replacing our roof and the noise has been very disruptive. The little creatures are getting plenty of food and water and play in the mornings before the workers arrive, but I do miss watching them in the afternoons.

Chewy the chihuahua was almost nipped by the garter snake who hangs out by my bedroom door. I saw Chewy chasing something and knew it had to be the snake judging from the way Chewy was moving, sort of jerking and jumping. I grabbed him as fast as I could and tossed him into the bedroom.

There are so many wildflowers blooming right now the air smells like perfume and it fills every room of the house. The wysteria is in full bloom and its scent blends nicely with the huge patches of bluebonnets. There are short bouquets of white flowers that look like baby's breath and tiny pink pinstriped flowers, and flowers about three feet tall with bunches of three purple or blue flowers. The crimson clover is just starting to come into bloom, as well, providing a nice contrast.

I haven't see the red parrot-like bird lately, the one who tried to kill the cardinal, but I have seen a large blue bird that I don't recognize hanging out with the sparrows. He has a loud, lovely song and seems to get along with the other birds quite nicely.

I set up the plastic owl on the fencepost, put two small trees in pots and blocked the view of the sparrow feeding station in the den patio, then moved the grill to block the view, as well, and I haven't seen the hawk all week!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hawk Action

The hawk is back and he's starting to make me...well, angry. I was sitting in the den today listening to the sparrows and he swooped down onto the patio and frightened the birds so badly that two of them flew into the window. I was talking to my sister about the situation and she suggested moving the fake owl to the den patio, which I did. The sparrows and squirrels don't seem particularly concerned by the owl, but I'm hoping it will intimidate the hawk a bit. Only time will tell.

They changed the forecast last night from 100% chance of rain to 70. It's been raining all night and morning. We are building an Ark right now. We have five squirrels on the bedroom patio, trying to avoid the rain. Actually, they're pigging out on sunflower seeds and corn. They keep chasing the baby squirrel off, and he runs a few feet, turns around, and runs right back in to the foray. He's a keeper.

The baby squirrel has been so funny. It was 85 a few days ago and he was on the back porch playing while his mother ate seeds. He kept running up to the door and putting his paws on the glass then peeking inside. He's absolutely adorable. His fur is so golden its almost white. The belly fur seems to take on a reddish color as the squirrels get older.

Uno, the one-eyed squirrel, has decided he likes the dish of food I fill by the second garage. He takes the seeds into his teeth, climbs to the top of the fence post then nibbles on the seeds while my chihuahua barks hysterically at the door. I think Uno likes intimidating the dog.

Chewy the chihuahua has decided he is not a morning person. After we wake him up for his walk, he climbs back into the big dogs' bed, buries himself in their blankets and sleeps until noon. He's still running off on walks. Now, he hides behind trees, waits until I pass, then races back to the house and sits by the door... with one paw raised like he's saying hello, pretending he was there all along.

I was watching television and noticed a tiny bird outside the den window so I went to look and sure enough, it was a hummingbird! I read on the Travis Audubon site that some early birds have been sighted, but they're in my yard! We ran to the garage and dug out the hummingbird feeders, cleaned them and filled them. Now I'm waiting...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Weather Rollercoaster

It is raining, then the sun shines, then it rains once more. According to the NOAA, we have set an all-time record for the coldest, wettest winter in the Hill Country. The animals are feeling the chill. They are eating far more than ever before.

The sparrows still spend their days in the mustang grape vine outside the den, then fly off in groups of five or more to sleep in the trees at night. They are very routine creatures and we have learned that they love to be spoken to, so my husband and I stop to talk to them every time we pass their perches.

There is another flock of birds, very tiny birds, like finches, that is spending time on the bedroom patio now. They share the space with the sparrows and the squirrels. They are so tiny, they look like miniature figurines. I have been tossing extra seed onto the ground for them.

I walked into the backyard and spooked a large hawk yesterday, one of the largest I've seen. It wasn't big enough to be a black vulture, though I know black vultures are actually in the hawk family. Nevertheless, it was a very large bird. Interestingly enough, I believe it was taking a bath in the bird bath I set out for the sparrows.

I figured out the mystery of the sunflower seeds in my garden shoes. Uno, the one-eyed squirrel is not only the squirrel filling my shoes with seeds, he is also the squirrel that likes to run across the driveway, and the squirrel that eats the seeds I leave on a tray beneath a tree just inside the forest. I was pretty surprised when I figured this out. I knew he was bold, I just didn't think he was bold enough to walk up to the back door where the dogs sleep. It's so amazing to me to think that he was the runt of the litter, at one time the tiniest squirrel on the block. He's come a long way...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Little Squirrel

The little one-eyed squirrel was on my bedroom patio this morning. I have written about him often. He was very tiny when he first appeared on my porch last spring, and there was an over-abundance of males in the territory at the time. The two boys from the year before were still around, and the mother squirrel had a girl and a boy. There was also the two males that live on the front of the property and the older male that hangs out by the garage that is separate from the house. Last spring, it seemed there was constant battles, and suddenly, the tiniest male showed up with a scratch on his eye.

At first, I thought he might have fought with another of the males, but there was something about the wound that made me think it might have come from a larger creature, perhaps even the hawk that makes its appearance in our yard. It was a pretty big wound, and it seemed infected. Still, he continued to come to my porch for sunflower seeds. He generally arrived later in the morning, after the older males had eaten their fill.

I prayed and prayed over him every time I saw him and I pictured him surrounded by healing, loving energy. I felt so helpless. I couldn't think of any other way to help him. I was afraid the infection would travel to other parts of his body. But somehow, the infection stopped. The oozing stopped, and slowly, gradually, his eye began to heal.

When the hawk showed up again this winter, all of the squirrels disappeared. I was particularly concerned about my one-eyed friend, who I sometimes call Uno, but most of the time, I call him Baby. Then he started appearing again a few days ago. It was such a relief, and an interesting moment. He was facing west when I saw him on the table, but I was certain it was him, and when I started to speak to him through the door, he turned his head to show me his eye, as if to let me know that it was him. The eye has healed, but I don't think his vision is completely restored. He still has a scar, and the eye only opens a sliver.

This morning, my husband noticed that some of the older squirrels were chasing each other and knocked the seed dish to the ground. It was broken in pieces, but the other squirrels had also eaten all the seeds. Then Uno arrived, and he sat on the table and looked at us through the door. My husband went outside and filled a bowl full of seeds, then took it to the porch, but when he walked through the doorway and poured the seed onto the table, Uno did not run away. Instead, he climbed onto the trellis, turned around, and watched. Steve said hello, then walked away. I think little Uno likes us. I am grateful that God has watched over him. He is a precious gift.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A New Visitor

We had a visitor on our porch last night that I have never seen before, but I knew what it was because the local paper did an article on them just last week. It's called a Ringtail, or a Miner's Cat. It was sitting on the back porch eating sunflower seeds around four in the morning. At first, I thought I was looking at my chihuahua! It has large ears, large eyes, the body of a cat and the tail of a raccoon. They are solitary animals that only get together to mate. They have a loud, barking sound, but they're generally very quiet and shy. They are also extremely agile and do things like flatten their bodies to squeeze into places. They even do cartwheels. They use their huge tails for balance. Their tails are much bigger than raccoons.

It was a wonderful experience. He was watching me through the window and sat on the table until the cat finally spotted him and ran to the door, then he took off. I had a feeling we've had more visitors lately because we've been going through so much food at night. Generally, after the raccoons leave, there's still a little food left for the birds and squirrels to hold them over until I get out of bed and fill their dishes, but lately, every last little seed disappears. My husband also said he thought he saw a cat leaving the garage late one night when he checked on the barking dogs, but when I looked out the window, I saw a raccoon tail, so I assumed it was a raccoon. I'm guessing it was the Ringtail.

Our house is filled with ladybugs. Our roof fell apart during all the rain and we had to wait a long time for the insurance agent to come check it out. When the roof started leaking my husband took down some tiles, and suddenly, our house is filled with ladybugs. They must be breeding in the ceiling. They are on my clothes, my computer, walls, ceiling, everywhere. I've tried to rescue as many as I could and put them back outside. It's sixty degrees out there right now so they should be happy!

The baby rabbits have definitely left their nest, but I think it's time to start watching for sparrow nests. I still have at least thirty of the original sparrows flocking around my house and I believe the hawk has moved on for good--we haven't seen him for a couple of weeks. I would love to set up some kind of sparrow apartment building for them, but it would be very tricky--between the squirrels, hawks, raccoons and ringtails, there sure are a lot of predators around here!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Butterfly

I am having so much physical pain with all the rain we've had lately. It just doesn't seem to want to ease up, but this is normal for Texas in the winter. I was up most of the night with a headache and it was difficult for me to get up this morning, but I forced myself to get moving, to get dressed and do my yoga and greet my dogs because I knew they were standing at the kitchen door, waiting patiently for my loving arms.

We went outside to walk. It was such a light sprinkle of rain at the time I wouldn't even call it a drizzle. We walked past the carport and down to the road. While we walked, I was thinking about all of the changes I've experienced in my life lately, and how much I want to return to my routine of walking four and five times a day. I was also thinking about those lovely black and orange butterflies that kept appearing out of nowhere when it was warmer the past few weeks, landing on my shoulder or chest, just stopping by to say hello.

Then I called to the dogs and we all turned around to head back to the house, and as I raised my leg to step over a large rock, I looked down and saw a black and orange butterfly, resting on the rock, slowly opening and closing its wings. This, too, I know, was a gift from God. Not just the existence of the butterfly, not just the existence of the rain, and the fresh green smell and my precious dogs and the land we walk on each day, but the fact that the butterfly made its appearance, just at that moment, to remind me of God's love. This, too was a gift from God.

The squirrels have been eating more and more seeds lately. I think they eat extra to keep their bodies warm when its raining. I like the way they flip their tails up and over their heads like little umbrellas. There was a little boy on the porch this morning and he was eating very slowly, picking through the seeds, watching me as I typed on the computer. Then he put his paws down for awhile and just sat, watching me. I think he was enjoying the fact that he was out of the rain for awhile!

There was also a few teeny little birds on the back porch eating seeds. They looked even smaller than finches, but I don't think they were baby birds. I am hoping they will return today so I can get a closer look.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Hawk Sighting

It's still chilly, cloudy and misty. I moved all seeds from the back picnic table during the day, but I put some out at night for the raccoon twins. When they climb onto the light it triggers the motion sensor on the back door light and for some reason, I think they like this. They spend a lot of time sitting on that table while momma eats on my back porch, watching them through the doorway. So, before I go to bed, I put some seeds out on the table. I moved the bird bath to the table outside the den where the sparrows play during the day, but I kept a small dish of water on the back picnic table for the raccoons.

My goal was to discourage birds and squirrels from sitting on the table because I think this makes them targets for the hawk. I thought I was successful because I haven't seen the hawk for five days. However, as he was driving up the drive this evening, the hawk flew in front of my husband's truck, very low, in front of the windshield so Steve could get a clear view. I think he was trying to let us know this is his territory and he intends to stay.

Unfortunately, after I found the pile of feathers indicating the hawk had eaten one of the rare white-winged doves, I have not seen another white-winged dove on the property. This fall, we had a flock of ten or twelve of them. I doubt the hawk got them all. They have most likely moved on to safer grounds.

My neighbor was burning wood in his yard a few days ago and I noticed he seemed to be upsetting the birds in the trees on the other side of the creek on our property. They were making quite the racket and flying from tree to tree. What surprised me was how many of them were over there at the time. I was also surprised that they didn't simply fly into the forest behind our property and wait for the smoke to clear. It was so noisy, it was almost as if they were yelling at him. It made me wonder if maybe there are birds on that side preparing nests already.

Although it does seem early, there are signs of spring. The early bulbs are popping up and I have one daffodil and three bluebonnets blooming on the property, which doesn't seem like much considering we live on four acres, but they are signs of spring!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chilly Chilly Chilly

It is cold outside! The baby sparrows look like feather balls hopping about, trying to keep warm. I had to break the ice on their water dishes again this morning. I was late going out there, trying to avoid the chill, but they are so patient with me. They went to the pond instead. I think they're singing so loud now to keep warm!

I haven't seen the hawk for nearly a week and the squirrels have returned. I now see an obvious connection between the arrival of the hawk and the temporary disappearance of my beloved squirrels. There is a squirrel on the bedroom patio now. He climbed into the tree in the front yard then paused on a branch and turned to watch as I finished my yoga routine. He scampered across the roof and I walked into the bedroom just as he was climbing through the trellis. He poked his head through some vines and paused to watch me. I did the same. I spoke with him in a soft, loving voice and told him how much I loved and adored him and how welcome he is in my home. He continued to watch me for a minute, then climbed onto the table and started to eat.

I have always been attracted to squirrels. When I was young and my family traveled from town to town exploring old Colorado, we always stopped at gift shops and my father would give us each a few dollars to spend. My money went to squirrels, every time. They used to sell these little ceramic brown squirrels in all the gifts shops and I had a collection of all different sizes. I have no idea what happened to my precious squirrels when I left my parent's home, but I do miss them and wish I had them now.

The dogs don't even want to go outside, that's how cold it is. Chewy the chihuahua is hiding beneath a blanket on my lap and Buddy and Holly are creeping closer and closer to the wood stove. I had to move Buddy last night. He dragged his blanket right next to the stove and was trying to lie down on the rock hearth. Right now, they are both cuddled up with each other, leaning against the rock hearth. They are finally adjusting to Texas and missing the warm weather, I think. In the summertime, of course, they park their fannies in front of the air conditioner and whine about how much they miss Colorado!

It is late, and getting dark, but the birds are singing so sweetly that I think I'll go for one last walk before sunset. I wish I knew what they were saying to each other. We've had a few cardinals around lately, but nothing like the first year we were hear when they appeared at food dishes daily. I think the same mated pairs are returning. It's that time of year again when I need to dirty the windows and put stickers on them. During mating season, the males see their own reflection and will attack the windows until they hurt themselves badly. It's heartbreaking. I'd rather have soap smeared on the windows than see harm done to one of God's creations.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Home Again!

We returned from The Woodlands, Texas late last night where we were visiting my son and daughter-in-law. I was sitting in their living room yesterday when I noticed a black and white bird on the tree just outside their window. The bird was tapping at the tree as it hopped up the bark. I looked it up on the internet and sure enough, it was a woodpecker. I don't think I've ever seen a woodpecker up close before. It was a female because it had no red on its neck. Most of the trees in The Woodlands are towering pines that seem to reach to the sky, so it didn't take long for the bird to disappear from my view. My son's backyard is filled with shrubs and trees that have a wide variety of berries. Even though they don't put out seed, their yard attracts a wide variety of birds, as well.

Last year, I was dog-sitting while they were out of town and noticed twin baby squirrels chasing each other along the top of the fence every afternoon. I didn't see them this visit, but I'm sure they're around. There are plenty of trees in the area where they can make homes. Driving through The Woodlands at night is like driving through a corn maze--the trees are tall and very close together.

There is a problem with the trees in The Woodlands, though. Last year's drought attracted a large number of pine bark beetles that are slowly eating away at this beautiful forest. There is approximately 12 million acres of forestland including four national forests and five state forests in East Texas. It's called the East Texas Pine Belt, or Piney Woods, and it has plenty of food for pine beetles, unfortunately. I do hope conservation efforts can keep the problem under control.

Early this morning, the little one-eyed squirrel was on the back table digging through the sunflower seed shells. We arrived so late last night that I didn't put fresh seed out, so I grabbed my bathrobe and ran outside to fill the animal dishes. All of the water dishes were frozen solid and the garden hose was frozen, as well, so I had to fill their dishes in the den. It has been so cold that many people in central and east Texas are struggling with frozen and broken pipes--not a common problem for this area! I am hoping that the ground didn't freeze deep enough to harm the lizards, frogs and toads that bury themselves during winter to keep warm. Our pond was frozen over again, too, but just on the surface. It has already cracked and is working on melting.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Well, we're home from Colorado. It was a long vacation--nearly two weeks--and all the little creatures missed us. There was bird seed in the feeders, so I know our house sitter was thinking of our little friends, but the corn cobs were eaten to the core and the water dishes were empty. They're all clean and full now, though.

This afternoon, I was in the bedroom and a hawk flew onto the bedroom porch again. It was a large hawk with a creamy chest and gray back feathers. It looked from one side then to the other, then it stared straight at me through the window before it flew away. It happened so fast, though, that I couldn't get my camera or cell phone camera in time to snap a picture.

The baby sparrows are all just as I left them, huddled between the mustang grape vines on the side patio. I was walking the dogs this afternoon and they started making quite the ruckus, so I ran back up the driveway, worried that perhaps the hawk was bothering them, but the hawk wasn't there. Perhaps they had spotted her in the forest behind the house.

I woke up this morning to a tap, tap, tapping on the door. It was the cat, pawing at the glass. I could see a small mouse on the patio nibbling on some sunflower seeds. I tried to get the cat to stop, but he wouldn't, so I finally put him in the living room and shut the door. Then he started tap, tap, tapping on the bedroom door so I couldn't sleep. I let him back in and he immediately ran to the glass patio door to tap, tap, tap at the mouse. It was a long morning.

I had to run some errands and walked out to my truck and one of the black and orange butterflies flew up from the tire well and fluttered at my face. They are not particularly shy creatures. I do enjoy having them fly near me. There's something almost magical about having a butterfly's wings fluttering against your skin. Such a precious gift from God.