Category Archives: Fauna

All tuckered out

Cats

Alright, after ruffling some feathers with my two previous posts, here’s a picture of Little Queen Olivia relaxing yesterday evening after spending all night and all day on her catio stalking the birds, rabbits, squirrels, and rats. She’s all tuckered out.

Little Queen Olivia

Get those cooties off me!

Picture of the Moment

One of my roommates in 1974 at Texas A&M University was from Waller, Texas, which is about half way between Houston and College Station.

I lost track of him when I moved to San Diego in April 1993. I moved with the intent of distancing myself from old family and friends. No more need to keep up with the Joneses.

In 2011, I was exploring the border area in South San Diego when I came upon San Diego Beach Rides. I rented a horse ride for the beach. Pretty cool.

When I got back, I told the owner that he looked like my college roommate from 1974. He said, “Oh, I’m from Texas.” That, of course, started a conversation. Turns out that he wasn’t my roommate, but he was my roommate’s younger brother.

I was able to get connected again to my old roommate who was living in Littleton CO. Small world. Unfortunately, as with all but two of my old friends and family in Texas, our politics didn’t mesh, so I disconnected again.

This horse picture is from October 4, 2011, at San Diego Beach Rides. It’s the horse that I rode. I guess it wanted to get those Russel cooties off. After I pet Little Queen Olivia, she proceeds to do the same thing.

San Diego Beach Rides

Little Queen Olivia

Still sad

For the past 17 days, every morning when I get up I check on my mommy mourning dove on her nest. Sadly, yesterday morning this is what I saw:

Mourning dove nest

I have been a birder for 60 years, so I know that there is a Great Horned Owl out here in the East San Diego County boondocks. It lives in the bushes and trees about a 100 yards north of me. Been there for 2 years and 10 months.

When I was outside to pull weeds yesterday morning, I heard Mr. G. H. Owl calling to me from about 50 yards to the south. Who? Who? Who? I think I know WHO got my mourning dove babies.

I am completely powerless against police brutality, racism, the Twitler Crime Family, et al., but I really thought I could help mommy mourning dove safely raise her young.

Still sad.

Mourning doves

And then there were three

Picture of the Moment

Sixteen days ago, I got up with the sun (5:30 a.m.) and pulled a ton of weeds along the fence between my property and the open space preserve. I left a huge pile of weeds, figuring I would haul them to the trash later. I took a shower and a nap.

When I went out to the gardens to get my daily snapshots of flowers, I leaned in close near a hanging basket and something hit me in the head and flew away. I didn’t see what it was, but I did see this in the hanging basket:

mourning dove eggs

That was not there six hours earlier. Mommy, presumably with help from daddy, found my pile of weeds, built a nest a few feet away, and deposited two eggs in only four or five hours. Fortunately, after me disturbing mommy (presumably), she came back to take care of those eggs:

momma mourning dove on nest

Research indicates that it takes about 14 days for mourning dove eggs to hatch and another 15 days for the little ones to leave the nest and go exploring the world.

I got a picture of a little bird on Day 13.

Mourning dove

And on Day 14, today!, I got a picture of two little birds!

Mourning doves

And then there were three. I’m so happy! Now our goal is to help mommy protect these two little ones for the next couple of weeks so they can fly away, fly away.

Hoping I can’t go into one of my gardens for about a month

Picture of the Moment

I got up at 5:30 this morning to go pull weeds and clear dead brush along the fence. Nothing unusual about that.

I just went out to take pictures of the cactus flowers that are blooming. I leaned in close with my 90mm macro lens and suddenly something hit me in the head and went flying away.

The last time I was hit in the head by something flying was 1968 under the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin. That time was a flying bat (if you’ve never seen the bats take to the skies at dusk at the Congress Avenue bridge, go!).

This time, it was a momma mourning dove. Interestingly, she and her nest were not there at 6:00 this morning. In a mere six hours she (and daddy?) built a nest out of brush laying in a pile nearby, and she laid two eggs in it.

mourning dove eggs

I’m so happy because the last time I had baby birds was annually from 1968-1973 in my wise old grandmother’s yard. I had built a bird house using a Boy Scout handbook and attached it high in our ash tree. A family of screech owls moved in. They are known to use the same nesting site annually, and they did.

Research indicates that it takes 14 days for mourning dove eggs to hatch and another 15 days for the little ones to take off on their own.

Fortunately, I have most of the weeds pulled in this area, and the rest can wait for a month. The presence of momma and, hopefully, two little ones means that any future pictures from my retaining wall gardens will have to be taken through the window in my home office using my 600mm lens. Can’t wait to see how those turn out.

It takes me 4 minutes to walk from the sunny retaining wall gardens back to the home office. By the time I got back inside and looked out the window, momma bird was back on the nest.

momma mourning dove on nest

Where do I cancel?

Out & About

On Saturday, March 14, I drove to Visalia, California, a distance of 327 miles. It was a 10-hour round-trip. My purpose was to speak to the Visalia Succulent Club on Nature’s Geometry in Succulents.

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel Ray

I got to go over The Grapevine, a 40-mile stretch of Interstate 5 over the Tehachapi Mountains from California’s San Joaquin Valley to Grapevine.

The Grapevine

It’s a monster of a road because there’s a lot of semi traffic doing 5-10 mph in the slow lane, and semi traffic doing 10-30 mph in the second lane. Traffic in the other lanes is cruising by at 55-65 mph, with some doing up to 90 mph in the fast lane. The weather can be atrocious because of the height of the mountains, raining at the top (4,000 feet) but clear on both sides, and even snow at some times of the year. Couple the weather with the wide range of speeds, and there always are various accidents.

The meeting was at 6:00 p.m., and since I got there at 10:15 a.m., I had a lot of time to explore. Visalia and its sister city of Exeter were quite beautiful with all the trees that were blooming.

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus sp.)

Flowering Maple (Albutilon sp.)

Redbud trees

Flowering trees

Exeter, with a population of 10,000, had a very cool little downtown area. There were murals on the exterior of 32 buildings. I didn’t find them all, but the following one, #15 and titled “Tracks of Time,” was my favorite.

Tracks of Time

In Exeter, I found a bookstore with lots of local history books, so I bought one, a hard-cover edition of a book that itself is difficult to find.

Visalia Electric Railroad

The bookstore also had a cat. I’m one of those who have to take time out of my busy schedule to pet a cat, so this little one got 15 minutes of love and attention from me. Look at the expression on his face as I told him that I had to go but would make him a Facebook star.

Exeter bookstore kitty

With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, when I got home at 4:00 Sunday morning, I decided to self-isolate, not because I think I might have caught something in the Central California Valley but rather because at my age (65 years and 8 days) and with my high blood pressure; skin cancer and seborrheic keratoses; BPH; and constant coughing, sneezing, and trouble breathing due to a deviated septum from a broken nose sometime in my early childhood (according to the otolaryngologist), I’m in the high-risk category. My constant coughing and sneezing also might cause concern to anyone within hearing distance. I have pills to help control the coughing and sneezing, but I never know how long before they take effect and when they might expire.

I’m keeping a journal of my days at home in self-isolation., trying to keep things in perspective.

Day 1—I have decided to self-isolate. Since I am retired, between watching television (although no sports), gardening (lots of weeds to pull and flora to plant), and taking care of Little Queen Olivia (who doesn’t seem to be real excited about me being home all day), self-isolation shouldn’t be too hard.

Day 2—After a day of drinking margaritas and watching the Hannibal series on Prime TV, I can definitely state that drinking margaritas all day does not make you poop. Thusly, I am out of margaritas, but I have 1,618 rolls of toilet paper.

Day 3—Little Queen Olivia is completely oblivious to the fact that I am home and willing to give belly rubs.
Little Queen Olivia

Day 4—Self-isolation isn’t so bad, but I do find it interesting that there are 8,471 grains of rice in one box and 8,552 grains in the other box.

Day 5—It’s been raining all this week, with 3½ inches these past two days, and it’s raining hard right now. Pulling weeds and planting flora is going very slowly. Ah well, that means I definitely still have things to do during the next nine days of my self isolation.

My self-isolation will end on March 28, and three days later my 90-day free trial of the year 2020 ends. Where do I cancel?

Hope everyone is doing well in these weird times we’re living in.

Out & About—California Living Museum in Bakersfield, California

Out & About

When I was in Bakersfield, California, on February 11-12, 2020, high on my list of places to visit was the California Living Museum, or CALM for short. It specializes in California native fauna and flora.

California Living Museum logo

California Living Museum logo

Although the California Living Museum is only 14 acres with 250 animals representing 80 species, I can highly recommend it.

Keep in mind that I have been a member of zoos, arboretums, aquariums, and animal sanctuaries since I was 13 when my wise old grandmother got me a membership to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. After that it was the San Antonio Zoo and the Houston Zoo. Also keep in mind that I have been a member of the San Diego Zoo since May 1993.

When I was searching for things to do in Bakersfield and found the California Living Museum, I immediately compared it to the San Diego Zoo at 99 acres, 3,700 animals, and 650 species, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park at 1,800 acres, 3,500+ animals, and 400+ species.

I had convinced myself that I would be disappointed, but I just cannot bear to miss a zoo, arboretum, or sanctuary, so off I went, thinking that since it specialized in California native flora and fauna, maybe I would see something that I had never seen before. At $10, the price was right, too!

I spent four hours at CALM, which breaks down to $2.50 per hour. That’s entertainment that doesn’t break the bank!

Following are some of my best pictures of CALM.

Seeing a saguaro (Carnegia gigantea) in the parking lot gave me great hope
and it only got better.California Living Museum

California Living Museum

California Living Museum

Barrel cactus
Barrel cactus

Northern Mojave Rattlesnake
Northern Mojave Rattlesnake

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake

Sidewinder
Sidewinder

Sonoran Gopher Snake
Sonoran Gopher Snake

Chuckwalla
Chuckwalla

Desert Iguana
Desert Iguana

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise

Desert Bighorn SheepDesert Bighorn Sheep

CoyoteCoyote

Mountain Lion
Mountain lion

Mountain lion

Nelson’s Antelope Squirrel
Nelson's Antelope Squirrel

Roadrunner
Roadrunner

Turkey
Turkey

Western Scrub Jay
Western Scrub Jay

Barn Owl
Barn Owl

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

California Living Museum

Did you notice that I got a picture of both a coyote and a roadrunner?

Coyote and roadrunner

Picture of the Moment—Cactus Cats

Picture of the Moment

There is a feral colony of cats living in San Diego’s Balboa Park in one of the cactus gardens.

I call them the “Cactus Cats.”

Here are five of them keeping watch over the cactus:

Cactus Cats of Balboa Park

Out & About—Puma concolor

Out & About

I spoke to the Bakersfield Cactus & Succulent Society on February 11, 2020, about nature’s geometry in succulents, and spoke on the same subject at the San Gabriel Valley Cactus & Succulent Society on February 13.

Bakersfield is a 4-hour drive from me, and the Los Angeles County Arboretum where San Gabriel Valley Cactus & Succulent Society meets, is a 3-hour drive, so it’s not like I was going to come home after Bakersfield and then drive back to Los Angeles through all that horrendous traffic.

Thus, I spent Wednesday out and about Bakersfield, exploring trains, zoos, arboretums and gardens, and the campus of California State University-Bakersfield.

Bakersfield has a zoo and arboretum by the name of California Living Museum, or CALM for short. It specializes in California native fauna and flora.

I have been a member of zoos, arboretums, aquariums, and animal sanctuaries since I was 13 when my wise old grandmother got me a membership to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. After that it was the San Antonio Zoo and Houston Zoo.

I came to San Diego, California, in April 1993, and as soon as I decided to stay (took three days!), I immediately joined the San Diego Zoo, and I have been a member ever since.

The California Living Museum is only 14 acres with 250 animals representing 80 species. I could not find any information on the number of plant species.

Compare that to the San Diego Zoo at 99 acres, 3,700 animals, and 650 species. Compare both to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park at 1,800 acres, 3,500+ animals, and 400+ species. Consequently, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I really thought that it would take no more than 90 minutes or so to check out everything.

I was wrong!

It took four hours!

Seeing native California animals was great, especially those that I had not seen before, such as coyotes, various rattlesnakes, coatamundi (still don’t know what that is!), and the beautiful mountain lion (Puma concolor).

Although the San Diego Zoo has a mountain lion, it’s a lazy ass cat and always is sleeping in its cave whenever I go by. The one at CALM was perched on a rock watching the people who were watching it. I got my best picture ever of this beautiful big kitty:

Mountain lion

Would you look at that tail!

I will have more pictures of this beautiful and impressive little zoo in future posts.

As an aside, I know I have readers who despise zoos and aquariums. All of the fauna at CALM are in three categories:

    1. Animals that are injured and unable to hunt or defend themselves, so they cannot be released back into the wild.
    2. Animals that have been rescued from the illegal pet trade. When animals are taken from their territory, returning them to a different territory usually means their death, either from not knowing where to hunt in their territory or being killed by other animals defending that territory. Since it is unknown where their territory was, they can’t be released back into the wild.
    3. Animals that have been imprinted. This sometimes happens when injured animals are rescued and treated for their injuries. One always hopes for their complete recovery and return to the wild, but sometimes the animal becomes too accustomed to humans providing for its food, health, and safety, a condition known as imprinting.

Without zoos, aquariums, and sanctuaries, these animals would probably be euthanized. Instead, they can live out their lives in comfort. There also is quite a lot of research indicating that people won’t (or can’t) spend the money and time to make a trip to the wild to see these animals, but to see them in zoos, aquariums, and sanctuaries often turns people into animal activists and conservationists. I also met one San Diego Zoo employee who told me that she visited the Zoo when she was 8 years old. She decided she wanted to work there one day. She got a degree in biology and has worked at the Zoo for 17 years.

Mountain lion