Category Archives: Fauna

Sometimes you just need in your life….

….a flower.

Passion flower

….a hummingbird sitting among the flowers.

Hummingbird sitting among the flowers

….flowers cheering you on.

Cheerleading flowers

….an arctic fox.

Arctic fox

….a sunset in the east.

Sunset in the east

….a spider.

Spider

Sorry about that last one there…………..

Still sad

My wise old grandmother

My wise old grandmother adopted me in December 1965 when I was three months short of 11. She was the only person who wanted me since I was a juvenile delinquent and then residing in the Troubled Youth program at the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in Ogden, Utah.

I learned a lot from her about life, responsibility, gardening, plants, and compassion for animals. She was the person who captured flies and returned them to the outdoors. Captured snakes, rats, mice, roaches, spiders, and lizards, and returned them to the outdoors.

When she knew that she was dying, she asked me if there was anything I wanted to ask her. I did. I wanted to know how she kept ants from getting into the house. She practiced things like rinsing off dishes immediately after Earthgro decorative groundcover barka meal, keeping sugar in a container rather than in the store package, keeping cereal in containers as well, rinsing honey residue off the container before putting it back in the cupboard, and spreading fine mulch around the exterior of the house. Her experiential evidence indicated that ants and snails didn’t like crawling on fine mulch. Larger sizes didn’t bother them.

I follow in her footsteps, capturing anything inside that belongs outside and returning it outside. I have watched the Nature Channel and many nature documentaries. I know how cruel and unforgiving the food chain can be, but I guess as long as I don’t have to watch it in person, I’m okay.

Yesterday, Little Queen Olivia took a position in front of the dresser, refusing to budge. Very strange behavior, so I got the idea that, perhaps, there was a lizard behind the dresser. Instead I found a young rat. I know it was a young rat because it was only about four inches long with just a four-inch tail. The rats we have out here in the East San Diego County boondocks are huge, the size of opossums.

I tried capturing the rat, but all I did was encourage it to move to a different corner behind the bed where it was much more difficult to try to get to, especially for one person. I called pest control hoping for a humane way to capture the rat and move it outside. They recommended glue traps. The rat gets stuck to the glue trap and then they take it back to their office, use a mineral oil to soften and remove the glue, and then return the creature to the outside.

However, due to the arrangement of the room, as well as the furniture, he also set a few regular snap traps just in case the rat avoided the glue traps. Well, said rat did avoid the glue traps but didn’t make it past the snap tracks.

I felt so bad. While the rat was squished behind the bed headbord, I had been shining a light on it, making eye contact, and talking to it, ensuring it that I would help it get back to the outdoors. The poor little rat was so frightened, and it’s little eyes seemed to plead with me not to kill it.

Sadly, now it is dead.

I interrupted the food chain. There might be a coyote or raptor that went hungry yesterday.

Do I worry too much?

All during the ordeal, Little Queen Olivia was endeavoring to help. I didn’t get the impression that she wanted to kill it. I thought that she simply wanted it removed from her domain.

I know how the rat got in, and I’ve taken care of that.

I also believe that the rat got in sometime on Saturday, January 11. Little Queen Olivia was telling me because she took a position during the day next to the entry spot. At night she didn’t sleep on the bed like she usually does, preferring to run up and down the hall. I now believe she was chasing the rat. There also was the fact that suddenly she was eating half a bowl of dry food during the night. I’m thinking the rat was eating the food.

Last night, Little Queen Olivia slept on the bed again, not running up and down the hallway, and not eating half a bowl of dry food.

Little Queen Olivia is back to her pre-rat self. Problems solved. Still sad.

Olivia on a window sill watching a rabbit

I think I have stumbled

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel RayI had so much fun three months this past summer while I was writing my book, Nature’s Geometry: Succulents, that I decided recently to write another book, tentatively titled SSS: Southwest Succulent Staycation. However, in order to write that book, I have to visit quite a few places in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah to take pictures.

If I’m going to leave home and drive for a long distance, I would prefer to do a lot of things on the same trip. For example, to get to Utah, I have to go through Nevada. I’d rather not make one trip to Utah and then another trip to Nevada.

That started me thinking, which always is dangerous with me.

PR flyerI decided I would simply catalog all the pictures I do have to make it easier to decide what areas I actually need to go to take pictures. While I’m doing that, I also can send my Nature’s Geometry: Succulents flyer to all the horticulture clubs, plant clubs, gardening clubs, and cactus & succulent clubs in those four states in an effort to get invited to make a presentation to their clubs.

If the Ogden Garden Club invites me, I could turn that into a photographic journey and visit a lot of places in Utah on the way to Ogden.

A presentation to the Tucson Cactus & Succulent Society would allow me to visit Organ Pipe National Monument, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and so many other treat places in Arizona that are on my list.

All of that is well and good, but that would mean I wouldn’t be writing a book until 2021 or 2022. I could be pretty bored between now and then. As I was cataloging some pictures, I got the idea for a shorter book that could be written immediately. Then the mail arrived, bringing three books that I had ordered; two of them pretty much are useless for my purposes. The third, however, confirmed my idea. It’s titled Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.

Growing Patterns

The book is only 32 pages and the text is in a half-inch font. Very little text, mostly pictures. In other words, it’s a children’s book.

A-ha! (not the group).

A children’s book! It would be much easier to write and I could begin immediately after a few more dreams…. Yes, dreams.

Whenever I need to think deeply about something, I go to bed when I’m not tired. Thus, I won’t fall asleep. I’ll simply dream about what I want to do, and additional ideas pop into my mind.

I guess it’s a form of daydreaming since I’m what the medical community calls a polyphasic sleeper. In other words, I never sleep more than three or four hours, and that’s very rare. Usually I take a 30-60 minute nap and then work for 3-4 hours. Repeat throughout the day, every day, 24/7, 365 days (except in leap years, 366 days).

I have had several dreams about this idea so far and I’m almost settled on what I want to do: A children’s book titled (tentatively) Numbers, Letters, Colors & Shapes: Nature helps your child learn.

I’m thinking for ages up to 8. I’ll entertain comments about the age.

Stapelia grandifloraNumbers could be the numbers of petals in a flower, number of plants in a landscape, number of tree branches….

Letters could be apple, bear, cat, dog, elephant, fox, goat, horse, igloo….

I could get flora and fauna representing every color on a color wheel….

There are so many shapes in flora and fauna: circles, stars, triangles….

Since it is a children’s book, it should be rather short. Letters would need to be at least 26 pages, so maybe this idea could morph into four children’s books:

        1. Nature Teaches
          Numbers
        2. Nature Teaches
          Letters
        3. Nature Teaches
          Colors
        4. Nature Teaches
          Shapes

Gyrfalcon at Hawk Watch in Ramona CA on 1/5/19I might be able to make this into 8 books:

        1. Animals Teach
          Numbers
        2. Animals Teach
          Letters
        3. Animals Teach
          Colors
        4. Animals Teach
          Shapes
        5. Plants Teach
          Numbers
        6. Plants Teach
          Letters
        7. Plants Teach
          Colors
        8. Plants Teach
          Shapes

I think I might have stumbled upon a way to use the billions of pictures I have!

The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden—A Review

The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden
A Review

Hippos at the Los Angeles ZooI became a fan of zoos after my first visit to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, in summer 1966. If I had never seen a giraffe, or an elephant, or a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus…. I never would have taken such an interest in their plight in the world.

Chimpanzees at the Los Angeles ZooA couple of years later, a real live monkey showed up in our yard. My wise old grandmother told me to give it a banana. I though that was only in cartoons. The darn thing ate it. And as with just about any animal, if you feed it, it’s yours.

That monkey stayed in the trees in our back yard for several months. I named it Cheetah.

Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical GardenThen, one day, people showed up to take Cheetah. They were people from the San Antonio Zoo. A monkey was considered an exotic pet, and exotic pets were not allowed in Kingsville, Texas. We had to let them capture Cheetah and take him away.

When San Antonio hosted Hemisfair in 1968, I convinced my wise old grandmother to take me to San Antonio. Sure I wanted to go to Hemisfair, but more importantly to this little boy, I wanted to go to the San Antonio Zoo to see Cheetah.

Serval at the Los Angeles ZooI don’t know whether or not Cheetah recognized me, but to this day I believe he did. All one has to do is watch YouTube videos about animals recognizing those who rescued them, fed them, and cared for them, even after being separated from them for weeks, months, and, in one case, 11 years. Yeah, our animals that we care for know who we are.

Los Angeles ZooYesterday, Jim and I went to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden. I had never been to the Los Angeles Zoo, but since I have been going to the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park on a regular basis for 26½ years, I already knew that the Los Angeles Zoo didn’t have anything that I had not already seen. Thus, my main interest was in the Botanical Garden aspect of the zoo with the possible intent of including a section in my forthcoming book, SSS: Southwest Succulent Staycation.

Ostrich at the Los Angeles ZooThe Los Angeles Zoo opened in 1966, so it’s about fifty years younger than the San Diego Zoo. However, at 133 acres, it is 33 acres larger. However, there are only about 1,400 animals residing at the Los Angeles Zoo. After walking the whole zoo yesterday, I would guess that about 70 acres is simply unused land. Jim and I always are tired after a trip to the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t experience that after walking the Los Angeles Zoo.

Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical GardenI was disappointed in the zoo but I might be unreasonably comparing it to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. The L.A. Zoo was quite busy yesterday. However, it needs a serious cleaning, including a parking lot renovation. The asphalt probably is the original asphalt from when the zoo opened in 1966. The whole place was overgrown with weeds. Deciduous trees had dropped all their leaves; unfortunately, all over the exhibits, making a mess of them, making a mess of any horticultural exhibits beneath the trees, making a mess of the various play areas for children.

Notwithstanding all the problems, there were several things that made the visit worthwhile:

      1. I now have been to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden.
      2. The birds show was excellent because it featured birds that you won’t be seeing in your back yard: two African vultures (huge birds!) and a California Condor (another huge bird!)
      3. Although many of the botanical gardens were weedy and covered with leaves, I did get enough good pictures for my book.
      4. The giraffe feeding line was very long, and having fed the giraffes at the San Diego Zoo, I can tell you that feeding giraffes is quite an experience. This final picture shows a little girl feeding a giraffe. I believe this little girl will grow up with an appreciation of wildlife—my appreciation of wildlife started by feeding a monkey. Perhaps this little girl will get a college degree in wildlife conservation, maybe even work in a zoo providing this type of experience to the next generation.

Feeding a giraffe at the Los Angeles Zoo

All pictures in this post were taken by me
at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden
on December 29, 2019.

Will always miss Zoey the Cool Cat

Cats

On June 23, 2019, at 6:35 p.m., I was holding Zoey the Cool Cat in my arms at the vet’s office. She let out a final little snort as her head nestled into the crook of my arm and she started her journey over the Rainbow Bridge.

Will always miss the Cool Cat. She brought so much joy and laughter into my life with my husband, Jim.

Following are ten of my favorite pictures of her. The first was taken about three hours after we had brought her home from the El Cajon Animal Shelter on September 21, 2007. Her name was Zoey, but I added “the Cool Cat” after taking the picture. I think she had decided to stay in our home.

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat on a pedastal

Zoey the Cool Cat stamp

Zoey the Cool Cat stalking a mourning dove

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat enjoying her catio

Zoey the Cool Cat, Olympic boxing champion

Merry Christmas!

Zoey the Cool Cat

If you are new to my blog
and would like to know more about
Zoey the Cool Cat,
here are all my blog posts featuring her.
Here are my three posts about her final days,

I hope it’s in my yard!

Little Queen Olivia

Update on Little Queen Olivia.

It took 3 days of over-the-counter medicine—medicine for humans recommended by a vet!—but the little queen is back to her rambunctious, psychotic little self.

She is back enjoying her catio, and I have been watching her closely. Yesterday she was on the catio chair intently staring up at a corner.

Little Queen Olivia

She looked like she was saying prayers to the Great Cat. I looked up in the corner several times to see what she was watching.

Nothing.

Finally, I saw it.

The largest praying mantis I had ever seen. Only the fourth one I have seen in the 26½ years I have been in California, and all of them in the last 2½ years out here in the East San Diego County boondocks.

Here it is after I rescued it from the catio and relocated it outside.

Praying mantis

I’m not a biologist by any stretch of the imagination, but I think that praying mantis is a gal, and I do believe she is pregnant, perhaps looking for some place to lay some eggs. I hope it’s in my yard!

The third praying mantis I saw was one day earlier. It was outside on one of the windows of our bedroom. You know I rushed outside with my Canon camera to get a picture, yes?

Praying mantis

We have dual-pane windows, which created interesting shadows. The first shadow was on the outside pane, and then there was a shadow of the shadow on the inside pane. Pretty cool. The little black dot in the lower left is a little fly, obviously being stalked by that praying mantis.

SNIPPETS (11/22/2019)

Snippets

SNIPPET 1

How come WordPress does not yet have an icon for changing text size? I still have to go into the HTML code and change the text size manually. Every other program I use has an easy way to change text size….

SNIPPET 2

When I was a sophomore at Texas A&M University in 1974, I was enthralled by the Nixon impeachment. The only other impeached president was Andrew Johnson in 1868. It had been over 100 years.

Although Nixon resigned rather than being impeached, I found the workings of the United States government under its Constitution to be fascinating. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that, within a mere 45 years, two more presidents, Clinton and the current president would be impeached.

Granted, the current president, whose name I have not uttered since November 9, 2016—I call him Twitler because he likes to destroy people using Twitter; Hitler on Twitter—has not yet been impeached, but considering all I have read and heard about the impeachment hearings, I believe he will be impeached before Christmas Day. It might even be faster because the people in charge of impeaching him—the House of Representatives—have to get home for Christmas. Actually, when I think about that, impeachment might happen before Thanksgiving!

Of course, impeachment simply means that the Grand Jury—the House of Representatives in this case—believes there is enough evidence to impeach (indict) him. The trial occurs in the Senate, and at this point I cannot see Twitler being convicted.

SNIPPET 3

I legally changed my name in 2004, dropping my last name and taking my middle name as my last name. I’m about convinced to change my name again, this time to Doctor Doctor so that I’ll know that Robert Palmer really is singing about me.

Previously, the only group to ever sing about me was the Bee Gees with “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”:

Did you hear it? Right at the 1:43 mark: “I can still feel the breeze that russels through the trees.”

SNIPPET 4

Over on Facebook there’s a meme trending that has a woman screaming at a white cat. I find the cat’s response each time to be quite funny, so I decided to make a contribution:

White cat meme

SNIPPET 5

Since I’m now making a concerted effort to do things with my photography using three business names—Russel Ray Photos, Photographic Art, and Double R Creations—I’m being more active on Instagram and with my Russel Ray Photos page on Facebook. You can follow me on those two platforms.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/russel_ray_photos/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/russelrayphotos/

I’m very political, but not on Instagram or that Facebook page. I do have a personal Facebook page where I am very political. ALL. DAY. LONG.

SNIPPET 6

I should have another calendar at my Etsy shop by the end of 11/22/2019, this one on birds. This picture of a peacock and a white-faced whistling duck will be my cover photo:

2020 Birds calendar, front cover

I put that picture on Facebook and those commenting were only too ready to provide captions. Two of my favorites:

    • Misplaced flirting
    • “Can’t whistle? Not interested.”

I have so many great bird pictures that I’m pretty sure I’m going to do at least two bird calendars. Possibly even three.

SNIPPET 7

The rainy season arrived on 11/19/2019. So far there has been 5.25 inches of rain in three days. When I went to the garage yesterday morning in the wind & rain, a rabbit took off in front of me. It was slipping and sliding as it tried desperately to get away from me as quickly as possible. Poor thing. I looked at where it had been and found a big pile of poop. Upon closer examination, turns out it’s not poop. Just the ugliest mushrooms ever have I seen.

Ugly mushrooms

SNIPPET 8

I like to go into the gardens right after it’s rained and take macro pictures of raindrops on plants. Key phrase in that sentence is AFTER IT’S RAINED.

The rain just won’t stop, and I’m not willing to trod around in the water and mud with my expensive Canon 760d and expensive macro lens. So here’s one of my favorite macro raindrops on cactus photos. Taken on 3/23/2018 at 7:55 a.m., so it must have rained the previous day and/or night.

Raindrops on cactus macro picture

As I was focusing on that picture, I initially had wanted every to be in focus, but then I saw that first rain drop twinkling at me (just barely visible at WordPress resolutions), so I decided to focus on it and let everything else be a little less sharp.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a calendar featuring macro pictures.

SNIPPET 9

Another bird from my 2020 Birds calendar. Who knew that some birds were flashers?

Great blue heron flashing

SNIPPET 10

The resolution of the following picture isn’t good enough for my calendar at 12″x8″, but at a smaller size it’s fine.

Condor

Once again, Facebook users came through with captions:

    • And the great bird said, “Come unto me. Kneel, all ye who gaze upon my face.”
    • “Common, ladies. Look at this plumage! This wing span! Let’s do this!”

SNIPPET 11

After I graduated from high school in May 1973, I quit celebrating holidays. I never liked them, finding them too artificial. With that said, though, Thanksgiving (when we celebrate the beginning of one of the great genocides in human history) is next week. I do believe I shall have some turkey wine for Thanksgiving this year.

Turkey wine and feeling fine

SNIPPET 12

My retirement years are allowing me to catch up on movies and television shows that I have missed since 1973. For both my train friends and my history friends, I can highly recommend the TV series, “Hell On Wheels.” It’s about the building of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. People and events are historical facts with only the unknown added or minute details changed. A very intriguing series. Available on Netflix.

Hell On Wheels