Category Archives: Nature

Picture of the Moment—My, what big ears you have!

Picture of the Moment

There are two main reasons why I have an annual pass to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park:

1 – I don’t have to try to get my money’s worth whenever I go.

2 – Not all critters are out at all times of the day or all days of the week, so on any specific visit I might see something that I haven’t seen before, or perhaps get a better picture.

The Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda) is a great example.

Fossa

This little one is located in the children’s zoo at the San Diego Zoo. Since I never had (never wanted) children, I used to never go into the children’s zoo. One day I did and found all sorts of interesting critters that are not in the “adult” sections of the zoo. Now I always make a trip into the children’s section to see what’s new.

The Fennec Fox rarely is visible, preferring his little hideaway hole in his exhibit area. This time he was just laying out on that pad and watching me. I told him I was going to make him an Internet star; I’m sure he heard me with those big ears but he just looked at me with those little eyes. Meh.

The Fennec Fox is the smallest of the world’s foxes. It lives in the sandy Sahara Desert and surrounding areas in North Africa. They are nocturnal, which helps them deal with the desert heat. And if you’re wondering why such a small fox as such big ears, it’s the better to hear you with…. Actually, their large ears radiate body heat to help keep them cool. Their long, thick fur insulates them during cold nights and protects them from hot sun during the day. They also have hairy feet which act similarly to snowshoes, protecting them from the hot sand.

Fennec foxes live in communities of about 10 individuals in underground dens. Males mark their territory with urine and are quite aggressive when mating season arrives.

They are opportunistic eaters, which I guess one has to be if one lives in a desert, preferring plants but also eating rodents, eggs, reptiles, and insects. As with most desert dwellers, the fennec fox can go long periods without water. Little is known about the status of wild fennec fox populations; I mean, who wants to live in the desert for an extended period of time studying little critters that live underground?

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post.

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We moved to the boondocks!

I live in my own little world

So our live-in-the-sky experiment came to an end yesterday. It lasted 2 years and 3 months. For the first few months it was kind of neat to live high up but then the 45 stairs to get to the front door became burdensome. Sunrises from the home office were spectacular.

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Sadly, though, there was no wildlife 50 feet up in the sky—no lizards, no snakes, no spiders, no bugs, no birds. Well, alright, one mourning dove did come to visit us in the 27 months we lived there.

Our new homeOur new home is in the boondocks, which is kind of funny since the city of La Mesa had 60,00o people crammed into 9.1 square miles. Out here in the boondocks, we live in El Cajon (ka-hone), a city of 104,000 crammed into 14.48 square miles. So the population density actually is greater in El Cajon, 7,163 people per square mile, versus La Mesa’s 6,592.

Maybe it’s the outskirts, where we lived and live, that is the difference. A-ha! (not the group). Google Maps indicates that we don’t even live in El Cajon. That’s simply the post office that delivers our mail. Google Maps indicates that we live in Winter Gardens, which is a census-designated place in San Diego County. In other words, an unincorporated area. In other words, THE BOONDOCKS!

The Boondocks

We’re at the end of a street, not a true cul-de-sac, but we only have one neighbor. The other three sides are hills. At night it is quiet quiet quiet. We kind of like it since the street we lived on in La Mesa was noisy noisy noisy, even with dual-pane windows. We also have a nice oversized 2-car garage. We haven’t had a nice garage since March 2007.

I don’t know who loves it best out here, me or Zoey the Cool Cat (ZCC). The old place was 684 square feet (we downsized too much) and the new place is 1,440 square feet. Our largest home was 3,984 square feet on 1.83 acres of land, too big for just two people. This new place feels just right for the queen and her staff of two.

ZCC has 14 low-sill windows where she can watch all the wildlife, and after 11 days here (hmmm, same number of days that Scaramucci was employed by Twitler………), she knows where the sunny spots are, the sunny windows, and, of course, the wildlife. There’s a difference between dawn, day, and dusk wildlife, so she has to go to different windows. There are a few billion rabbits, another billion ground squirrels, only a million fence lizards, and then birds of all types, with ravens and raptors prevailing. Sometimes the ground squirrels come to see ZCC.

Following are some pictures of the wildlife and, of course, the queen adjusting to her new palace. It’s all about the queen….

Common garden wolf spider found its way inside.
It was returned to the outside where it could become food for….Common garden wolf spider

….California quail, the state bird.

I built a cat box for ZCC whereby she can go through a cat door
in the window and sit outside while still being protected.
This ground squirrel came up to see ZCC in her cat box,
which is the blurred white in the lower right.
They are just a couple of feet from each other.
Ground squirrelZCC helping me put together our new desks,
although she’s more interested in the tennis match
on our new 49″ 4K TV than she is actually helping me.Zoey the Cool Cat

ZCC exploring the new digs.
Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

ZCC helping me populate the bookshelves.
Zoey the Cool Cat

Like any cat, ZCC likes to help unpack things.
Zoey the Cool Cat

Once all the work is done, of course, one has to sleep,
and ZCC has lots of options for that vital task.
Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About—Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA

Out & About

Escrow has closed and the move has started. We shall be completely in our new home on August 1, 2017. Meanwhile….

I’m still cataloging pictures on my fine fine fine new super computer, and probably will be for many more months, perhaps even years. That’s how many pictures I have. In an effort to get caught up on cataloging my newer pictures, here is a collection of pictures from the Ramona Grasslands.

Baby and, presumably, mama ground squirrel
Mama and baby squirrel, Ramona Grasslands

Hippity-hopping Peter Cottontail
Hippity-hopping Peter Cottontail, Ramona Grasslands

Mourning Dove
I know many people consider mourning doves
to be up there with pigeons as pest birds but I like both.
Mourning dove, Ramona Grasslands

Unknown flower buds
Unknown flower buds, Ramona Grasslands

Magnificent home overlooking the grasslands
Magnificent home overlooking the Ramona Grasslands

Patch of unknown purple flowers
Patch of unknown purple flowers, Ramona Grasslands

Unknown bird
Unknown bird, Ramona Grasslands

Unknown flower
Unknown flower, Ramona Grasslands

Immature (probably Anna’s) hummingbird
Immature hummingbird, Ramona Grasslands

Public art
Public art, Ramona Grasslands

More unknown, but beautiful, flowers
Unknown purple flowers, Ramona Grasslands

Airplane taking off from nearby Ramona airport
Airplane taking off from Ramona airport near Ramona Grasslands

Relaxing tree and pond
Relaxing pond and tree, Ramona Grasslands

Patch of thistle
Such a beautiful flower, but like roses,
oh can those thorns cause pain!
Patch of thistle, Ramona Grasslands

Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA
Rramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA

Ground squirrel sentry
Ground squire sentry, Ramona Grasslands

Brahma
One of the best ways to maintain the health of an ecosystem
is to let Mother & Father Nature use it as they see fit.
The Brahma was the mascot of my high school,
Henrietta M. King High in Kingsville, Texas,
so I was pleasantly surprised to find a herd of Brahma
grazing and resting on the Ramona Grasslands Preserve.
Brahma, Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA

Abandoned cattle chute
Abandoned cattle chute, Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA

Unknown raptor
Unknown raptor, Ramona Grasslands

A different unknown raptor
Unknown raptor, Ramona Grasslands

Bird unable to read
No parking, Ramona Grasslands

Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA
Rramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA
Rramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA

The Ramona Grasslands Preserve consists of 3,521 acres in the Santa Maria Valley and includes a significant portion of the remaining undeveloped are of the Santa Maria Creek watershed. The watershed supports a mosaic of habitat types, including native and non-native grasslands, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, oak woodlands, Santa Maria Creek, its adjacent riparian area, and a diversity of unique vernal pools, vernal swales, and alkali playas.

Many rare animals make their homes in the grasslands, including Stephens’ kangaroo rat (oh how I want to get a picture of one of them!), fairy shrimp, purple stipa, blue-eyed grass, and woolly blue curls. There is a huge concentration of raptors in the area, no doubt because of all the small critters available for a raptor family reunion picnic.

There is a four-mile loop trail which is where all my pictures were taken, and I can highly recommend taking a leisurely stroll on the loop. Invariably, you’ll meet other walkers, bikers, and joggers.

Part of the mission for the Preserve is to provide passive recreation opportunities within the Preserve that further the development of the Coast to Crest Trail.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Picture of the Moment—Finest and most bestest ever!

Picture of the Moment

My wise old grandmother had lots of hummingbird feeders throughout the trees in her yard, and ever since I got my hands on an SLR camera in 1966, I have been trying to get a halfway decent picture of a hummingbird in flight.

Yesterday I took my new Tamron 150-600mm lens to Balboa Park for a walk around the many gardens. I knew where the hummingbirds hung out so I was hoping to get a chance to try out the lens on those fast flyers.

I switched my camera settings to AI Servo focusing for to better track fast-moving objects, set it to use the 19-point autofocus system, and set it to take up to five pictures per second, and went to work.

Following is one of the pictures I came home with.  I rank it right up there at #1, bestest and mostest fine fine fine Russel Ray hummingbird photo ever.

Hummingbird in flight

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About—I guess they are planning for a population boom

Out & About

The first time I went to the Mojave Desert was during the Summer of 1973 when I went with two friends (Jaime and Larry) on a tour of the United States west of the Mississippi River. Since we lived in South Texas, a desert in its own right, the Mojave didn’t really interest me, at least not near as much as San Francisco, Oakland (home of the Raiders and A’s), Los Angeles, and San Diego. The only reason we were going there was to visit Death Valley, which has the lowest point in the lower states and the highest recorded temperature of 134°F (July 10, 1913).

Now that I am a couple of years older, I have a greater appreciation for the deserts, finding them quite interesting. For some reason, though, they still are quite hot, so i don’t visit them often.

In early February, I was in the western reaches of the Mojave Desert tracking trains that have to get through the desert to points east. Here are a few pictures of what I found in the Mojave Desert:

California Aqueduct & Lake PalmdaleCalifornia Aqueduct & Lake Palmdale

Seems kind of odd to build an open-air aqueduct in one of the hottest places on Earth.

The desert seemed to be one huge dumping ground. Trash was everywhere, and I’m not talking about litter. I’m talking about huge items abandoned as trash. The beauty of the Mojave Desert was ruined in so many places.

Sofa bed dumped in the desert

Trash in the Mojave Desert

Trash in Mojave Desert

Winfield’s Custom Shop had the most interesting advertising sign.

Winfield's Custom Shop

When Winfield says “custom,” I think he means it. Check out this custom police car:

Custom police car

Wind farms were everywhere. Many people find them ugly but I find them strangely fascinating and beautiful.

Mojave Desert wind farm

Notice the snow-capped mountains in the picture above. This is the high desert, and although it gets extraordinarily hot and has little precipitation, the mountain peaks are high enough that they can get snow on them in the winter.

I saw Edwards Air Force Base where the Space Shuttle would land when bad weather prevented a Florida landing at Cape Canaveral. More snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Edwards Air Force Base

My little hometown of Kingsville TX had numbered streets all the way up to 17th Street, paved with concrete and asphalt, and houses lining both sides of the street. Out in the Mojave Desert, it’s a little different.

233rd Street East

233rd Street East

You might be inclined to think, “Well, obviously it’s a new street.” Doesn’t matter. Every street from 1st Street East to 233rd Street East looked exactly like that. I guess they are planning for a population boom. I don’t think it’s coming. I did not bother trying to find 233rd Street West.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

This post approved by
This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

A short history of (my) pets

Halls of History

I grew up with animals of every kind—ponies, donkeys, dogs, cats, a monkey, snakes, rats, skunks, opossums, raccoons, birds, mice, rats, fish, bugs. If it moved, it interested me.

I always considered myself a dog person, though, simply because my dogs would follow me around, roll over on command, sit, shake, and lie at my feet wherever I was. It was obvious that my dogs loved me. The other animals, no so much.

My first dog was a mutt named Bosco. I don’t have a picture of him. He was an alley dog, roaming wherever he wanted to go. One day he didn’t come home. I’m pretty sure he simply died; he was an old dog at that time.

I didn’t have another dog until I graduated from Texas A&M University and moved to Houston. I got two dogs, both purebred Beagles from the same litter. I named them “Union” and “Pacific” after the Union Pacific Railroad. Yes, I was weird even then. One day I came home from work and my apartment was open with fire, police, and apartment personnel rushing in an out. Union and Pacific had pooped in the bathtub (just like I had taught them to) but then had managed to turn the water on. The dog poop clogged the drain and the apartment flooded. I was upstairs, so water was leaking into the apartment below me and the roof in their unit collapsed. Fortunately everyone had insurance which covered us, but I either had to give up Union and Pacific, or move. I couldn’t afford to move at that point.

Finally, three years later, I did move. My Houston rent had gotten to a dollar a square foot, so I picked up and moved back to College Station where I was hoping to get a job with Texas A&M University so I could get that awesome state-supplied health insurance. I did. That was when I bought a duplex and got two dogs, Penney, a Long-haired Dachsund, and Sugar, a Chow Chow/Besenji mix. The only Chow Chow part of Sugar was her purple tongue.

Penney and Sugar

One day when I was preparing to leave on my motorcycle, Sugar jumped up on the seat. I took a few minutes and left her on the back seat and drove around the neighborhood fully expecting her to jump off and run home. Nope. She stayed. Happiest dog in the world.

Sugar the motorcycle riding dog

Since she was so happy, I took time out each day to take her for longer, and faster, motorcycle rides. Eventually she rode with me on the highway at 65 mph from College Station to Waco, a distance of about 90 miles. She was the best backseat rider ever, keeping her head pinned to my side and watching the road to determine which way she should lean into the upcoming curve.

On April 15, 1993, I left College Station on a suicide journey (see my unsuccessful suicide journey post here). I gave Sugar and Penney to a friend and never saw them again. I also lost contact with the friend, so I don’t know what happened to Sugar and Penney, or how long they lived.

From 1993 to 2007 I was too mobile and too into work to have a pet, although I did have several aquariums, even a 300-gallon aquarium full of African cichlids. Then, on Thanksgiving Day 2007, a black cat came to visit. Jim and I gave it food and water. It ate and drank, and left. Didn’t even bother saying “Thank you!” or “Goodbye!”

On Christmas Eve, it came back. Imagine that, a cat that knows human holidays!Sophie the Black Cat

Jim and I gave it food and water again, it ate and drank, and stayed. We named her Sophie.

We moved 8 months later and took her with us, all the while trying to make her into an indoor cat. Didn’t work. When darkness came, she would howl like a coyote until we let her out. She always came home, though, until the morning of September 20, 2007. No Sophie. A phone call at 7:30 a.m. No one calls me at 7:30 a.m. It was the worst phone call ever. A neighbor a couple of blocks over had found a black cat that had been hit and killed by a car. She had moved the cat out of the road, saw the collar tag, and called me. I went to retrieve the body and give it a proper burial, out near the house we had just sold, her old neighborhood.

Sophie grave

I was so devastated with the loss of Sophie, and how she died, that Jim and I immediately went to the El Cajon Animal Shelter to get another cat. We wanted an older cat that was an indoor cat, but I also wanted a cat that would let me hold it and pet it. We found Zoey, but she wouldn’t be ready to adopt until the next day. We were there 10 minutes before they opened, signed the adoption papers and paid the adoption fee, and brought Zoey home. Three hours after she arrived in our home, I captured this picture:

Zoey the Cool Cat

That was when I renamed Zoey, adding “the Cool Cat” so that she became Zoey the Cool Cat.

At first, having a 100% indoor cat was difficult. One of the reasons why I never considered myself a cat person was because cats like to jump up on things, climb on things, climb up things, and study gravy by knocking anything and everything to the floor. About the same time that I was getting really frustrated, a new show made its debut on cable: “My Cat From Hell” featuring Jackson Galaxy. I will admit that I judged a book by its cover and as soon as I saw Jackson, I said, “No way!” Yes way.

I learned from Jackson that cats are vertical animals. They like to climb. Once I was able to accept that and help Zoey the Cool Cat (ZCC), she and I became much better friends. I catified my house so that ZCC has vertical places she can go with no questions asked. I even have a special cat shelf in front of a window in each room. She loves them.

Zoey the Cool Cat on her window shelf

I also found out through Jackson Galaxy and “Pets Rule” at SeaWorld San Diego that you can train cats. I had never believed that. ZCC can go anywhere she wants except the top of the railing on the balcony (don’t want her falling off), the grand piano (just no), the leather sofa (don’t want cat claw holes in the leather), the kitchen counters (that’s where I prepare food), and the top of the refrigerator. Actually, she can go to the top of the refrigerator if she can figure out how to get there without making an intermediate stop on the kitchen counters.

Cats will react to a loud clap and a loud NO, usually by jumping down and hiding. Jackson taught me to wait about a minute and then give them a treat to let them know that I still love them, but it’s far enough away from the clap/NO so they won’t connect being bad with getting a treat.

Also, when you find cats somewhere you don’t want them to be, pick them up and put them someplace where it is okay to be, along with some loving words, a soothing voice, some petting or head butts, and a treat. You can get them to go where you want them to go by leaving treats there. Just don’t leave too many; otherwise, they’ll think that’s their eating spot.

Make it easy to get up and down. It’s more easy for cats to go up and not so easy for them to come down. I have catified my home so that it’s just short jumps from here to there, both up and down. In the window shelf picture, it’s a short jump up to my desk and then another short jump to get to her window shelf. She comes down the same way because they are short jumps. ZCC prefers those spots where she has to make a short jump. So, floor or bed? Bed. Floor or chair? Chair. Chair seat or chair back?

Zoey the Cool Cat

One thing it took me a little while to discover is that ZCC, and most cats, prefer the old and smelly to the new, so I never have spent money on a cat tree or cat toys. If I want to spice up ZCC’s life, a box or sack from the store is all she needs, and her favorite cat toy are the red rings from the gallon milk jugs. She’s easy.

Red Rings

Zoey the Cool Cat and her red ring

Zoey the Cool Cat and her red ring

Zoey the Cool Cat in her new sack

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

This post approved by
This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat