Tag Archives: wildlife



Currently the quail have the evening stage as Mother Nature usurps the garden and moves closer to the house as if we put the props in place for their entertainment. The quail have had an extraordinary hatch this year, hundreds of birds in dozens of coveys of various ages explore the yard in waves of gray.

Still housebound but rehabbing well, my photography is limited to what’s before me with the point-and-shoot, isolated snapshots that don’t fully portray the larger theme of the show. Accompanied and herded by attentive adults acting as sentinels, the young birds feed across the lawn to eventually let curiosity lead them a stray. One, then another follows, until half the young covey considers the latest discovery. Not one bird tried to drink from our ‘sip and dip’, knowing the water level too far to reach without falling, without flailing wet feathers and drowning.



Our yard: a classroom
for rural children come
out of granite rockpiles

and deadfall limbs woven
with blond, brittle grasses—
like a field trip to town,

a damp green and water
oasis they should know
when its 110 degrees.

Our yard: a classroom
for survival as Mother Nature
picks apples, apricots, peaches

and pears before they’re ripe,
before they’re sweet.
The ground squirrels know

our habits, when it’s best
to harvest, the sound of
footsteps on the gravel,

and the gunshot taken
for the team
we’ve not dissuaded.





I’ve got no complaints,
but with all the details
the gods must attend to,

it’s not surprising that
some get overlooked.
Too good to be true,

the gods may be lazing
in a Max Parrish painting,
our fate more accident

than meant, but
still good to think
they’re paying attention.








Bullfrog pollywogs
leap to gasp warm July air
prior to croaking.





Robbin thought this a.m.’s post verged on disgusting. My apologies to the offended.

As a balance from the other end of the spectrum, one of the baby Cottontails she photographed from the garden this morning, whose parents have come to feast on the marigolds. We have declared war on the ground squirrels that have stripped the apricot tree and are working on the early peaches. Busy with cattle work, we’ve let our guard down as Mother Nature tries to move in.





Keeping track of the two young Red Tails waiting for a squirrel. For a couple of days, one was accompanied by by a Black Vulture nearby, ostensibly waiting to take over a kill.


Haystack Owls…








I can’t shake loose my need for truth
these days, always
skeptical of the latest news

sandwiched between advertisements
hawking sex and drugs to humans—
I sip the scandalous like wine,

leave to light the barbecue,
relieve myself
and let my unfocused stare

inhale the browning hillside
leaking five-months’ rainfall
behind the house to stream

along the gravel driveway,
past the pickup parked
where a rock wren pair

rebuild their home of stones—
Tor House in a tailpipe—
I need to see the truth.




Tor House


Rock Wren Nest


Always mysteries on the ranch, we look for clues, search for signs of the inexplicable.



Utilizing the Kubotas to get around the past five months, my pickup has been parked most of the time. A month or so ago, we noticed its exhaust pipes were full of gravel from the driveway. Removing the gravel with a long spoon, we found a loose nest where the two pipes join. We also a noticed a pack rat nest in the frame at the same time, started, we assume, while I spent several hours trying to drain the runoff from our corrals in early March, a nest that included a surveyor’s lath, marking the location of a nearby power pole, as it’s foundation. Because we found them both at the same time, we assumed the same culprit.



Though we removed the pack rat nest, gravel continued to build up in the exhaust pipes, and another nest removed that contained an egg and eggshell remains. Beginning cattle work, I often leave the gooseneck hooked-up to my pickup and park it elsewhere for several days in a row. We then noticed that exhaust pipe of Robbin’s car was acquiring several gravel stones of its own.



After Googling ‘nest in exhaust pipe’, the best suspect was a Eurasian Bushtit, a pretty tiny bird, but not native to this continent. I assumed the gravel was placed by its plainer relative, the Bushtit, of which we have many, but none observed around my pickup. But considering the size of the egg and that of the Bushtit, not much bigger than a thumb, I was beginning to have doubts as the gravel continued to accumulate in the tailpipes.

We enjoy watching the fairly tame Rock Wrens bob around the yard, collecting bugs, extricating spiders from under tables and chairs, cleaning window screens. Yesterday, one hopped out from under my pickup. Once again, I went online to find some interesting facts.



Winter Solstice 2016




It’s habitual, looking to the mountains for our future, the Kaweah Peaks over Remy Gap in the southern Sierra Nevada above, not completely dressed in snow from the last storm on December 16th— another forecast for the 23rd. Ideally, the snow is laid in while it’s cold enough to freeze before mid-January, then slow melt to feed our rivers and replenish the groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley, once the most productive agricultural region in the world, or so I was told in college.

Much has changed since the 60s when Visalia was a town of 16,000. Now a city populated by 124,000 people drawing on groundwater resources year-round. The growth of Valley towns has also displaced some of our best agricultural ground in a short span of fifty years. The implementation of flood control structures on nearly every river on the west slope of the Sierras since, regulating surface water flows, have also had a severe impact to groundwater levels in the Valley. Add the wild cards of drought and more deep wells, less low snow as the climate changes, ours is not a hand to bet on long.

Well-meaning, but onerous, water legislation will not create more water. Nor will the monies set aside to build more dams, especially since we haven’t filled the ones we have in years. But for us, and most foothill livestock producers, we look to the Sierra snowpack this time of year for our future summer stockwater, the small leaks in granite cracks that feed our springs providing water for cattle and wildlife.