Furry Tails from the Woods

A rather well fed feral cat…

This is our outside feral cat, Katniss.  Yes, she of the wooden palace…  She is a solitary little soul and I often wonder if she is lonely or am I anthropomorphizing?  At 7.30 am she is usually waiting for her breakfast and 6 pm for suppertime.  Although she is one claw short of a paw, she has finally figured out that the new wooden house in our garden is for her to shelter in.  Monsoon season is here and she has been inside the house, peeping out, looking for her human.

On a tangential note, our street has had a variety of feral cats; some fools have rescued them and others have disappeared.  One particular black and white tom cat, named Adolpho in our street, was quite a character.  He looked like he was wearing a scruffy leather jacket and smoking a tote.  One of my neighbors noticed that there was a poster of him in the street.  He was well known in every street and each had a different name for him – Bud, Tank etc.  A text chain started and we all sadly found out that he had been killed on the road.  RIP Bud, Tank or Adolpho.

Back to my black and white beauty, Katniss – a few weeks ago she was asking for food more often than usual.  I accused her of being pregnant but she just stared at me with those round green eyes.  Then Teddy and I figured out what she was doing.  I had noticed a very small mother raccoon, slightly smaller than Katniss, who had swollen teats.  Presumably her kits were nearby or under the deck.  Katniss was leaving some of her meals for the raccoon and just sitting happily with her.  Do cats make friends with other species; apparently so?  It was so lovely to watch them.

We didn’t want to encourage the raccoon to join the family so we cut back on the food.  Life went back to normal until Griff, our surviving feral tomcat, gray with pretty crossed eyes, started lurking around and made Katniss very skittish.  I chased him but he was quite determined to get Katniss’s meals.  To tempt her to another part of the garden I put out some human salmon – just a spoonful.  Before Katniss could find it, the little raccoon sniffed out some delicious food from heaven.  She was tucking in when Katniss appeared, outraged!!  She went straight up to the raccoon and hissed in her face.  The raccoon was cowering but she had never tasted anything quite so wonderful and she had to keep eating it.  Then Katniss biffed her on the head with her paw but nothing worked.  Laughingly, I went out to give Katniss a different plate but she was sulking by then because the delicious human salmon was in the raccoon’s tummy.

I haven’t seen the little raccoon for a while but she has probably moved on with her kits to a more prosperous garden, full of grubs and mice.  Every so often I open the window with the net down so that she and Toffee, our old inside feral cat, can sniff each other.  Toffee is also solitary and loves to watch Katniss from the top of her condominium.

My new camera gives some lovely detail to Toffee’s beautiful little face with her hooded owl eyes. She is 15 and a half years old, born in Cairo, Egypt.

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Happy Hibiscus Hues

Variegated Peach and Coral

I don’t think I had seen a hibiscus until I moved to Egypt.  Our villa garden was gloriously full of the original red hibiscus.  Since living in the States I have discovered so many other shades but never as many as I spotted in San Diego at Balboa Park.

Pale pink

Aren’t the colorful stamens pretty?  Such perfection in a flower.

Deep orange

Lemon

I love the matching lemon stamens.

Look at those stamens!

I would love dresses in all of these colors, especially this clear red above.

Pale yellow

This was the first time I had seen clustered blossoms of hibiscus.

Deep pink

Cream and crimson

Mauve

Sometimes it is the small aspects of life that make us happy.  These hibiscus were a distance from the Botanical Garden in Balbao Park and outside the zoo.  Only I seemed to be fixated with the variations of color and taking photographs.  Perhaps they are more common in San Diego?  Ironically, my camera had lost battery power, so all these are taken with my Samsung phone.  My beloved Nikon camera is getting old and slow, so Teddy and I bought me my first proper camera at the weekend.  It is a Sony with a Zeiss lens but most importantly it is really light for my neuropathic fingers to manipulate.

Lush flowers in our garden in Cairo

This is a shot of our beautiful garden in Cairo.  Can you see Toffee hiding in the flowers?  Look for the tail in the path…  Click here if you would like to know more about our adventures in Cairo – Letters from Cairo

 

 

Meet our new garden guests…

Mother Gray Fox and pup

These are our new residents who use our deck as an AirB&B.  The first time I saw them, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  What were they?  Since then I have swallowed Wikipedia and discovered that they are Gray Foxes.  They are indigenous to the Americas (with a range from Canada to Venezuela) unlike the red foxes which were introduced from Europe to hunt.  Red foxes are now predominant in the eastern states but our gray foxes are not at risk.

Felicia

Felicia, the mama, is sharing a burrow with the armadillos – I wondered why it was so big…  From our nighttime camera we can see 2 adults and 4 puppies.  Since the pair are monogamous we assume it is a breeding pair with their litter.  I believe that they have recently moved into our area from other green belt areas that houses are being built on.  We live in a protected forest environment and back onto a reserve (behind that fence).

Look at those brushes!

Felicia is about the size of a cat with longer legs.  Their coat is exquisitely patterned and lush.  I have had so much fun watching them play and hunt.  Mama is mostly silent but quietly mewed at the pups when she returned with a baby squirrel from a hunting trip.  They ran out from the deck, one went straight to her teats but she slapped him off to encourage them to eat solid food.  They first appeared in the Americas in the Pliocene Era, about 3 and a half million years ago.  Gray foxes are the most basic type of canine species and are related to Fennec Foxes.

Like cats, Felicia can hiss and climb trees to hunt or escape predators.  She comes down backwards like a cat.  I found a large dead wood rat on the deck – do you think it was rent for the deck burrow?? They are crepuscular in nature so that is why we have some shots in daylight but mostly they are nocturnal.  Now we finally know why our squirrels are called fox squirrels – they have exactly the same gray with amber coloring.

They have provided much needed balm to my fragile soul over the last few weeks but also terrified Katniss our outside feral.  She finally came back after a couple of weeks, very skinny, so I have been feeding her up.  The foxes still come and go, so she has fixed her timetable to adjust.  The foxes are not a threat to her but she doesn’t perceive that.  I guess they all scent where they have been.

My psychiatrist suggested that I should write another post after the last one about suicide and here we are!  I have taken two months off work and am beginning to feel better.  My apologies for my absence around my friend’s posts – I need to relax.  These little foxes have made 2018 a marvelous year, especially since so few people have seen these little critters in our area.  I hope you enjoy watching the video of the pups playing in my plants – so cute!!!

 

A real glimpse of the Yucatan jungle

Pensive Green Heron.  I think this is my favorite ever shot

Angel, my driver in Merida, was intuitive about what I was enjoying.  I got very animated about nature ‘naturalis’ and he suggested that we go to Celestun the day after visiting Mayapan and Dzibiltchaltun archeological sites.  Celestun is famous for its large flocks of pink flamingos that live on what is now a nature reserve.  It is a small beach town situated on an isthmus in the Gulf of Mexico, right around the corner from the Caribbean.  The night before I excitedly googled the area and was concerned about the small boats that take you out to see the flamingos (fear of water in small boats).  Additionally, some of the articles mentioned that the influx of tourists was affecting where the flamingos nested.  They keep moving further away from humans.  I knew the beach would be magnificent but noted that there was a small Nature Park, Jaltun Parque Recreativo, just before the town.

This was a common black hawk. Common for the Yucutan… There was a nest close by.

Angel looked at me quizzically, as he had never gone there before, but followed his GPS and we arrived at a scrubby bit of jungle.  I looked at it uncertainly not knowing that this was going to be the cherry on the cake in Mexico.  No one spoke English but the gentleman who guided me had his wildlife book in both Spanish and English.  We excitedly chatted and I discovered that he was an Ortega – my cousin!  It takes me a while to get my eye in, when hunting for critters, but my guide was an expert.  He could identify every bird song, every tree and all the critters. It’s amazing how you don’t really need a common language when you are in tune with nature.  I perfectly understood that he was telling me about the wonders of nature – one tree, very close to another, was very toxic but the other provided the antidote.  Most of the animals were in the jungle but there were a few in small caged areas.

This is an African tree, planted by birds!

One of them was the Yucatan spiny tailed iguana.  I asked Senor Ortega if I could hold it and he explained,with concern, that they were very fast and I would have to hold it firmly behind the neck.  As an expert lizard catcher, I eagerly held out my hands.  It was a chilly winter morning in Celestun and the poor wee thing was cold.  I snuggled it into my sweater for warmth, delighting in the opportunity to be up close to an indigenous critter.

Carpenter Woodpecker Stop tapping so I can get a decent shot!!!

My guide was delighted at my derring-do and we walked into the jungle where he heard a carpenter woodpecker.  We tracked it down and he was more excited than me!  I knew my camera wasn’t up to a good shot because the woodpecker wouldn’t stop tapping but patiently waited for my guide to get just the right shot!  He was terribly impressed by my ability to track quietly and see birds.  Ah, that native DNA comes in handy at times…

Morelet’s Crocadillo

This is a shot of a Morelet Crocadillo  just gently basking in the stream.  I have seen many alligators and crocodiles but that might have been my only opportunity to see this particular crocodile that is found only in Central America.  Just call me Crocodile Kerry…

A special treat was to pop my head inside the boa’s enclosure and take a shot while they were both hissing at me.  When I got back to the car, tired and happy, Angel looked horrified at my shots of serpientes and shuddered!  Off we drove, along the road into Celestun.  It struck me afterwards that I had been cuddling all sorts of critters and it didn’t even cross my mind to wash my hands.  This might be why I got a parasite in Egypt.

More shots to follow of the Yucatan jungle

Fall Fungi

Gourmet critter fungi

Here in the subtropics, fall comes late. After enviously looking at other autumnal posts with amazing red and yellow trees, I searched my garden for some sign of winter coming. It is subtle but the leaves are started to drop and the fungi have arrived. I loved the pretty edge of the larger fungus above and noticed that the critters were digging a trench.

Fungus blossom

There can be such delicacy in fungi and I loved this pretty little one, above with a frilly edge. By contrast there was a stoater (Scottish for very big) in the front garden.

Stoater!

There is something kind of scary about some fungi and this one, below, was a little creepy. It looked like straw but the critters had been playing with it, so someone enjoyed it. Right now, one of our garden animals has dug a really big tunnel under the deck and I suspect it is the armadillos. They are getting their new deck ready for cooler nights…it is like living in a commune. 🍄

Strange Fungi…with some colored leaves!!!

I saved the best one for last – a little bouquet of pretty flowers.

Fungus flowers!

Deathly Purple Rain

Prince - "Purple Rain"

Prince – “Purple Rain” courtesy of zwall.pix.com

It has been a sad week for the Houston area and now for the world with the early death of Prince, which ironically was his real name.

We were all taken by surprise by the sudden flash flooding in Houston that killed only 8 people, remarkably, but many thousands have had their lives ripped apart by houses that flooded. We seem to have only just recovered from the 10 year drought, which devastated land with forest fires, when the weather Gods has wreaked their wrath and havoc. The truth is that we just live in a time of unstable weather that will continue to affect us globally for an indefinite period. The higher the population, the more inclined we are to build on land that has flooded from time immemorial and in places where forest fires are a natural part of the ecosystem.

Houston flooding 2016 courtesy of Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle

Houston flooding 2016
courtesy of Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle

On the first day of flooding I had to go to the doctor’s office which is about a 15 minute drive away but past the overflowing containment pond for our neighborhood and then a massive reservoir for our city. It was truly a magnificent site with gallons of water flooding the forest across the road. On the way back I was concerned when I saw about 4 cars parked on the side of the road (which is narrow). I was concerned that there had been an accident and then realized these thoughtless people were taking photographs and making the road more difficult to negotiate. Every year in downtown Houston we get a drowning death in an underpass which has suddenly flooded but it looks like they are going to finally put automatic barriers at the worst sections. The city is at sea level, riddled with bayous (a fjord of sort) and endless rivers and creeks.

As usual, Houstonians responded to the challenge with their bass boats, canoes and rafts and were able to start rescuing people who were not in desperate need – the first responders were doing that. After the chaos of Katrina and the refugees from Louisiana, each evacuation facility had police to make it safe for everyone. I am so grateful that our house did not flood but it was scary watching the water rising in the ‘dry’ creek which borders our property.

I am a huge music fan but I don’t usually talk about it much on my blog but I was so shocked by Prince’s death that I wanted to write a short eulogy. Purple Rain has to be one of my favorite songs of all time but it was Prince’s persona that affected me the most. At first, I wondered if he was gay because he was happy to wear heels, make-up and unusual clothing. Nonetheless I was very attracted to him and sensed he was straight which since was confirmed. Another line in the song Kiss is “You don’t have to be beautiful to turn me on” and it really resonated with me. It was during a time of sexual discovery for me and he encouraged me to look beyond what normal was. See my post about sexual fluidity. There was a period when he changed his name to a symbol and I guess this marked a period of self-discovery. It seemed a bit odd to me and I think he struggled with his sexual identity and spiritual beliefs. He gave huge anonymous donations to a variety of charities and causes and lived a private life despite the craziness of the music world. RIP.

Sinister flowers…

Oleander

Oleander

You might think that I dislike children from my last bluebonnet post but that is not exactly true. I adore perfectly behaved, clean, silent children… Curiously, most children seem to like me, a former nanny, and recently I told two young unsupervised children not to throw stones in the pond. They looked at me quizzically which made me wonder how often they were disciplined. I suspect that all young animals respect boundaries and instruction.

The exquisite Oleander bush above has amused me for a decade. It grows gloriously right in front of a kindergarten and it is one of the most poisonous sub tropical plants. I often walk past when the children are out playing and I wonder if any of the patient carers have ever been tempted to make some oleander smoothies. You would have thought the landscaper would have planted something different. 🙂

kindergarten

I noticed that my exquisite pineapple guavas flowered this week – aren’t they adorable? I always thought the fruit was ornamental but have now discovered from this wikipedia post that you can flavor vodka with them. Woo hoo! They are not really guavas but a member of the myrtle family.

Pineapple Guava

Pineapple Guava

Finally our glorious hibiscus bushes are in full bloom in the street. In Egypt, vendors would go around the streets selling hibiscus tea which apparently is good for high blood pressure. It looked delicious but where did the water to make the tea come from??? Sinister tea!

Pink Hibiscus

Pink Hibiscus