Mommy Robin: “Oh this is lovely! There is nothing like a morning bath when it is already 80 degrees.”
Baby Robin “Mom! What are you doing? Can I get in?
Mommy Robin “Could I just get five minutes peace to enjoy my bath?”
Baby Robin “I’m bored…”
Mommy Robin “If I have to get out of this bath, you are in so much trouble!!”
Don’t you just feel for poor Mother Robin? I think she might have been using some bad words… This video was taken one morning after the Raccoons had used the Pyrex bowl as a swimming pool. To the US readers, the American in the title is redundant. The Brits are more familiar with the iconic European Robin which is a much smaller, cheekier bird, part of the flycatcher family. I imagine the early settlers were delighted to find their own red breasted bird in the New World.
The American Robin is really part of the Thrush family and they have the same gentle nature although they are not quite as shy. Our Robins used to migrate but some decided to stay here all year. I am delighted because they are such sweet birds. Like the crazy lady that I am, I love to chat to them in the undergrowth when they are rooting about for worms. One day I stopped my car to allow one to dip a worm in the savory puddle water at her own pace.
Mom and Dad Robin look very similar except the female has slightly lighter coloring. The males have a more vivid red breast and the females a rusty color. They look after their babies equally and have up to three clutches a year. The juveniles have a speckled chest but don’t seem to leave the nest until almost full grown.
Robins are songbirds which is delightful… except they sing at daybreak. Still, they cannot be as bad as the current cicadas which are so loud that Teddy ran through the house looking for a plumbing break. Every night I think, ‘will one of our many night critters eat that bloody cicada?’. In truth, the cicadas were the reason why we bought this house. We were enchanted by their alien song when we moved here 17 years ago. I have been wondering if these particular cicadas are on a 17-year cycle because they sound different from the summer cicadas. If I wasn’t so creeped out by their appearance, I would research it…
I felt like I needed an antidote to my last post… Over the past few weeks, I noticed that the water in the Infinity Pool and Blue Lagoon was murky. I had my suspicions so we put the night camera out. My heart melted when I saw these baby raccoon kits. The next night we put out some of our old cat’s toys and the kits didn’t disappoint. It has been really hot so they loved having a wee bath. Perhaps they are bathed more than Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis’ kids?
Raccoons are part of the Procyonidae family widely spread through North and South America. There are 7 species, from Alaska to Argentina, and include Coatimundi and Kinkajou. Their original Latin name, Ursus Lotor, referred to their perceived habit of washing their paws. As omnivores they will eat food in shallow water but the real reason for them moving their webbed paws in a washing motion is because they use them as vibration sensors. Our kits were about the size of the Pyrex dish (although apparently two can fit at a push…) In my mind, they look like a cute little bear/cat/doghybrid.
Mother raccoon did not appear on camera so she was probably resting in the reserve, leaving the kits in the Garden of Raccoon Delights. Raccoons usually have 2 to 8 kits but it’s likely that our 6 kits are cousins. Female raccoons sometimes live together to raise their kits – the original Sister Wives? The biggest raccoon I have seen in our yard was as big as a Bulldog – their weight ranges from 5 to over 50 lbs. Mrs Stripe, who was a street cat from Egypt, looked at it with utter astonishment. It didn’t smell like a dog or a cat, so what was it??
Striped tails are my weakness so I smile every time I look at the video. They are so small, fluffy and playful! In another video we heard them whining for Mama. It sounded like a puppy whining softly. In general raccoons can make a variety of noises – yowling, growling, hissing, purring, chirping and cooing. This litter was really quiet and I couldn’t hear them even though they were feet away from my bed. What goes on in our yard at night? It’s a magical, if occasionally stinky, place.
When Teddy is out of town, Toffee sleeps with Mum. We both slept in late but it was about 11 am and Toffee wouldn’t get out of bed. I wanted to change the bed for Teddy’s arrival. So why didn’t I just push her off?
Toffee is the last surviving cat that we brought from Egypt to the USA. When she was a feral kitten, she went missing for a night and I was looking for her frantically. Our gardener had found her and put her in his shed. Whatever happened was traumatic, perhaps a near miss with a car or a fall of the balcony, and she had injured her leg. We could not take her to the vet until she was more tame and by that time the injury had healed.
Every so often she would limp and so she now has Gabapentin to help with that. At almost 15 years old, we still can’t lift her and I don’t like shooing her (off the bed) in case she hurts her leg. She still runs around chasing a laser pointer so the meds are working. Now, enjoy!
On a final funny note, I sent this to friends and family. One of my aunts replied, “What are you McHugh girls like with your pusses!” She was referring to my Irish mother’s side of the family and my two cousins, her daughter and two nieces. We are all crazy about cats and have no children. I am the oldest crazy cat lady but I suspect there will be more…
There were so many lovely comments about my last post, The Owl and the Pussycat… that I hunted on Youtube for videos of skunk sounds. Then I was perplexed – it didn’t sound like our noisy night visitors. Did our skunks speak in Spanish or had we developed a special language? Eventually I started researching all the other critters that live with us. Possums can hiss but don’t say very much. Skunks in the wild rarely talk at all. Raccoons have a very distinctive chatter – most of it is swear words. One of my neighbors is scared of raccoons, they are pretty feisty. I came to the rescue and chased the raccoon up a tree where he sat swearing at me (I think Puta was in there…)
What on earth was it? Light bulb moment! It is our little armed ones – Armadillos! What a wonderful surprise. Here is a link to a short video of their distinctive chirrup.
Can you imagine that little noise, all night long, from our extended Latin American immigrants? They wake up about 7 pm and start chirruping, ‘Bee Bee?” Teddy responds, “Beeee Beep?” and on it goes. Then I started reading about them. They like to dig burrows and they are all still under the deck including a new one. Curiously, they are happy to share their tunnels with skunks, possums and whoever else is there. Happy hippy commune, man! They aren’t predated by the Great Horned Owl but presumably they were all cuddled under the deck with skunks. Maybe their chirping was meant to be reassuring? They have very few predators and can live from 9 to 23 years. That probably means that we have lived with the same extended family for the last 13 years. Mami, Papi, Abuelita, Mijos – no wonder they talk with us. We are THEIR people; not the other way around!
Even better, they are insectivores and LOVE fire ants. Now I love my little armed ones with a passion… For some reason fire ants love to bite me. You are innocently gardening when one and then one hundred fire ants run up your leg, biting as they go. Your only recourse is to run to the outside faucet and rinse them all off. Then you get some lidocaine because it bloody hurts! Armadillos are funny looking little creatures but harmless unless you eat them undercooked (yes, people are hungry in Central America). Then you can contract leprosy from them – how weird is that? We would start naming them but Teddy counted about 50 one night, all communicating with each other. Imagine a busy barrio in Mexico.
Some years ago, Teddy got this wonderful little video of some baby armadillos snuffling about in the undergrowth looking for insects. They were silent and when I have seen them in our garden they went straight under the deck – they didn’t seem scared though and now I know why. It was their female person.