Knitted Pantaloons

I was all set, getting ready to leave the house to go to the Dentist. Then I saw a flicker of gray in the garden and crept to the window. It was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, resplendent in knitted pantaloons. If I was little, I would ask my Nana to knit me a stuffed Hawk just like this one.

The Juvenile was very skittish and as I went to get my camera out of the drawer, I noticed a squirrel staring intently at the hawk from the fence. Part of me wanted to warn the squirrel but I really wanted a photograph… We have plenty of squirrels and this one was curious, not scared! Baby Cooper posed so nicely for me, showing off her fabulous plumage. I need to get an outfit of taupe and steel gray now.

Eventually, I made a noise as I was trying to poke the camera through the Venetian blinds and the hawk flew off straight into the squirrel. My heart was in my mouth wondering what would happen next but the feisty squirrel fluffed up her fur like a cat and terrified Baby Cooper. They eat much smaller prey than squirrels. Our squirrel stood her ground, saying, “That is MY Nut Mom and MY garden.”

Please come visit us again, little hawk! I want to see those yellow feet…and those fluffy pantaloons.

EXCITING UPDATE

When I went out on the walking path yesterday, I met Baby Cooper! She sat in her tree while I have a one side conversation with her. There is an open invitation for her to visit my yard.

Clouds and Water

I thought it was snowing on the way to Rockport, Texas. That was very unlikely given the 100 F temperature. To my intense excitement, it was little bits of cotton in the air. The fields were full of cotton crop or wrapped bales. The pink wrapper is in honor of a cotton farmer’s wife who died of breast cancer.

This is the sky at sunrise over the bay. The dark clouds just disappeared even though they briefly promised water in a drought…

An almost empty beach at Mustang Island State Park. Even though it was early in the morning, it was too hot, with warnings to stay inside because of the high UV.

Sunrise sparkling on the dock in Fulton. The sentinels are brown pelicans, getting in some early fishing before the dolphins arrived.

A fishing chair outside our hotel at Port Lavaca, looking onto Matagorda Bay. I lived dangerously and went beyond the sign – nothing happened. When I looked at the sign later, I noted the last sentence. Alligators, methinks! There was also an oyster bed to the left of the chair.

Happy memories of summer although it is still 98 F here – longing for a real Fall.

Ruby Anniversary Trip

After our anniversary trip was Covid Cancelled, we decided to take a road trip to our favorite part of the Gulf Coast in Texas. Our final destination was Rockport/Fulton, an idyllic fishing, wildlife and artist colony. This is a silhouette of Teddy looking for dolphins at our hotel. We saw them all day, every day. A Mom, Dad and baby dolphin who delighted in taking the catch of the leisure fisherman’s lines.

The sand at Mustang Island is perfectly soft and white. I love getting my toes in the beach but then hate having sandy sandals all day…

We ate at our favorite fish restaurant in Rockport, Latitude 28.02. I dressed to match the shrimp sculpture outside the front door. Drum and Triple Tail were on the menu – local fish and freshly caught. It was so good we went again the next night.

Eagerly awaiting our fish dinner as was the Great White Egret below

We bought each other the same anniversary card although you can see that one of us is more romantic than the other from the inside notation below. Love my Teddy (Oso in Spanish)!!!

It was a perfect vacation, especially since we saw those crafty cetaceans aka sea kittens.

Forest Tails

As I write this, the ‘Eeeeee’ of Baby Hawk is preventing me from feeding all my other ‘tails’, although all their baths and bowls are freshly filled.

Baby Hawk

Our red-tailed hawks have had baby #2022.  We had our first small shower of rain after two months of drought and all the forest babies wondered what the wet stuff was falling from the sky.  Baby Hawk sobbed…  It was heartbreaking and funny.  Mother Hawk was wheeling above enjoying a refreshing shower. 

The Tail Family

All our squirrels have funky tails this year.  We have ‘Tail’ who is at least a year old – her tail was fractured but healed well.  The fur came in with strange chevron markings and a much darker gray than usual.  Then there is ‘half’, ‘three quarters’ and ‘pipe cleaner’.  ‘Half’ is extra cute and will come running for a peanut or chopped up apple – she is also a wee bruiser, using Jujitsu on her kin, perhaps that’s why she has half a tail? I am guessing that the ‘Tail’ family all have a genetic weakness with their tails or the clumsy gene.  ‘Nut Mom’ (aka me) also has the clumsy gene and break as many items as my mother did.  One day in the garden, the hawk suddenly appeared and the squirrels were blissfully sitting in the trees.  I ran out, shouted ‘lie down’ and they did!

Baby Blues

We have twin baby blue jays.  When they are first fledged, their iridescent blue feathers have not fully grown in and they have fluffy gray tummies.  The parents have a distinctive black necklace which the babies don’t have until maturity.  My friend across the cul-de-sac thought the nest was in the trees by her garden because she rescued a newly fledged blue jay from one of her dogs.  From my friend’s rose colored perspective, her ‘black lab mix’, Gertie, was just going to nuzzle the baby…  Gertie, who looks like a Rottweiler, has nearly pulled me off my feet when I took her for walkies in past years.  Then she was desperately trying to ‘nuzzle’ ducks at the pond.  Methinks she saw feathered snacks.

The baby blue jays have been so fun to watch – they have tried every voice in their repertoire.  Gentle beeping, the rusty wheel, the annoying squawk and their imitation of the red-tailed hawk.  That gets me racing to the door to check if it is a raptor.  Their mimic is pretty good but if you listen carefully, it doesn’t have the mournful lament of real hawk.  Their monogamous blue jay parents are very attentive, gently showing them how to drink from the bird bath and feed themselves.  They seem to know our garden is a safe kindergarten.

The Cardinals

The cardinals often accompany the blue jays who provide a Minder service for the smaller birds – early warning of predators.  One of the silly baby blue jays tried to sit in a tiny bush with a baby cardinal.  The father cardinal lay on the deck, with a ‘broken wing’, pretending to be injured to lure him away.  Baby blue didn’t know his own size and meant no harm.  Two American Robins, a type of thrush, have arrived from the north.  It seemed as though they had traveled through our airport system because they were exhausted and filthy!  They didn’t quite understand this garden of plenty but feasted and washed.  They have settled in the oak tree in the front.

The Laurel

Alas, not everything survived our drought.  In the early spring our Texas Mountain Laurel was glorious, covered in blossoms but by early summer she suddenly died.  We have raised her for about 8 years so we are sad.  Your swan song was glorious.

On a lighter final note, Wanja Joseph, commented on my post Dolphins are Jerks

“I am having a hard time describing or thinking of those sea kittens as naughty or crafty. My innocence is gone! Beautiful shots”

Henceforth our squirrels are known as tree kittens…

Avocados!!

Normally, our squirrels are fed peanuts with the occasional apple core but I looked in the fridge and all four of my avocados had gone brown. I salvaged as much of the good green stuff as I could, made some guacamole, then out of curiosity, put the remains in a baking tray with a couple of fresh dates. It was hilarious watching the squirrels approach the ‘scary green fruit’ with trepidation. Once they had tasted it, however, a whole new species joined the avocado lovers of the world. The little one in the video above ran off with a skin that was bigger than her head.

Fresh dates are another delicacy rarely seen round these parts unless there are equally crazy squirrel lovers in our cul-de-sac. I love the way squirrels inflate their tails when anxious, just like cats! After tasting avocado, in this second video above, the wee squirrel girl found a date! She could hardly fit it in her mouth but was determined to steal her prize. Then she went up in a tree and alternated between one nibble of the date, followed by one bark, another nibble and a bark until it was finished. What was she communicating? “Stay away from me and this ambrosia!” or “I can’t believe how good this tastes!”

We had hoped to see more night critters but the day critters ate most of the buffet… This sweet little possum above didn’t disappoint with very noisy smacking of lips. I have no idea why possums have terrible table manners. A skunk visited too and I was surprised that she was very interested in the avocado. Usually they stick to bugs and worms.

One Little Duckling

Our curiously mild weather has the ducks thinking it is Spring. There is one little duckling being guarded by an entire flock of Muscovy ducks. Mom and Dad are probably a young breeding pair who don’t remember that we had an ice storm last February. All the ducks have excellent shelter in the roots of some large trees. They are guarding her for another reason…

As I approached the ducks, I could hear the crows mobbing so I looked for a predator and found one. This is a beautiful Cooper’s Hawk who was just minding his own business but was not welcome. I was shooting into the sun so couldn’t get a clear image of him. The silhouette is quite effective at giving a sinister feel.

By contrast, this lovely pair of Egyptian Geese were utterly chill and refused to move for me. Our relationship has progressed. They are new to the pond and last week they hissed (cussed in Arabic) at me. After a very long conversation, they have decided I am safe.

I found a new visitor last week – a nutria. She allowed me to come really close and have a good look at her thick coat and long tail. They are an invasive species from Latin America and look like little capybaras or beavers. Usually the Park Ranger removes them so that they don’t damage the integrity of the containment pond – they burrow extensively. The one time that I have seen them up close and I didn’t have my camera! C’est La Vie…

Image of Nutria, courtesy of Pixabay

The Hawk Conundrum

I walked into the living room and wondered why I was there.  As I tried to retrace my steps in my befuddled head, I could sense someone watching me intently.  Turning around to look out the window, I spotted a beautiful red-tailed hawk sitting on the fence.  This one was fully grown with a white and brown knitted vest – very fashionable this year.  She was communing with me, as follows.

HAWK – Hello Squirrel Lady.

KERRY – Hello Magnificent Hunter of squirrels.

HAWK – May I have one of your squirrels?

KERRY – They are not available on demand but you can hunt them when I am not looking.

HAWK – Thank you.

Then it flew off, leaving me laughing.  I have started feeding the squirrels again as winter beckons and it is bloody freezing.  They are getting nice and fat at Kerry’s organic squirrel farm.  The hawk has been screeching and I wonder if there is a late born baby.  The weather has been very mild until now.  Now I listen for screeching and feed the squirrels under the chairs or bushes.  It’s a win-win.

It has been a strange week.  Today I have my first in person appointment with my psychiatrist in two years.  I was offered a job through Linked In last week but it was in Austin.  On Friday I have my first contract job since the Pandemic started – unless they cancel the flight because of the Omicron variant.  On Sunday Teddy drove off with a friend’s fully packed car and trailer to Washington State – he is currently in New Mexico or Utah.  You should have seen us physically move the trailer down our sloped drive to the awaiting car – fitter than we thought!

This is a throw back photo to a fabulous trip to Abu Dhabi where I held my first falcon. Pala was boarding at the most luxurious falcon resort until her owner went hunting with her again. Pala was worth considerably more than me… As a child and young woman I had a phobia about birds and would run screaming from a pigeon in a square. Exposure therapy really works.

Cute Baby Animals!

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/dog hybrid.

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.

Google: How do I cover the smell of decomp?

The Garden of Earthly Delights by H Bosch

I hope my husband does not die under mysterious circumstances because my computer history will lead the cops to me.  On Sunday, I noticed a strong skunk smell at the front of the house.  I searched but saw nothing.  Then I went to the neighbors and asked if they had seen anything.  They thought their car had gone over some roadkill and took it to the carwash to no avail.  We laughed and I said, prophetically, “At least, I won’t have to go looking for a dead critter…” 

To set the scene, we are having a wee heatwave so it is hotter than hell and twice as humid.  Yesterday was 97F/36C and the humidity was 68 % – it has been the same for a week with no rain.  After my chat with the neighbor, I went out to the back yard and spotted them.  Decomposition flies – Gah!  They are so pretty with their sparkling iridescence.  Curiously there was no strong smell in the yard – the balmy breeze was taking it to the front.

This is not my first dead critter rodeo, so I knew that we had to remove some of the deck planks.  Teddy went out with his drill to unscrew the deck screws.  He got about half out and then had to go to the hardware store to get a special bit to yank them out.  Then we borrowed another neighbor’s drill.  Nothing was working.  Teddy looked like he was about to have a heart attack, soaked in sweat, working in Hades.  As we approached nightfall (early in the subtropics), I texted our faithful handyman to ask if he could come out on Monday.  Thank goodness he said yes.  Then I poured a full bottle of bleach on the deck and between the planks.

We both slept very fitfully and I drifted to the other side of the bed to get away from the smell coming in the closed windows.  The next day we tried all over again to remove the planks and I used every scent possible in the house which was now skunky, too.  Air fresheners, carpet fragrance, washed floors in eucalyptus, incense – it smelled like a temple or church with a dead body…  Carlos came at noon and I have never been so happy to see anyone.  This is the second time that Carlos has come to remove deck planks in our necropolis.

He struggled to cope with the scent the last time, so I said I would retrieve the corpse.  I was all set up with many bags, bleach, gloves, garden fork and very old clothes – there are silver linings to OCD!  There are also benefits of decomp flies as they lead you to the evidence.  I got straight in and pulled out the poor wee soul – it was a beautiful little skunk.  With the heat and humidity, it wasn’t all in one piece – Carlos and Teddy looked at me in disgusted awe.  “Only one of us could work on a farm,” I said.  Carlos was delighted to leave after 15 minutes and we arranged for him to come back in a few days to replace the planks.

Eventually I Googled ‘How do you get rid of the smell of decomp?’  I used bleach again, then vinegar with baking soda that makes a very satisfying chemical reaction.  Then I took bags of dirt out of the crime scene along with larvae.  I was fascinated that the beautiful dragonflies were drawn to the flies and happily ate them.  Maybe they like spicy food??  The volatile scent was still wafting to the front so there were little incense sticks were all over the yard – Nirvana.

Then I remembered my time at the airport.  Drug smugglers use coffee to hide the smell of drugs to foil the drug sniffing dogs, so the instructors get the dogs to react to coffee too.  I watched a customs dogs get excited about some luggage on the flight from Amsterdam to Houston.  They took the bag off and thoroughly searched it, only to find some regular coffee.  The passenger arrived later, none the wiser.  So, with this lightbulb moment, I went into the pantry to find some coffee to put in the grave.  It helped somewhat.  Then I went back to Google who suggested an enzyme cleaner.  We still had some left from our cat days and I liberally poured it in.  That might have helped the most. 

Skunks have an incredible defense with their notorious spray.  It is full of complicated chemicals that last for weeks and months.  They are easily predated and I have recently heard the great horned owl hooting in the backyard.  They have no sense of smell so their favorite meal is skunk.  CSI Kerry concluded that from the corpse that the owl had attempted a kill but the injured skunk sought sanctuary under our deck.  May she rest in peace.

The smell is so pervasive that I felt guilty for stinking out the neighbors even though it was not our fault.  Our houses back onto a reserve where myriad critters live in peace – usually.  My mental health started spiraling downwards.  Teddy noted that he hadn’t seen me so anxious since our time in Egypt.  On one terrible occasion we went to a fancy hotel at the pyramids to escape the eternal water/power cuts in our house.  We arrived in this verdant oasis only to find their water was off, too.  It’s laughable in retrospect but at the time I felt broken.

A few days later and my equilibrium is returning to normal.  I love my Garden of Earthly Delights and this is nature at its rawest.  Everything has to eat.  All the incense sticks gave the garden a funerial vibe and I have mourned the little skunk.  All in all, I was proud of myself for taking control and not diving into a bottle of wine to relieve the stress.  A recent bone scan showed some reduction in my bone density but normal for my age.  The doctor suggested all the usual stuff including weight bearing exercise.  I have certainly have had plenty of that this week…

The Non-Ducks are back!

Above are Whistling Ducks who migrate to our pond every summer. They are really neither geese nor ducks but a sub family – Dendrocygninae. It’s a bit of a tongue twister so we call them non ducks. They live in Latin America in the winter and we think they are Catholics given the amount of ducklings they have.

This is a male Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly They are common along the Gulf Coast and give a lovely flash of crimson in a sea of blue and green Pond Hawk dragonflies. To me, they are beautifully colored fairies that cluster around humans because we attract mosquitoes. These little predators are quite precocious and will sit on your hand or head.

This is Mr and Mrs Puddleduck, a pair of Muscovy ducks who live here year round. Mr Puddleduck has a glorious blue sheen to his feathers. They wag their tales like puppies when you talk to them…awww! We have had so many thunderstorms around these parts that we have puddles in the ground around the pond. These are full of slugs and worms that these fat little omnivores love. Their feathers have been covered in dirt with their muddy foraging. I tell them to go bathe in the pond to no avail…

These are two mud encrusted red eared slider turtles – what is it with the mud this year? Perhaps it acts as a sunscreen in turtle world. Sometimes they ‘turn turtle’ and we have to wade in and rescue them before the sun bakes them. They are indigenous to the southern Gulf but people have released unwanted pet sliders into other areas and then they become invasive.

OUR IDYLL

If you look really closely to the right of the most northerly pondweed, you will see the head of a massive turtle. He splashed into the water like a hippopotamus when I approached.

This is a Delta Flower Beetle, a beneficial migrant from the Florida Everglades. I was really trying to capture the Lantana blossom but then spotted the Delta which is also a type of Scarab beetle – happy memories from Egypt.