Two young quail, hatched here last season, forage in the garden, silently searching for food in the leaf litter amidst golden poppies. Old California lives on our rocky slope overlooking the blue Pacific.
Living with wildlife is one of the true joys of our mountain home. Whenever I see wild critters I pause and just take a breath. This week a pair of bright yellow orioles started building their nest under the awning over our bedroom window. They have done this every year near the trumpet vines that climb up to our balcony. They are nectivores and thrive on the nectar from the purple flowers that bloom almost every day of the year there.
I have been seeing red tail hawks circling above, along with the low flying turkey vultures. There used to be a lot more hawks and falcons years ago, but as the foothills have become more densely populated their habitat has diminished. Those of you have lived here a long time might remember the white tailed kites that used to hunt on the foothill property at the bottom of the pass. They hover in mid-air for the longest time, then drop like a rocket when they see a rodent in the grass.
There are still lots of little birds over wintering in the mountains. I especially like to put out seed for the juncos and towhees. There are not as many thrashers now but I love watching them tearing through the leaf litter with their long curved beaks. Robins still are making it, getting what they can find under the oaks. Of course the woodpeckers and blue jays are getting their share of the acorns. A scrub jay was really excited recently and I looked around to see a big gopher snake under a patio chair. The jay was squawking his head off and finally the snake slipped away. What a graceful creature.
Because we don’t have domestic animals our place is a haven for lizards. I am especially fond of the blue bellies, and on our balcony a pair of large alligator lizards were mating the other day. The way the male holds onto the neck of the female as they mate is a little disconcerting, but that’s nature. There are still some newts and little trout in the stream, too.
Butterflies have greatly diminished since their habitat is disappearing, but because we have a remnant of milkweed on our property and lots of flowers, we get a few monarchs, admirals and swallowtails. They remind me to slow down and take in the beauty of our unique mountain environment.
Owls calling at night is always a delight. Their deep voices resonate through the oaks. Coming down the entrance road the other night we crossed paths with a grey fox. Once in a great while a bear shows up nearby and occasionally a mountain lion, looking for domestic animals that have been left out at night. Long may they continue to find a place to be in an increasingly human dominated world.
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