nature


I’ve heard seen my share of terrestrial wildlife while mountain biking in the Verdugos — lizards, toads, bobcats, coyotes, deer, a coast horned lizard, garter snakes. On this pre-gluttony Thanksgiving Day ride I added a baby rattlesnake to the list. Found, as seen below in the center of the frame, sunning itself on the asphalt section of the trail just below Tongva Peak (click it for the bigger picture):

It started moving off trail as soon as I stopped to admire it. Not having time to get my phone camera out, I simply pointed the handlebar-mounted GoPro cam at it to capture it before it disappeared in the scrub.

Here’s the timelapse vid of the bottom-to-top-to-bottom ride (my standard 5.75-mile route going up the Beaudry North and Verdugo motorways about 2,200 feet to Tongva Peak and then back down via the Verdugo and Beaudry South motorways):

One of the most splendiferous bonuses of having a backyard to walk out into is those times when I do so in the midst of a visit by any number of creatures. Though some are more welcome than others (I’m holding my nose and looking at you skunks), all are wondrous reminders that even at our most city-fied and urbanized, nature finds a way.

This morning’s encounter involved a very healthy and huge juvenile red-tailed hawk who I found perched high in the tallest of our twin palms.

It obliged me just long enough to run inside and return with my camera to get the following sloppy series as it made its exit northward to less paparazzi-rich environs (click them for the bigger pictures):

There’s actually a couple other gourds out in the backyard still growing — one barely a pound in weight and the other probably about six or seven (and shaped awesome/ominously like a skull) — but they’re still mostly green and probably still will be by Halloween so I left them alone to continue to do their thing, and instead harvested the three that have orange’d up the most:

The most consistent thing is that we went five for five. We planted five seeds back on July 4 and each one ultimately produced one pumpkin — along with an hellacious amount of flowering vines. The least consistent thing was their size. I’m not knocking that… hell, I’m thrilled that we got something for our trouble. It’s just curious the differences.

Above (click it for the bigger picture), from the left: 3 pounds 11.25 ounces, 11 pounds even, and 1 pound 10.75 ounces

Special note: We call the smallest one on the right our “special needs” pumpkin because she leans over no matter which way you set her down (a product of growing up somewhat strangled between competing vines from the other two pumpkins.

It was Patchy done brought this alligator lizard inside. Out of the corner of my eye I spied her playing with it under a dining room chair, to which I sounded the “Ahhhhhck!” which is the universal cat distress call for “Stop it and drop it!”

And she did.

The lizard, though freshly minus its tail, was ultra mobile and scurried under the serving table. Moving rapidly into the kitchen I managed to stop it at the last moment from running under the pantry by covering it with a large wooden salad bowl. Sliding a piece of cardboard between the bowl and the floor I turned it upright and sure enough there was the lizard looking none to pleased.

So we recessed outside to the Lizard Relaxation & Rehabilitation Center — otherwise known as Buster the tortoise’s hutch — and I snapped the above photograph of it relaxing and rehabbing.

The next time I checked on it, it had already checked out. Not as in “died.” As in “exited.”

So our pumpkin patch has had a lotta false starts. There’ve been tons of blooms and lots of pollination resulting in plenty of pumpkins that started strong only to stop growing after a couple/three days and die. As such, we only have three pumpkins that have made it out of that danger zone, but hey… at least we have something to show for the effort, yes?

Of those three one that’s barely softball sized is too well wrapped up in the vines to get a scale in there without risking damage (I’d guess it’s somewhere between 1 and 2 pounds). The other two are both large and accessible enough to warrant me getting their weigh on today — the smaller of the duo on our kitchen scale, and the larger one on our bathroom scale (after it tilted the kitchen scale).

The pumpkin on the right, at 4.425 pounds actually got off to the quickest start, but has since slowed its progress, whereas the pumpkin on the left at 14.4 pounds (nice!) quickly surpassed the early bird and keeps on growing (click to biggify):

How cool would it be if this dynamic duo ended up as our very own homegrown jack o’lanterns this Halloween!?

When I planted seeds July 4 there was serious doubt as to whether they were pumpkin or butternut squash. Well, two months later the over-achiever of the patch (at about four inches in diameter) pretty much proves they’re the former:

Our yard is blessed each year to be frequented by beautiful western tiger swallowtail butterflies. Magnificent specimens who flit, dart, and dodge around and through the spring and summer air in search of nectar. The big bougainvillea beneath one of our backyard palms is a regular stop on their journeys, but they rarely light upon its blossoms for long.

This morning, while feeding the tortoise, I looked up precisely as one flew directly over my head. But it was decidedly less energized than usual. Instead of quickly flapping its wings, they were spread wide and held still allowing it to drift slowly past me on whatever current of air was available up there. As it floated to the bougainvillea and out of sight, I was able to see some of the vibrancy and contrast gone from its distinctive yellow and black wings.

I knew what it meant. That its cycle of life was drawing to a close. Maybe not today. Maybe not next week. But sometime soon.

And I stopped what I was doing at the tortoise hutch, sat back on the pony wall behind me and said goodbye.

« Previous PageNext Page »