This morning we made it two successful skunk meetups in a row. Emerging from yesterday’s way-too-close encounter while walking Ranger was a miracle. This morning’s jaw-dropper of a stand off was something even more glorious: proof that Ranger has perhaps finally learned after at least three previous backyard skunkings that those “funny looking cats” (and the subsequent unceremonious deskunking baths involving hydrogen peroxide, baking powder and dish soap that follow) are to be avoided at all costs.

Awake early but way too lazy to go for a walk, I instead let Ranger out in the backyard to do her thang — but not before first conducting the obligatory flashlight enhanced patrol of the area to make sure there were no critters out and about.

Once I’d cleared it, out went Ranger who promptly found a patch of dirt and laid down upon it, looking at me with a forlorn expression. This is not her normal behavior, which is to do her own urgent patrol, and then after much back-and-forthing in the way-back part of the yard find a spot to pee and then another to poop. This self-imposed “I’m just gonna lay down here until I die or Momma comes home” exile is how she acts in protest to Susan (who’s on a weekender to visit old friends and her mom) not being here.


I tried to encourage Ranger to “go peepee!” but she was having none of it so I adjourned inside to make coffee, freshen the water and kibble bowls and advise the imploring cats gathered in the kitchen that breakfast wouldn’t be for awhile yet.

Roughly five minutes later (and in hindsight pleeeeenty of time for any number of creature — rat, squirrel, opossum, raccoon or coyote — to breach the backyard while seated with my cuppa joe in the kitchen, I saw Ranger was no longer prone outside, but was instead upright and facing north with interest. Simultaneously, a couple cats hopped up into the backyard facing windows I’d opened and were staring intently in the direction of the tortoise hutch. So I went outside to see whatever the object of their collective attention was.

My eyes went wide. It was a skunk. About the same size as the one yesterday. Standing atop the short retaining wall beside the hutch, stock still, facing in Ranger’s direction about 20 feet away with tail straight up.

This would typically be when I would yell out a blood-curdling “Noooooo!” and Ranger would ignore that go all territorial and charge, forcing the skunk to execute a 180-degree turn of doom and release its appropriate and terribly effective counter measures. Past episodes Ranger’s been blasted in the chest and the side of the head. She even took a direct hit in the mouth and eyes on one occasion. That one was particularly horrible with her spastically rolling around on the ground, foaming at the mouth and eating dirt like she’d gone instantly Cujo-level rabid. Poor girl.

And after each of those times while scrubbing her down Susan and I would question when or if she’d ever learn.

That question was answered this morning. Not only did she just stand there showing completely no sign of charging, but when I called her, she headed to me immediately and followed along while I hustled us to the back door and back inside the safety of kitchen. Even when the skunk went frantically mobile and started to probe the north fence for an exit, Ranger didn’t waiver.

Inside I hugged her and praised her for five full minutes, before going back outside to ensure the skunk had gone. Then I came back and hugged her some more.



Miracles DO Happen: On this morning’s walk with Ranger I got an earlier and darker start than usual (owing to Susan being on a weekend trip to Reno to explore her punk rawk past). So we detoured on the back stretch of the walk and came up a block we normally don’t traverse. A few hundred feet in I heard a sharp and short hiss from the curb and I figured we’d passed a cat perturbed by our passing presence.

I couldn’t’ve been more wrong. Looking to my left I found myself realizing that Ranger — for the first time in her life — had chosen to ignore what was a mature skunk standing planted and unmoving less than four feet away from us. Our dog’s entirely uncharacteristic behavior and reaction (she’s been skunked in the backyard at least three times and has showed no signs that she wouldn’t get herself bombed a fourth time given the opportunity) was really valuable given the skunk had its tail in the fully locked-and-loaded position.

The miracle is that I was looking into its eyes and not upon its backside. For whatever reason, probably because Ranger elected not to lunge at it (another miracle — GOOD GIRL!!!), the skunk opted out of nailing us. Despite our arm’s length proximity it deemed us not a threat warranting what coulda/woulda/shoulda been a complete and direct and all enveloping hit. By all rights and laws of urban wildlife, Ranger and I should really be stinking up the place right now.

Suffice it to say I wasted no time giving ground and moving me and Ranger out of range and then simultaneously thanked the skunk and congratulated Ranger for their combined restraint.

What a wonder-full way to start the day.

Upon a beam under The highest most point of the eave on the north side of the house has been home to a nest since mid-spring that I’ve seen occupied on at least two separate occasions, but unknown whether any chicks made it out of there alive.

This is latest of many attempts over the years to utilize this prime bird-raising real estate as a nesting area. This is the first time it wasn’t a failure. That the nest continues not to have been destroyed by jays or pigeons is a bit of a surprise/miracle.

Of course I’ve long wanted a closer look as well as to see if it might presently be occupied by chicks or eggs, so I mounted a cam onto a monopod and from the master bedroom window raised it all up in there.

As the pix demonstrate (click to enlargify): said nest is empty. Bonus: that first shot shows you a section of the north side garden waaaaaay down there, giving you an idea how high up this is.


nest1 nest2


At 6AM during our dog walk, while proceeding northbound on Parkman toward Marathon, from the east side of the street we observed the first of two coyotes heading southbound across the street coming up behind an unaware woman walking her small pug on-leash.

I intercepted the coyote before any contact occurred and ran after it to Marathon where it stopped in the middle of the street midway up the hill to the east between Parkman and Occidental:


The second animal, identified as the previously seen “special needs” coyote by its noticeable head tilt and awkward gait, was then found by Susan and Ranger in the yard of a residence on the east side of Parkman between where the first coyote was encountered and Marathon. After flushing it from the foliage it observed us momentarily before proceeding southbound on Parkman toward Bellevue:


Concurrently, the first coyote came westbound on Marathon, crossed Parkman and then Silver Lake Boulevard and was last seen on Marathon heading up the hill west of Vendome.

I was crestfallen Wednesday to find the backyard bushtit nest, so patiently and painstakingly constructed by the adorable little birds, destroyed by scrub jays. That makes two years in a row the jays have swooped in and wreaked their special brand of havoc on my beloved bushies.

And thus I wrote about it on Facebook:

Cursed are the damnable — I say double-dawg DAMNABLE! — scrub jays who for the second consecutive spring have destroyed the nest crafted so diligently by the wee bushtit clan that had spent months making their home in the backyard victorian box tree. Leaving nothing but shreds of nesting material with nary a fragment of eggshell or chick in a wake punctuated by their shrill calls, the jays have retreated to the safe distance of a tree a couple doors down, shrieking in victory.

I inflexibly believe in the intrinsic worth of ALL creatures in the order of things, but nevertheless I have to fight hard the urge to load up my pellet gun, take a position on the roof and rid my neighborhood of a few representatives of these invading raiders who dare trespass agin me and my helpless hardworking bushies.

This morning, I followed up on Facebook, with this:

Yesterday, heartbroken and infuriated, I cursed at the scrub jays who decimated the nest the bushtits had spent months building in the backyard Victorian box tree.

I successfully curbed my righteous impulse to load up the pellet gun and use them for target practice, but that internal battle continues fresh this morning because who did I happen to spy building their own nest in that same tree? The jays!

They should not mistake my mercy for a welcome. With apologies to TLC, of them I sing:

I don’t want no scrub,
A scrub is a bird that can’t get no love from me.

Scrub jays are considered highly intelligent creatures on the whole, but this particular pair isn’t proving that belief. Despite my efforts to flail and hiss and shake the tree and act myself a fool in extending the unwelcome mat, they’ve continued to build the nest taking shape as shown in the following snap (note through the branches and leaves of the tree in the center of the frame the darkened patchwork of twigs about 18 feet up; click it for the bigger picture):


I recognize that one bird’s loss and another’s gain is the way things are and I strongly believe in the natural order and all creatures’ place in it, but by essentially putting so easy a target over my head — both too soon and so close to the scene of yesterday’s carnage — this pair of jays is making it all too easy to for me to question the respect I have to their right to live and instead entertain the notion of sweet nest-destroying revenge in the name of the bushies.

Sure, it’s that first day of the fourth month of the year, but I guarantee you the below image, captured by my motion-triggered  front steps cam this morning, is no April Fools Day prank (click it for the bigger picture):


It just happens to coincide with the time of year when the coyotes are increasingly out and about and at their most brazenly nonchalant in dropping by and looking for something to eat.

We saw this fellow again walking down  in the middle of the street as if he owned it just as Susan was heading out for work a few minutes after 8 a.m. It looked up at us and just kept on going without so much as a twitch or a start.

It’s a coyote’s world, we just encroach upon it.

I’ve been pretty lucky in the number of visual contacts I’ve had with Cooper’s hawks, but for most of us, seeing one doing anything other than circling or streaking across the sky above is a bit of a rarity. The reclusive birds aren’t known for being comfortable in the proximity of people. So you can imagine my surprise when, while watering the side yard, I saw one dive to a branch in the camphor laurel tree in the front yard and then quickly drop down out of view behind the neighbor’s fence.

Wondering if it had pounced on a would-be meal, I peered through the slats and was greeted with this incredible view of the aerial predator totally on one foot, totally at ease on the ground — veritably reflective beside the small reflecting pool in our neighbor’s front yard.

So laid back was it that it was still there a couple minutes later when I came back from getting my camera. Completely aware of my presence behind the fence less than 20 feet away, it had no trouble with me shifting for better angles and clicking away. With the light so low and me shooting through less than a one-inch gap in the slats, this was pretty much the best shot of the bunch (click it for the bigger picture):


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