wildlife


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:

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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:

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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):

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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):

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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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I understand: You wouldn’t catch up and release the creature shown below, like I did yesterday. You’d probably run screaming from the room that you saw one of these scurrying quickly across, possibly to retrieve a shotgun with which to dispatch so seemingly an alien invader (click it for the bigger picture):

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That’s where knowledge might come in handy. I say “might” because even if you know these are actually beneficial critters to you, they do have a Creep Factor of 15 (based on their pairs of legs), which can cause even the most rational person to run into the arms of the the nearest Orkin Man, or to roll up a gasoline-soaked newspaper, setting it aflame after attaching it to a 10-foot pole and whacking it to death.

Nevertheless, since it is spring and a high time when you might come across one of these, I shall implore you to administer mercy and restraint upon encountering Scutigera coleoptrata. They aren’t commonly called “house centipedes” because they are from the Planet Crawlazzz. They are there in your domicile helping keep in check the populations of other arthropods that also scurry around your place… assuming you don’t bugbomb it so often that you’ve modified your DNA and started growing additional thumbs. Out of your ears.

It won’t help them me pointing out that they are venomous, delivering their dose through a pair of modified legs near their heads. Worse still: they are faaaaaaast. Capable of moving at upwards of moving 1.25 feet per second. That may not seem like much, but let’s comparatively and unscientifically extrapolate:

If a one-inch-long house centipede can run its length 15 times in a second, that’s basically the equivalent of of a 6-foot tall person running 90 feet per second (6 x 15). Need an animal kingdom point of reference? Cheetahs churn up 103 feet per second. Need more? Compare that with the fastest human on earth, Usain Bolt, who holds the world record time of 9.58 seconds in the the 100-meter race. That’s roughly nothing more than a lousy 34 feet per second.

Like I said: FAST.

But put the broom down and hang on for a second, trying to keep in mind the old adage:

The enemy of your enemy is your friend.

See, house centipedes don’t care about you. In fact they are generally considered harmless to humans. But even if one [frightened squeeee!] was to end up racing along your leg, odds are not only wouldn’t it sting you, but if it did its sting couldn’t penetrate your skin. At worst if felt, it would be akin to a bee sting. Instead, what house centipedes care about and hunt are the creepy things that you’re living with — and make no mistake: you are.

So remember. If you kill a house centipede, the life you save won’t be your own. It’ll be those of the spiders, roaches, bedbugs, termites, silverfish and ants all around you.

On the heels of this morning’s raccoon encounter, check it. At first glance this thing I found on the walkway outside our house may look like a nicely formed 2″-long piece of poop, but upon closer examination it’s the chrysalis of a gonna-be butterfly. If you don’t believe me wait until near the end of this clip when it starts moving.

Let’s hope my soon to come efforts at googling “how the hell do I not kill a chrysalis” yield me the proper information so that I can get this cocoon situated safely and it can enjoy a righteous debut at a date to be determined.

UPDATE (1:42 p.m.): After going to the trouble of finding my wife’s old hot glue gun and using it to get a dab of the sticky stuff that I then let sufficiently air cool before re-suspending the pupa from a stick inside the old treefrogquarium. I googled around some more and found out it’s more than likely a moth cocoon of a species that develops on the ground or partially covered, rather than hanging upside down. So I freed the thing from its perch and reinstalled it in a pot o’ dirt.

So many urbanites are taken by surprise when they find our denatured environment is actually full of furry or feathered fauna beyond your average fox squirrel or rock pigeon. I’m a bit more accustomed to (and appreciative of) wildlife encounters, and in the case of the critter in our backyard this morning, the shock was all his (or hers).

And it was all my fault, starting when I failed to visually clear the backyard prior to letting Ranger out for her morning pee. Even when she bolted through the door my first thought was “squirrel!”

Times ten. In the form of a very healthy raccoon that in a panic at the sudden addition of our dog flung itself at the south side seven-foot-tall fence that it thankfully managed to successfully scale. I say “thankfully” because if there’d been a slip and a fall back the ground from that vertical climb, it might have fallen directly upon Ranger who stood beneath it during the last bit of its ascent. Woe be it to the dog that tangles with an angry raccoon, so say I, because nothing good shall come of it.

So say I instead: whew to the raccoon’s emergency evacuation skills.

Once atop the fence the raccoon wasted little time leaping across to the nearest tree branch in the neighbor’s yard, but misjudged the landing and instead thumped hard to the ground. Fearing an injury from the drop I was relieved to see it quickly recover and scramble high up into the treetop, where it then was forced to recover from its adrenaline rush while enduring me pointing my flashing camera at it through the branches from various vantage points until I was satisfied I’d gotten a suitable shot of the magnificent mammal in the early morning light:

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Finally leaving it alone to move the trash cans to the street for today’s pick-up, I observed it scramble down the tree apparently unhindered by anything beyond any psychological wounds.

Again I say: whew.

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