Archive for the ‘CA Home’ Category

 I noticed several weeks ago that the hummingbirds were showing a preference for the vertical feeders over the flat feeders with a perch.  With the garden beginning to take shape and plants being moved around I relocated the bird feeders to minimize their interference with the planting scheme. I took the opportunity to retire the flat hummingbird feeders and replace them with two more vertical feeders which bring the total number of hummingbird feeders to six.


I fashioned a new hummingbird feeder pole by binding two separate poles together using several self-locking plastic-ties. The result was a single stand with four hanging hooks. At the time I didn’t have a tool to cut the plastic-ties flush to the pole which left a 6 inch plastic-tie extension out from the pole. I reminded myself to take care of the cosmetic work later.

Several days passed and I kept seeing the plastic-tie extension and kept reminding myself to cut that thing and clean it up. As I was about to do just that, I noticed a hummingbird which had been feeding at one of the feeders flew down to the plastic-tie and promptly took a seat, looking around like he had just been upgraded to first class. “Wow,” I thought, “take a look at that!” The more I watched the plastic-tie I observed a number of hummingbirds taking advantage of the plastic-tie perch. Being a well-trained American with deep roots in, “more is better,” I had an obligation to add more plastic-tie roosts.


The plastic-tie in question is blue in color, so of course, I thought it would only be appropriate to add a plastic-tie in the hummingbird’s favorite color – RED! Instead of locating a pair of scissors to trim the blue tie, I located the package of plastic-ties and promptly grabbed a red one and headed for the feeder. The pole presently only has two plastic-tie perches. To date the BLUE tie is preferred over the RED tie by the hummingbirds. This could however be a placement issue rather than a color issue. The blue tie is located below the hanging vertical feeders whereas the red tie is located higher on the pole amongst the hanging feeders. I suspect that the red tie amongst the feeders is not an ideal location since every inch of that area is viable contested air space by the territorial hummingbirds. I speak from experience having been in the middle of such contested air space while refilling the feeders. My head seems to be a favorite gathering point for hummingbird conflicts with hummingbirds setting up on either side of my head while they determine their individual strategies.  It has become aware to me that the hummingbirds know who their feeder re-filler is. Now when I refill the feeders the hummingbirds merely work around me on the other feeders, unless of course, some kind of disagreement is occurring at the time. I plan on relocating the red tie to a closer proximity to the blue tie. I promise not to get carried away with, “more is better,” by placing a plastic-tie every three or four inches up and down the pole.

The hummingbirds have also been using the oriole feeder on a regular basis. A pair of Hooded Orioles are now making brief daily visits to the feeder. They are very wary but seem to becoming more comfortable with the feeder.


I spent several hours last Sunday morning doing a Father’s Day Backyard Bird Count. I had hoped to capture all the seen or heard birds with a photograph as well. In the two hours of counting and photographing I was able to record 25 species photographing 21 (List below).

BIRD LIST (Bold-faced font indicates photographed bird):
Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Turkey Vulture, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, California Quail, Mourning Dove, Anna’s Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, Western Scrub Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, California Thrasher, Violet-green Swallow, House Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, California Towhee, Black-headed Grosbeak, Hooded Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird.

Now, I’m not saying that all the photographs are post card quality, but in just about all the cases the birds can easily be identified. Below are some of the photographs representing the range of quality and representing 12 of the 21 photographed.


The Adventure Continues . . .

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

CA Quail feather & Ant in our Extended Backyard

We are still in the settling-in process and have been working on the house and gardens. We are fortunate that there is no timetable or schedule for the completion of our settling-in to our new environment or for anything else for that matter. It is surely a nice feeling, I must say. I’m enjoying the casual approach while making new discoveries that draw me away from the daily unscheduled settling-in chores.

Our extended backyard (X-BY) has become a wonderful study area for my settling-in distractions. I’ve been visiting the area several times a week to see if I can locate any new critters or plants, and to note the changes that have occurred since my last visit. On my visit yesterday I was particularly interested in seeing if the Dudleya flowers had come into bloom since my last visit. The flower stalks had been developing for over a month and on my last visit earlier this week the buds appeared to be on the verge of blooming. It was nice to see on this visit that both the Chalk Lettuce (D. pulverulenta) and the Lance-leaf Dudleya (D. lancelota) flowers were in bloom and accepting the visiting Anna’s Hummingbirds harvesting their subtle reddish flower clusters.  

Chalk Lettuce flowers, Lanceloate-leaf Dudleya flowers – Click on photo for larger image

Anna’s Hummingbird feeding on Chalk Lettuce (D. pulverulenta) flowers. Click on photo for larger image.

Now when exploring the X-BY I am hoping to hear a fire engine heading up Clinton Keith Road in my direction. Yesterday there were several distant fire engine sirens heard but none were close enough to elicit a response from the resident coyotes. After being surprised and startled during my first close encounter with the coyotes and their reaction to the fire engine siren, I have been looking forward to hearing coyotes up-close again. One morning last week as Judy and I were getting in the car when a fire engine with its siren blaring passed close by and we clearly heard the coyotes in the X-BY yelping and howling in response.

I have been spending more time scanning the hillsides and canyons on my X-BY visits now that I know both coyotes and at least one bobcat are residents. I’ve met several other neighbors recently and all have mentioned the bobcat which apparently roams freely in the neighborhood when it chooses. None of the neighbors had seen the two cubs that paid a brief visit to our front porch before being scurried off to safety by mom several weeks ago.

A pair of Costa’s Hummingbirds arrived at the feeders yesterday for the first time. They are now visiting the feeders on a regular basis after spending some time observing and learning the pecking order at the feeders. They seem to have overcome the constant intimidation by the surely disrespectful Anna’s Hummingbirds. It was interesting to note that the female Costa’s HB was the first to arrive and put up with the Anna’s HB abuse. Once she started feeding on a regular basis, the male proudly showed up and commenced feeding. . . . Go figure?  We also added another bird to our yard list this week – A Prairie Falcon flyover, a handsome bird indeed.

Female Costa’s Hummingbird – Click on photo for larger image.

Male Costa’s Hummingbird – Click on photo for larger image

Boreal Bluet Damselfly & Acmon Blue Butterfly – Click on photo for larger image

Our newest settling-in distraction is absolutely wonderful. We finally found someone to look at the above spa that came with the house. We know nothing about spas and weren’t sure it even worked. After checking the spa out, Paul from Breeze Pool Service, deemed the spa to be in working condition. Two days ago the spa was initiated as we watched our first sunset from the spa – Very Nice!

VELCRO is doing fine and beginning to return to a more comfortable level now that most of the major work on the house and yard has been completed. All the noises and activity that come with repairs and installations were keeping VELCRO hidden in the deepest part of the deepest closet in the house during those activities. VELCRO and KARTER seem very comfortable with each other though their relationship is an inside/outside – looking-out/looking-in situation – kinda like ying & yang, I suppose!

The adventure continues . . . . . .

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

The Anna’s Hummingbirds have picked up their feeding activity in recent days as they introduce the newest members of their family to the feeders. It has been interesting to watch the adult/offspring dynamics with regards to the feeders. Occasionally a young bird failed to display its respect to the adults and would occupy a feeder when it shouldn’t have. The adult birds would promply chase the youngsters off the feeder scolding them as they vanished out of sight.

In one incident where a youngster fed out of order an adult bird chased the youngster off, but this time, the adult continued to hover over the youngster and kept the young bird well below the feeders. This action continued and as the young bird attempted to move towards the feeders the adult lowered and guided the young bird away from the feeders. I suspect that the adult and young bird were probably related. This appeared to be a case of mom teaching the youngster a few table manners.   


The adult  female Anna’s Hummingbird drinking water at the fountain almost appeared to be more for sport than necessity since a bird bath full of water was only a few feet from the fountain. The bird would position itself in various positions around the falling water seemingly to calulate the angle of attack and capture. After much analysis the bird finally made a number of passes successfully capturing the water.


One of the youngsters held at bay by the adults took refuge in Judy’s HarryLauder Walking-stick tree blending in quite well with the disruptive background of the tree.




A new combination take-out restaurant opened close to our home recently – Kentucky Fried Chicken/Long John Silver’s . . . . YUM, YUM!

After a long day today, Judy asked if Kentucky Fried Chicken sounded good to me for dinner. I gave my standard answer, “I don’t care!” A response which provides no answer or information to the question asked.

We have been very good about eating healthy since our arrival in California. When we first arrived we gorged ourselves on In-and-Out burgers and fries since Judy could order gluten-free items there. It is a great franchise  and we highly recommend In-and Out, we simply have burned-out from overuse.

I gave Carl’s Jr, Jack-in-the-BoxDel Taco, and Der Wienerschnitzel each a one time try soon after our arrival to California. All of those venues immediately fell into the YUCK! category and there will be no return visits.

I arrived at Kentucky Fried Chicken/Long John Silver’swith only one customer in front of me. She was taking an enormous amount of time ordering and I kept thinking here is another unorganized individual that can’t make up their mind and requiring a lot of coaching. As she finally finished her order she asked the clerk if they had a take-0ut menu so she wouldn’t take so much time next time. The stoic-faced young male clerk simply said, “No!” I mentioned to the woman that there was a menu online and she thanked me. After all, Icame prepared to make my order simply and quickly with my printed-out online menu. I had done my research – I was ready!

May I have your order please, here or take-out,” the expressionless clerk asked? “Ah, take-out,” I stated. “Order please,” the monotone personality asked? After looking up at the very confusing order menu, split down the middle, Kentucky Fried Chicken on the left and Long John Silver’s on the right with “SIDES MENU” bridging the two exclusive entities I realized that my printed-out online menu was going to be no help at all.  I crumpled it up and placed it back in my pocket.

Judy wanted some Kentucky Fried Chicken so I placed that order and selected the “sides” and drink and HAL(2001 Space Odyssey) spoke once more, “Anything else?” Since I hadn’t ordered my meal and was leaning towards the fish side I said, “Yes!” I explained that I would like to order a fish platter and what were the options? “Do you want to pay for this order first, and your next order separately,” HAL asked? “No,no one order please, and where do I find the sides for my fish order?” I was instructed that the sides were the same for both the chicken half of the menu and the fish half of the menu. That’s when I recalled that the sides menu did bridge the KFC/LJS selection menu apparently it had a purpose. Both the KFC and LJS menus offered chicken, but it wasn’t the same chicken. The KFC chicken looked like chicken, bu the LJS chicken looked like the fish, which really didn’t look like fish at all. I finally finished placing my order, after taking up just as much time as the woman ordering before me had, and paid for my order, HAL handed me my receipt, “YOU ARE ORDER #38, THANK YOU, NEXT!

Judy’s selection was typical KFC and looked delicious. My selection was “fried stuff” and once I found the fish and removed it from its encrusted case of fried stuff,  it was somewhat edible. I always thought Hush Puppies were shoes that I wore and had to buff up with a special little bag. I’m sure the shoes were named after hush puppies food item (similar color and shape?) and I don’t find the food version to be something I would go out of my way to seek, but then I don’t like hominy either. If there is a next time I will stick to the KFC side of the menu!

Perhaps simple sugar water presents the best feeding strategy but then that seems to come with its own complicated set of rules and hierarchy.

The Adventure Continues

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

Yesterday I was snooping around our extended backyard looking for some possible areas where the bobcats might have a den. I was also armed with my telephoto lens in hopes of recording any other activity that might cross my path. The weather was cool and overcast, there wasn’t much activity. The motorized trail bike didn’t help much either but the individual controlling the noisy device was quite pleasant. He stopped and we chatted for awhile. He seemed to have an active appreciation for the nature and wildlife.  He asked me if I had seen any snakes, I told him unfortunately not. He then asked, if I saw one would I take a picture of it? I responded, “Absolutely!” I am still curious about the question and what other answer he thought I might provide.

I did come several unfortunate wildlife victims, a dead Western Fence Lizard frozen in the position at its time of demise. The lizard was on the dirt road but didn’t appear to be the victim of this days bike rider. Further along several crows were agitated at something, and thinking a possible predator, I went to take a closer look. As I approached the area I noticed one of their comrades was lying beneath a power pole. It too was frozen in the position at the time of its demise. The crows were apparently offering final rights and a eulogy to their fallen comrade. They left soon after I arrived. It appears that the crow had been electrocuted on the old power pole that still displayed exposed insulators and wires. This day there didn’t seem to be much active wildlife activity in the extended backyard.

Expired Western Fence Lizard and American Crow (Click on photo for larger image)

I was on top of a ridge with wooded canyons on either side when the fire engine raced up Clinton Keith Road with sirens roaring . After slowing its way through the Palomar Street/Clinton Keith Road intersection the sirens increased in volume and were loud and clear as the fire engine passed only a half mile away from where I was standing. It was then that I heard what I thought was a child imitating the siren, then another joined in, and another, and  another. Suddenly a chill went down my spine. The sounds were coming over my left shoulder only 15-20 yards from where I was standing. More individuals joined the chorus in response to the fire engine siren. The chorus finally ended in an explosive crescendo. With the fire engine now far in the distance, I stood there with my mouth wide open as  the sounds over my left-shoulder slowly subsided and quiet returned.

I estimated that there must have been 6-8 pups and 3 or more adult coyotes responding to the fire engine siren as well as trying to scare the hell out of me. They did a pretty good job at both. I cautiously tried to locate where the coyotes might be residing in the small canyon from several different vantage points. I was however unable to detect any trace or movement of the coyotes. The interior live oaks (Quercus wislizeni) that make up the woodland community in this area provide a great cover for wildlife with the foliage dropping all the way to the ground.

Yesterday also conducted my annual “casual”  Birthday Big Day bird count (BBDBC) – rules for BBDBC are still in development after establishing the BBDBC tradition over the past 15 years. So, I spent a lot of time looking at birds in both our backyard and our extended backyard. I didn’t have a particularily great count day (26 species) for the limited time I counted but this will set a mark for future BBDBC at our new location. I did however add 2 new nice birds to this years CA list (both seen in the extended backyard) – Golden Eagle and Phainopepla.

Ah, living on an urban/wildlife interface is proving to be a wonderful experience.


Another nice Dudleya shot and sunset closed the day!

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO in Southern California

While engaged in my now daily routine of opening the blinds in the living room to greet each new day, I groggily, and without glasses, noticed an animal on the other side of the culdesac. The animal was making its way towards our extended backyard (the oak woodland/chaparral greenspace adjacent to our home) while a crow flew overhead protesting the animals every movement. As I slowly began to realize what I was observing I began to panic since the animal was now moving out of view. Frantically, I tried without success to find my camera which is always at the ready – a photo opportunity lost!

The Bobcat (Lynx rufus) was smaller and more slender than I had anticipated. For some reason I was expecting the bobcat to look more like the stockier Canadian Lynx (Lynx candadensis).  I was nice to see my first bobcat from our own yard. It was my bobcat training session  for bigger and better things on the Santa Rosa Plateau.

A couple hour later I was working in the office which has a view of the front yard. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed something moving past the front porch. I looked up quickly and saw a bobbed tail passing by the window. I immediately jumped up and ran to the front door and quickly opened it. I wanted to see where this bob-tailed creature was heading. As the door rapidly swung open I was drawn to the front walk where four startled eyes were staring back at me. There sat two of the cutest felines I have ever seen and I was just as startled as the two bobcat cubs as I stared back at them. “Camea, camera, where’s the damn camera,” I asked myself. Turning to look for the camera, I noticed mom bobcat come back into view and with that they all disappeared. Finally locating the camera I tried to locate where the bobcats had gone without any luck – another photo opportunity lost! 

Yesterday when returning home after exploring more of our extended backyard I came to a spot below the embankment off our culdesac where several crows were agitated by something. I assumed it was a predator and spent considerable time trying to locate what was causing the crows concern. I didn’t find anything and returned home as the crows continued to scold what was below. I now think there may be a good possibility that the bobcat den is located somewhere in the that area.

The presence of the bobcats also explain some recent yard findings. I have found several quail wing(s) only on the front lawn over the past several weeks. Karter (the correct spelling of Carter our next door cat) occasionally leaves a dead woodrat or headless rabbit on our porch or lawn to show off to VELCRO. But the quail wing(s) indicate that the prey is being utilized for food and not sport, or showing-off in Karters case. There were no plucked feathers associated with the quail wing(s) which might indicate a raptor kill, so I suspect that the quail were probably taken by the bobcat. There are a lot of quail in our area.

I can’t get those wonderful little faces of bewilderment out of my head. They brought an instant smile upon observation and they absolutely define the word, cute!  Hopefully we will have more encounters with this family of bobcats. Next time I will have the camera ready to go. I may have located my bobcat blind – Our front porch in a comfortable chair with a good cup of coffee.


Yesterday, when I explored our extended backyard which I may rename Bobcat Valley, I took a more macro look at the area. I also needed another Dudleya fix and wanted to see if the Dudleya had come into flower yet. It was a nice hike with a lot of new unexpected discoveries.

The cacti are now in full bloom, the spring grasses are drying out – marking the beginning of the fire season in Southern California. It still amazes me to see so many wildflowers in bloom. I would have expected to see most of them gone by now. Of course, this is an El Nino year it’s all different I am told. They are predicting cooler weather for tomorrow with a possibility of rain and there is new snow on the San Bernardino Mountains dropping to the 4,000 foot level with the storm last week. Being a former native Californian (my sister revoked my “native” status years ago when we moved away), I must now rely on the current neo-natives to advise me with regards to the unusual SoCal weather. Somehow it sounds like the same dialog everyone uses to explain the weather.

Dudleya (The DUDE of SoCal succulents) continues to intrigue me. It’s design is abolutely beautiful and it is a great example of the  Fibonacci ratio. Not to mention that I think it would also make a great Halloween costume.

TOP ROW: Fringed Spineflower & Bee Fly, Rattlesnake Weed, Western Scrub Jay
MIDDLE ROW: Zebra-tailed Lizard, Orange-throated Whiptail Lizard
BOTTOM ROW: Dudley (The DUDE of SoCal succulents), Bee-fight in cholla cactus bloom
Click on photo for larger image


The Bobcat made its first appearance this morning almost to the minute that Judy’s uncle Bernie passed away in Ohio. Bernie was 95 years old at his passing, he has always been an inspiration to me. He lived most of his adult life in Logan County, Ohio on a small 30 acre farm living off the land and caring for his parents. He married late to a wonderful woman, Daisy who brought her wonderful family into Bernies life. Bernie and Daisy continued to live a simple life, living off the land, enjoying their beautiful surroundings, and enjoying the natural world on the 30 acres that surrounded them. Bernie left this world this morning as he lived, with great dignity and grace. Thank you Bernie for the Bobcats!

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

A Couple of Days of Settling In

With another wonderful sunset this evening we are winding down after several days of going through boxes, organizing, culling, disposing, and moving things around as we continue our “settling in” process. We aren’t in any real hurry so this process will continue at the pace we will dictate on a daily basis. This is a very nice feeling indeed!

I have been spending a tremendous amount of time these last several days learning something that I have totally have no knowledge about – “water conservation irrigation systems!” In Pennsylvania we called it a “hose.” In California it is a programmed timer with irrigation zones each programmed for different on and off times and days (usually 7-10 minutes per zone if not in the BUDGET mode, whatever that is?). Drip lines with various drip heads that range from 1 – 6 gallons/hour, tee-connectors, angle connectors, and “boo boo” plugs are other hardware items I am learning about. Home Depot and Lowe’s both devote an entire aisle for irrigation systems which is usually located next to the “earthquake preparation” section. Fortunately we had a professional landscaper upgrade our backyard irrigation and drainage system which was outdated and a real mess. My training ground on this project has been Zone 6, the last of the original irrigation zones. I’ve installed drip lines to Judy’s plants that she has been potting and they will now receive their necessary H2O component on a regulated daily basis at the prescribed time – that was assuming that Zone 6 was installed in the computer properly.  Judy continues to pot more plants, and she just won 4 more plants in a raffle today at her Temecula Valley Garden Club meeting. With more plants more drip lines have to be created.  Unfortunately Zone 6 apparently is not currently recognized by the computer, so I am currently manually turning Zone 6 on for 10 minutes daily after all the other zones have finished their cycles. The most complicated thing about the PA hose was winding it back up after I got through watering. Much to learn. I’ve always liked succulent plants and now that we are in succulent plant country I am considering creating a succulent garden to replace some of the sod on our front lawn – NO hose or irrigation system necessary.  

We purchased a new fountain that was more to our likeing than the one we inherited in the purchase of our home. The new fountain besides looking great during the day also has lights to make it appealing at night as well. Since our outdoor connection doesn’t have an in-house switch allowing us to turn the fountain on and off another project was created. A simple solution, and another trip to Home Depot, I thought. I passed up the irrigation and earthquake preparation aisle and headed for the outdoor electrical section. I found an outdoor timer with 6 outlets that boasted, “six individually timed outlets. Wow, probem solved I thought,  I purchased the item and headed for home. I wanted the fountain to start in the morning, the lights to the fountain to come on in the evening and for everything to shut down at 11 PM and this item seemed to fill that need.

Arriving home I prepared to setup the “perfect solution!” But upon reading the fine print on the “in-box instructions” for the 6-“individually-timed” receptacle  outdoor outlet, it read, “TIMER REGULATES ALL OUTLETS!” “What,” I shouted, the description on the box suggests that the 6 outlets could be independently timed, but they were not. Not to be discouraged, I headed to our local Ace Hardware store and purchased a digital outdoor light sensitive switch that I attached to one of the 6 receptacles of  the outdoor outlet. I attached the fountain light unit to the light sensor and all worked well – mission accomplished! Well, not exactly, as it turns out the light-sensitive unit is digital so once the outdoor outlet shuts down each evening so does the light-sensitive digital unit. It then must be reset daily to work again.  Ah, so much more to do!

The Adventure Continues . . . . .

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

Home Improvements – Pros & Cons

Our new home had been vacant for a month and a half before settlement. Amazingly, the front yard was very healthy looking and appeared to be well taken care of. The backyard on the other hand had been totally neglected for quite some time. It was essentially a barren, muddy moonscape, complete with a dead tree leaning towards the house. We learned from our neighbor that her husband was so upset about how the property was being neglected that he personally fertilized and watered the front lawn with his own water source to maintain the front yard. We are fortunate to have such great neighbors. Our neighbor was shocked to see the condition of the backyard, she said it was beautiful in the past. She said that the dead tree was a beautiful ornamental plum.
We tended to the essential repairs and improvements that needed to be done – the roof and the patio cover. Our next major project was to get the backyard back in good condition and to provide Judy with her new gardening space. We had the railroad tie planters installed a while ago but the irrigation system had to be replaced before the re-sodding could be accomplished. For the last 4 or 5 days, Alex and his crew from Wildomar Lawncare transformed our muddy moonscape to a beautiful greenscape complete with a new irrigation system in both the lawn area and the planting area.

CLICK on PHOTO for a LARGER image
After 14 days or so, Judy will finally have her Garden Playground! No more steep hills to climb or rocks to stumble over, finally – level ground with completely accessible planters. Judy will be busy for sometime planting and tending to all the plants she brought from Pennsylvania, and new ones from the region. Once the sod has had time to take hold, Alex and his crew will plant the Apricot and Tangelo trees in the new greenspace.
  • Fixes things that have to be fixed.
  • More efficient utilities use –  Cost Saving!
  • Provides comfort and amenities.
  • CARTER, the next door cat, may now stop using our backyard for his cat box.


  • The California Quail may now be infrequent visitors since our backyard will no longer be a “grit” source.
  • The House Sparrows will no longer entertain us with their dust baths.
  • The patio cover partially blocks the great view of the mountains from the kitchen. Judy says she can see them fine, “You’re just too tall,” she says.
  • Home Improvements COST a lot of MONEY!

Our next, and hopefully, final project for awhile will be to get the SPA in working order. It appears to be working, so hopefully it will just need some cleaning and tuning up. It will also have to be made more accessible for Judy.

When the lizards are active at 7 AM, it is going to be a warm day!