Summer is the time to see large and small critters on the move at dawn or dusk and they can mean trouble for our garden. When we think about the 10 Plagues of Egypt: frogs, locusts, hail fire, our problems seem minor. Although we are on the look out for those who would do harm, ravaging our garden, we are fond of the individuals we have come to recognize and even name.
“Notchie” we have known now for 5 years. Every year she births her two in our driveway and then teaches her fawn crew to hang out under the apple tree and wait for the ripe apples to fall.
With another pair of fawns there was a mishap at birth so we have “Cassidy” who “hops-along” on three legs accompanied by her sibling “Satin” who is just fine. When their mother died, from some mysterious trauma, (not a mark on her) we buried her next to the massive pine stump. We’ll dig up the skull come winter. Those two were adopted by another doe. We worry about little Cassidy when we hear the coyote chorus at 4 AM but we are amazed at how she seems to have adapted to this infirmity, heartbreaking as it is to watch her. A neighbor called wildlife protection services but they told her, just as we thought: Darwin did have a point after all.
A “party” of Blue Jays is hard at work harvesting the heads of our towering sunflowers. These bandits don’t leave much for us but they are probably the culprits who have stashed the seed that will become the next years volunteers.
At dusk we spotted a skunk passing by. The neighbor said she saw 7 kits, count ’em 7- that’s definitely a Surfeit. In the morning there were divots in the strawberry patch, evidence that they had been rooting out worms and grubs.
We have a thoroughfare of trouble with gopher tunnels that are undercutting root systems and cause the water to drain away from the garden. To prevent total destruction everything is planted in hardware cloth wire baskets.
We are making a list of bugs: cutworms that severed the stem of our soybeans, aphids that have infected our Brussels Sprouts and flies that burrow into the olives making them unfit for pressing. But we are on the case with a dusting of diatomaceous earth, stinky fly-catching devices and a sudsy spritz, a concoction of dishwashing soap to defeat the aphids.
Most marvelous and most mysterious is the clever creature who every night has been arranging and rearranging the tub of plastic rebar caps in our garden shed. We wonder who this might be??? It might be the rats (rats are never singular, not for long anyway, quickly becoming a “mischief” as a bunch of rats is called). We’ve resorted to the rat snappers since our cat Kibibi seems to have hung up her cleats, as it were. She was the bane of our rodent friends, but K’bib, in her retirement no longer presents us with a gnawed-on mouse or rat or gopher. These days, most often, we see her up on the porch gazing into some feline reverie of her glory days. Thankfully, she was never much of a birder.
Speaking of birds, in the gloaming and on into the black night, we’ve heard Screech Owl’s ghostly voice—listen here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Western_Screech-Owl/id
As well as the spotted, great horned, Saw-whet. Good ole’ Cornell Lab of Ornithology where you can browse many bird sounds. We often hear the acorn woodpeckers tapping in vain on the stucco. Neighbors with wood siding regularly have to empty out bushels of acorns stashed behind the clapboards. Every once in a while we get a glimpse of the giant Pileated Wood Pecker doing his best to ravage our phone pole. You can see him working away, great chips flying. In a spectacular swooping stoop last week we saw our resident Red Shouldered Hawk grab up a snake twinned into its talons looking like the heraldry on the Mexican flag. You can see that story here Tenochtitlan.
Here’re pics of the rebar caps on three successive mornings. Rat trap unsprung. Rule #3 of Rancho D’s list of rules: Do something every day. Even if it is only one.