excerpted from caro's journal: topic: wildlife

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2006_09_05:17: Compartmentalization

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Rats enjoy a good cushy surface to lie on. They love their hammocks, and my lap, and my shirt. They sometimes curl up in the litter box, which is full of pellets of recycled paper and corn cob and so relatively soft. They also love newspaper, but they are very particular about how it is to be arranged. All the shelves in their cage are lined with newspaper so that they can walk and lie on something other than bare wire. The bottom of the cage, which is plastic, is also lined with newspaper. At least some of them can always be found stretched out on the undisturbed, flat surface of a newspaper. They will often collect bits of newspaper that they have torn up, put them into the litter box, and lie on them. There are two large plastic jars in the cage, for times when they want to nap in a covered place instead of camping in the open air. I always line these with newspaper. But the first thing they do after I've cleaned the cage is remove all the fresh newspaper from the jars, and lie down on the bare plastic. They don't clear the newspaper from the plastic cage floor, however, or from the wire shelves. Newspaper is for OUTSIDE the jars, not inside. Dummy. Pay attention!

They also enjoy hard, radically uncomfortable places to lie on and against. The wire shelves are bent up in an L shape at the edge. The rats will lie on the newspaper and hang their heads over the top of the L, so that they look like they are choking; you can look up from beneath them and see that the pressure is pulling their lips apart and pushing their teeth out of alignment. They come out of their cage to lie on the table, often choosing to drape their chests or stomachs over my metal fountain pen, their shoulders strained out in front of them with their hands dangling in mid-air, the way you would look if you hung your shoulders over a fence. They will disdain a piece of cabbage or a wad of newspaper, and instead use as a pillow for their heads a hard block of rat food, or a slice of apple, or a carrot. Currently, Taki is facing me from the cage; he is straddled full-length upon a carrot. His head is squeezed between the litter box and the bars of the cage, regular segments of his face, one of which contains his eye, squishing through the bars. He got up and walked away for a moment, ate something, groomed a little, and then returned to exactly the same position, proving that he didn't fall into that position by unlucky accident. Comfort is fine, but it has its place: there are just certain times when they prefer to be in a contorted position between a rock and a hard place. Maybe I should get some rocks for them. I wouldn't want to rob them of any chances for discomfort. Spartan rats.

They don't like to get wet--sometimes. They'll splash around in a pool of water, dump my tea on themselves, wash vigorously in my water glass, and lie under the dripping water bottle until they are soaked. They lick their entire coats several times a day and let other rats do it to them. They pee on each other to demonstrate dominance, but the rat thus pee'd upon doesn't really seem to mind it and makes no immediate effort to dry his fur. Yet they take great offense at my stroking them clean with a wet wash cloth. Very hypocritical of them, since they lick me every time they get within range.

I gave them a wading pool today. I put frozen peas in it to lure them. Soon, there was a rockin party where there had been only hot rats lying on their sides on the glass tabletop. Dragging their tails through the cool water did the trick. They preened happily. And then, unbelievably, they wanted to cuddle with the big warm animal watching them. And soon, my shirt smelled like a combination of peas and wet rat.
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2001-02-25:18:18

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Someone is chewing the bark off my citrus trees and I think I know who and boy are they gonna get it.
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2001-03-15:19:27

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A mousie got in the house a few days ago. It was adorable. it revealed itself by unabashedly digging through the dried soy beans stored under the stove--right while I was storing some soup. I set the live traps, but it was too smart for that. It sprang one trap, then snuck past me into the living room. I sat at my desk with the office doors open to the garden so it could go back out, but gave up when evening came and closed the doors. Ten minutes later, there came the mouse tiptoeing by me and looking cunningly up at me. It clearly knew exactly what it was doing: taking soy beans one by one outside to its nest. So I opened the door again and it eventually slipped out. Gotta keep the screen door closed more!

I'm still glad the mice are out there, though, given the way I've seen them attacking snails and slugs and cleaning up the litter from my plants. I make it clear that they aren't allowed in the house by keeping the floors very clean and keeping food (except soy beans!) where they can't reach it. When they come in, they get bored very quickly and leave. Unlike birds and bugs, they know exactly how they got in and exactly how to get back out.
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2001_04_02:23: One Little Academic.html

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There's a puddle on the patio behind the lemon tree that lingers, reduced in size, as long as two days after the last watering or rain. A song sparrow has discovered it, and comes to bath in it daily. I hear him fluttering in through the lattice, and I go still except for typing fingers. He bounces around the garden a bit, checking me out from all angles to make sure I really am a rock formation, then slips down to his private bath and splashes noisily. Suddenly he catapults to the top of the shade house, always keeping an eye on me, and shakes and preens his wet rumpled feathers at his leisure. Later in the day, I'll hear him singing about the territory he owns.

Aphids, I just read in the Western Garden Problem Solver do not bother to lay eggs: they are livebearers. Doesn't that just put ALIEN to shame. Moreover, they do not bother with sexual immaturity: they are born pregnant. That explains how they are able to appear in droves overnight though most do not fly, why the groups of them always look like little families with specimens of all sizes, and why the ladybugs can eliminate them just as quickly as they appear--no eggs sitting around to hatch later after the cleaning crew goes through.
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2008_06_08:14: learning, intelligence, wrongness

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Riding down Rose Canyon trail about 3 weeks ago, I spotted a snake stretched very straight across my path. It took up at least half of the pavement, but there was room for me to swerve around it. As I did so, some search routine in my brain managed to retrieve an image and a name: rattlesnake? But I didn't really know. I continued on for a few seconds, and then thought I should go back and chase the snake into the brush; other riders might not see it in time. I looked over my shoulder, and saw the most enormous police truck coming down the trail. I slowed down, even more worried for the snake now: if it was hard for me to see and slow down, how would this truck avoid it? I finally gave in to my overresponsibility and turned around. But just then, the truck stopped and the officer got out. I assumed sadly that this was because he had run over the snake. So I turned away and reminded myself that I can't save every beast and I have to accept that. A little way down the road, I heard the truck coming. For the first time in my life, I waved down the police: this was important! He already knew what I had to say. "Don't worry, I didn't run over the snake." I was so relieved! He confirmed that it was a rattlesnake, which he had nudged into the grass with his foot! "It didn't try to bite you?!" "Oh, no, we have them in our yard all the time. They are harmless unless you corner or attack them." I guess that explains why I was able to pass within a foot of its head without its bothering to move.

Last week while riding along the San Diego River trail, I was, as usual, looking at the birds in the river instead of at the road. Both tires bounced over something. I turned around just in time to see another rattlesnake winding off into the brush. Only the second rattlesnake I've seen in my life, and I had to run over the poor thing. I hope it's ok.
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2001_06_20:16: Testing

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Lizard pictures coming soon!
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2006_09_07:11: The Rudest Tea Guests

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From a letter I sent to my sister last week:

Rats make appalling tea guests. I'm eating breakfast. There is a rat on my lap, two in each sleeve, one trying to pry open the sugar bowl, and another WASHING HIS HANDS IN MY WATER GLASS. I'm not kidding. He's balancing on the edge of the glass with his back feet, and doggie paddling in the water with his front paws. (No, I won't be drinking that water. If he felt his hands were dirty enough to wash repeatedly, I bet my water is now just as dirty.)

Mainly they want the biscuits. I gave them some, but they are insatiable. Eventually they give up, because they have terrible cases of ADHD. My sleeves are just as interesting as food, so they climb in. They don't just sit there quietly, of course. They wrestle vigorously in there, causing the tea in my cup to slosh. I put out "rat blankets" for them to sit on. They roll up the edges, over top of items on the blankets if necessary, and grab the corners and tryhttp://www.supersaturated.com/splendidfrisbee.html
thttp://www.supersaturated.com/splendidfrisbee.html

[Excuse me, Strawberry just inserted those urls in the middle of my typing. I'm leaving them in because he must have had some reason for wanting you to see them.]

...Anyway, they grab the corners of the blankets and try to drag them into the cages, and all the table items slowly creep toward the cages with them.

By the time tea is over, the table is a complete shambles.
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2000-12-19:06:18

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A baby seagull on the beach today was crying and holding itself in begging posture. I looked around to see where its mother was, but there were no other birds on the beach or in the air. It looked to be big enough to fe ed itself, and since the lifeguards just pulled the buoy onto shore, there are plenty of free mussles there for it to scavenge. But it wanted to be fed, sweet little dear, afraid to let go of its babyhood and set itself free. This month, I sympathize deep ly.
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2002_02_25:12: Stargazer Rising

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Spent the afternoon yesterday reorganizing my Constant Flux garden. The last thing I did was rinse the birdbath and refill it. Then I came in to read my mail. I wasn't sitting here 10 minutes before a bather appeared. The song sparrow took a quick bath, then sat in the pineapple guava tree to flutter himself dry.

Song sparrows are good little things to attract. While most finches chirp prettily, the song sparrow will sit around for hours fluting complicated songs. Given how sparse the grounds of these condominiums are kept, it's rare for one to find its way into my garden. But there's so much to do in here--drink, eat bugs, bathe, scratch in the dirt, gather nesting materials, sit on scenic perches. Once they manage to discover it, they come back every day.

The Say's pheobes have been long-time daily visitors, going on about 3 years now. They announce themselves with loud shrieks and clumsy landings. They seem to be here chiefly for the bath too, and every water bath is followed by a dust bath in one of my potted plants. Then the muddy birds snooze in the sun on top of the fence to dry off. They still come in the open patio door occasionally, wander around in the living room until I remind them of what happened the last time they ventured up the stairs to the conservatory.
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2006_09_14:13: Varieties of Mischief

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A group of rats is called a mischief.

Many things are made more difficult when one befriends a mischief of rats. Cleaning, for example. They make a mess of my glass tabletop. I clean it at least once a day. If they are out, they think that by my cleaning motions I am inviting them to play. They chase my hand back and forth across the table, and try to pull the wet napkin from my hand; if they manage to get a piece or all of it, they streak inside the cage and put it in their litter box. They get so excited about this that they start doing other things to interfere, like rolling up the rat blankets like little carpets and pushing them off the table, especially if they detect that my goal is to neatly pick them up with their contents to shake outside.

I take down their hammocks once a day too, and wash them, and put up clean ones. That's even more difficult. Even if they are dead-asleep when I start or even if they have just started eating dinner on the table, the mere sound of one clothespin being squeezed open is enough to send them all scrambling up both the inside and the outside of the cage, where they will jointly and severally plop themselves down in the hammocks, balance on the perches to which the hammocks are clipped, try to pull my shirt through the bars of the cage, and get into all sorts of unsafe predicaments that cause me to stop what I am doing and rescue them. They are unbelievably fast. If I pull one off me, claws digging into my shirt for all he's worth, and put him on the table, I have approximately half a second to work before he rematerializes back at the top of the cage, where he teeters on the edge of something I'm trying to remove or attempts to shove himself into my shirt sleeve. I often have four rats in one sleeve while cleaning. They balance on their back feet on the edge of the cage, and with their hands they pull open the collar of my tshirt so they can climb inside. Then they panick, because instead of sitting quietly in a chair for their snuggling convenience, I am standing up cleaning.

When they are clean themselves, they smell like warm cherry Poptarts. When they are not clean, they don't.

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2000-11-04:22:26

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(This was written several days ago, offline, before the summer meeting materials started to arrive, and I just didn't have time to put it here.)

It is a very good thing that I ran on the beach yesterday, becaus e today it is stormy. Curious Frizbee today, as there were no partners available but the wind. It had stormed at sea yesterday morning, and the beach was full of gifts from the ocean. A guy from Scripps was on the sand in a truck collecting samples of all the interesting kinds of algae. A mussel bigger than any I've seen was stranded by the low tide; I decided to be nice to it and walked it back down the exposed intertidal zone to put it back, wondering if the swinging of my arm was making it dizzy.

The seagulls were finding good stuff. The storm must have been pretty rough, because there was a dead cormorant at the edge of the surf. A seagull was attempting to eat it. I didn't know they ate birds! Another had found one of those prize-winning m ussels, and was attempting to crack it open. I'd only seen this once before: she grabbed the mussel, flew straight up into the air about 20 feet, and with a flick of her neck tossed it just a little higher. Then she dropped down to check it. It wasn't ope n, so she did it again, and I watched her toss it a few times more before running on.

The elegant terns are back! I'm sure they just got here, since they weren't there on Tuesday, and they are the most obvious things on the beach. 'Elegant tern' is a good name for them: they are stark white, with a long bright red beak and a stiff black crest that points sharply backward. They stand immobile, all of them facing in the same direction, with their heads drawn back and up like show horses. I first sa w them last year. Walking along reading a book in the waves, I came upon a flock of about 20 of them suddenly. I might have seen one blink, and a feather or two ruffled in the wind. But otherwise they stood as though they didn't care at all. I've always l oved terns, and I don't think I've ever seen one stand still: they are always diving for fish when I spot them. So this was a real treat, though I wasn't certain that these were terns at all given how different they looked. I squatted, and inched toward them so that I could see better and memorize the features of this bird I'd never seen, so that I could look them up when I got home. I perched there among them, my arms dangling across my knees for balance, for a good 10 minutes or so, too charmed by the ir placid elegance to leave once I'd observed enough distinguishing marks. People saw us, and steered clear. Strange flock.

A pair of elegant terns today were bathing elegantly in the surf. One stood in haughty disregard of the water rushing arou nd and under it, while the other one lost all sense of dignity and comportment and ducked fluttering under the foam.

No sharks yesterday. But so many new things! I had begun to believe that sandpipers only come in one size, but a speckly brown mo ther was out with her half-sized downy gray chick teaching it to run the waves for clams. What a cute little thing it was.
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2001_09_03:14: All Natural

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Perfect swimming and sharking today, warm clear water. Low tide left the leopard sharks behind in the roped area in front of the hotel. There's no net, just some floats, but the sharkies swim back and forth there. I counted probably 20. The gentle rolling waves made magnifying lenses, and for a change almost everyone in the area was watching.

This week I've been bringing fuchsias in to sit on my desk just inside the door. The hummingbirds, usually precisely respectful of the plane of the threshhold, zoomed right in and buzzed around my desk to visit the flowers. I guess they are obliged to taste every flower they see no matter where it is.

My Say's Phoebes have been coming to bathe every day, sometimes twice a day, in the little white Pyrex bowl of rocks on the patio. After splashing half the water out of the bowl, they sit in one of my little trees and thoroughly shake themselves dry. Then they plop down in the soil and roll around for a while. To finish off the bath, they have a lie-down in a spot of sun atop the garden wall, flattened fluffy mounds, tails spread wide.
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2000-11-06:02:43

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Children count as wildlife, don't they? A few weeks ago when I was wandering down the beach looking for interesting creatures, two large ones walked up to me and requested my assistance. The 8-year-old asked me to strap her boogie board cord to her wrist. The 6-year-old thought that looked like a good idea, so she had me tie hers to the opposite wrist. They thanked me, and then they dashed into the sea. Funny thing is, it obviously hadn't occurred to them that they migh t make use of each other this way. Well, I was born to serve...

The patio rats have not been around for a while. Either they have already grown up and aren't making as much of a commotion as they did while they were teenagers, or they've been poi soned. I miss them digging up my soil in my pots.
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2008_06_05:12: Outdoor Details

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Many encounters with wildlife over the last few days. Last Saturday, before leaving for frisbee, I went out to discover the source of destructive chainsaw sounds, and instead found an orange Hooded Oriole in my neighbor's palm tree. I was jealous; the reason I planted the Strawberry Guava was for the express reason of attracting Orioles to my garden. Eat at Carolyn's!

Walking back to the front of the house, I heard rowdy calling and paused to look up. Just then, a flock of 10 or 12 wild parrots flew directly over the house. They've never come so close before this. Usually I see them in the distance. How can I get them to stop here? What could I provide to tempt them to nest?

As long as I was out there, I stopped to water the garden, hose attachment set to "gentle shower". A female hummingbird zoomed down to within 3 feet of me, to take a drink as they often do--but no, she didn't drink. Instead, she hovered above the spray, then slowly lowered her feet, then the lower half of her body, into the spray. I held the hose as steady as I could, with my mouth hanging open in surprise. She finished her bath after about 30 seconds, slowly rose back out of the spray, and cruised away.

The hose engaged another creature, to its irritation: I had never seen a roach in the garden--any garden--before. They seem to prefer sidewalks and walls and the insides of people's houses. This one was strolling amongst the primroses. I can't say that I found it much more appealing in this setting, though I did feel slightly less, um, cornered by it than when I see them in a room, which hasn't happened for maybe 8 months now. Combat is a wonderful thing.

I made spaghetti and meatballs a couple of nights ago. I left some sauce to cool on the stove before putting it away, then wandered off to do my evening activities. When I returned to the kitchen, I was sleepy and not really paying attention; I turned on a dim light, to prevent myself from waking up too much before getting into bed. I gave the sauce a stir, because I knew that there was still some glazing on the bottom of the pan from having fried the meat in there. In hindsight, I guess the sauce looked a tiny bit strange, perhaps a bit lumpier. I tilted the pan over the storage container, and to my surprise, part of the sauce began to take flight. I dropped the spoon just as a rather largish roach dropped into the container. I quickly covered the container, dumped the sauce down the drain (roaches are not one of my recommended sauce ingredients), and when my heart stopped pounding, I threw the container out the door and the grateful roach scurried away to walk among the primroses where he doesn't belong.

This week, every time I go into the bathroom for a moment, I hear the excited peeping of baby birds. The window looks out on the carport, where I have seen Red Finches flitting around. Sometimes, they see me looking out there. I back away from the window when I catch sight of them. When I peak my head around the corner, I see them craning their necks around the same corner, trying to get a look at me. I have walked around the carport looking for any sign of a nest, but I see nothing, not even droppings or empty eggshells. Yet there must be tons of places to nest, because I sometimes see as many as 3 or 4 finches methodically checking out every crevice. Hopefully will see the babies learning to fly.

Right now, there is a mourning dove sitting in the awning above my front door, the door I most use. Doves have built nests there several times, only to abandon them when they realize that I will be coming and going all the time. A couple of times, they have gotten as far as laying an egg or two. I feel bad about this. So whenever I see them bringing in straw, I explain to them that they really don't want to nest there. Usually they believe me and leave straight away. Today, I didn't see the dove until I had already opened the door and had been sitting in front of the door sharing my breakfast with the rats. It was definitely watching me, and when I spoke to it it clearly heard me. I wonder if it is a baby waiting to be rescued by its mother, or whether it is an adult trying to decide if that narrow ledge would be a good spot to build a nest. Don't do it, bird!
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2000-11-09:19:27

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Last night a single coyote howled for about an hour. No yips this time, and no friends. Just one. It was a drawn out cry, about 15 seconds long, starting low and rising in pitch, levelling out, then dropping back down quickly. The sound was like a human voice crossed with an ambulence siren. The moon is almost full, but I don't know if coyotes and wolves really do notice the moon and howl at it. It could have just been soliciting mates, or singing a song, or having a c onversation with another animal too far away for me to hear.
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2000-10-26:07:10

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A few days ago a hummingbird had a dogfight with a yellow jacket. The feeder, which I inherited from the previous residents, is in bad shape, and the bee guards were lost long ago. Now that it's "fall" (see "La Jolla"), the yellow jackets are out in numbers. They're just the right size to slip into the feeder holes--don't know why they don't just make the holes smaller: the birds wouldn't mind. A hummingbird arrived just as the wasp was exiting the hole. The bird backed off a little, and the wasp approached it. For about 30 seconds, they did a little dance with each other, hoving to face off, tracking each other's dodges, facing off again. I've never seen a hummingbird back down from a fight, but yellow jackets are annoyingly persistent, and the bird finally zoomed away. But she was back soon, and spent the rest of the day minding the feeder from a perch on the jasmine.

I don't know if it is the same bird who is usually babysitting the feeder, but one visitor today was quite fat. I imagined that I could see the outline of two eggs puffing out her belly. T'is the season. But I've never seen a baby hummingbird. How do they eat? Do they just mature to adulthood in the nest, and then emerge full-grown?
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2000-10-19:19:11

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Sitting out in the office, staring into the leaves as I contemplated the mysteries of table data, I saw a thread swinging from the hibiscus in the breeze. I followed it down to the end to f ind the spider, but found instead a small slug. The thread was not spider-webbing, but the slug's gooey lubricant. No doubt it had slipped off the leaf, and the goo was just viscous enough to hold it up. But not having the requisite spinnerets, it could o nly spin gently there and wave its antennae about, feeling for a foothold. As I watched, the thread stretched ever-so-slowly, until the slug was about 6 inches from the ground. I considered idly whether I should assist the slug. But the thread broke sudde nly, and the slug hit the ground head first, twisted gracefully upright, and started on its way. I'll probably kill it when I see it again; the only way to keep the population down (except for the rats' assistance) is to pick them off individually when th ey appear. But for now I let it escape, unable to destroy it after what must have been a fairly intimate interaction for a slug.
And two days ago, a flying thing crossed my path so slowly and so close that I had to get a closer look. It seemed to fin d something interesting on the ground, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary on the clean deck of the pool. It descended in a circling pattern, and rolled over several times when it landed. My curiosity overcame my general preference for being at some dis tance from fuzzy buzzy things. I stooped to see what it was doing. It had spotted a pill-bug from the air, and now was attempting to roll it up. Finally it wrapped all its legs around the bug-ball, and slowly rose again, unsteadily at first. I stared, ope n-mouthed, as the yellow jacket flew away to some horrid den with its prey. I had no idea they did such things.
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2000-12-28:18:05

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I visited the Perky-Pet website (www.perky-pet.com) to look for hummingbird nectar for my feeder. Many hummingbirds overwinter here, and they expect their flower diet to be liberally supplemented by their human servants. But a combination of rigidity, stupidity, corporate mentality, and ignorant marketing executives see to it that hummer food disappears from the shelves of Southern California stores when the hummer "season" ends, which is August--in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile I've got angry birds buzzing me in the garden and sliding irate suggestions under my door. I looked desperately at the last pack of food in the box, and found the url, much to my relief. The hummingbirds barely disguised their contempt as they watched me log on.

The Perky Pet site is a mystical experience, and not simply because of the navigation. For reasons I cannot comprehend, they aren't allowed to give prices for anything, and they aren't allowed to list whole feeders. They can list all the _parts_ for the feeders, though; you might think that you can just build a feeder from the parts, but it isn't clear whether you're ordering one ant mote or 50. Regarding nectar, it is not clear whether one is ordering a one pound box of mix, or a case of one pound boxes.

I filled in the form with information about a small feeder, but without a credit card number, to see if I would get a total upon submitting the form. Instead, I got a message saying the order would be sent to me shortly. At this point I was picturing myself using a case of feeders as gifts to landscape consultation clients, but I wasn't sure I wanted to buy $200 worth of feeders and pay for it COD. So I sent email to tell them to cancel the order and let me start over with a credit card number once they sent me some more information on a single feeder and some food.

A single, complete feeder arrived in the mail today, with a bill--no COD charge, though, and no food. A strange company.
Maybe they just need a web programmer who loves hummingbirds.

The hummingbirds continue to grow increasingly disgruntled.
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2001-02-07:19:32

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The wild patio rats keep eating my violets! Little twerps. They've sometimes sheared off the hibiscus flowers without eating them, which bothered my anti-wasteful mentality tremendously, but I forgave them because few things are as cute as a half-grown rat climbing amongst glossy leaves and scampering off with huge white flowers in the its mouth. Unless it's several baby rats collecting the fallen bougainvillea blossoms one by one and hopping around with them. At least they eat the violets, and I'd guess that they paper their nests with my paperflowers.

Coyotes howling again around the canyon. Hadn't heard them for a couple of months, maybe because I actually had the windows closed at night for a change.
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2001-02-14:17:41

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Rats make mental maps of places that they go. That's why they are good at finding their way through mazes.

Birds, apparently, do not make maps. They follow their noses to the light or wind. That's why they get flustered when they end up inside a building. Even when the way back out is clearly lit by sunlight, they don't know how to find their way back.

I ate breakfast in a drizzle this morning, sun streaking through the clouds and the drops. Two flycatchers that I think I've correctly identified as Say's Phoebees, descended into the garden, and I froze to watch. As I contemplated the probable fate of my carefully distributed ladybugs, one of the birds, shrieking loudly all the while, hopped through the open door. I had to suppress laughter as it explored the living room, it looked so cute and out-of-place and completely unafraid; I was afraid to move or make a sound that would frighten it further into the house. Its friend hovered around the door, chirping hesitantly to its now-silent partner lurking inside this weird cave, but suddenly decided to join the fun. From where I sat in the rain, I could see them cruising casually around, stopping to peck at things in the carpet, leaping up onto furniture to get a better sense of the place. One of them rounded the corner and disappeared under the stairs.

I was just beginning to wonder when panic would set in, when one of the birds flew toward the door and hit the glass. Unperturbed, it was perfectly content to try that strategy a few more times, always returning to perch on the tall corn plant sitting directly in front of the open door. Why did it keep flying toward the glass, when the door was wide open? The door is 12 feet wide, and half of which was covered by the glass, half open to the wind and the sky. I decided that I needed to draw the blinds over the closed half and block off the other windows--and as I contemplated how to do this without terrifying the bird, it got bored with that game and instead started up the stairs, one at a time. Ah, ha. That's where the other one must be too.

I could hear them rustling the blinds in my bedroom and clattering on the edges of plant pots. Of course they would wander into a south-west conservatory--why go anywhere else? And they would have just enough time to locate and consume the three ladybugs I had charged with the responsibility of removing aphids from the bouvardia. I followed them up with the camera. I got a few dark pictures of wild birds perched prettily in the rubber tree before they started bashing themselves against the window and tangling with the blinds. There was nothing to do but take out one of the screens and draw the blinds over that window too. While I was making these preparations, the birds called a red alert. One of them crouched low, tail spread wide, on the floor, making little sideways danger-avoiding hops, just the way rats do during an alert (surprising how similar rodents and birds can look and act); the other tried to fly into a deep blue painting depicting sunrise over the desert and ending up clinging to the top edge. When the room darkened except for that one light gray rectangle of hope, they finally found their way out.
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2001_07_20:18: Social Considerations

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Mourning doves are nesting on my upstairs bathroom window sill. One of them has a really hoarse, breathy voice, instead of the usual silky-smooth flute. It sounds like a creaky door or a rattling motor, except that it follows the song-pattern of the dove. I first realized they were there because I kept hearing that strange rattling, accompanied by scrabbling. I walked outside to look at them. A palm tree curves gracefully up the corner of the house and hangs its fronds over the window, providing a bit of camouflage. The window sill is narrow, and instead of turning its side to the wall, one of the doves had its back to the wall and its long tail was jammed straight up against it and sort of tipping over a little bit because it didn't quite clear the eaves. When they saw me they both stopped hooting. But I'm on the patio now and I can hear their song floating down the stairs.