Getting Freaky!

For the past few years, we keep witnessing a phenomenon that is, quite frankly, getting a little freaky! We call it the ‘Peckasso Phenomenon’. The first time we saw it, it was pretty cool. A bird seed block that had been pecked to the point of an interesting organtic form….

Peckossos1

We had been putting bird seed blocks out for many years, but had never seen anything like this. I’m not sure if it’s just because we never noticed, or the birds pecking it had never created such an interesting piece of ‘art’.

So, after this, we did notice!….It was hard not to notice, because now, every bird seed block that we put out is transformed into something! But what’s weird, it’s not just any something! It’s always a sculptural representation of the critters in Todd’s Backyard. For instance, the next creation was on a seed block out in the middle of the yard where lots of rabbits hang out….

Peckosso2

Then, right after Gerti, our tortoise, came to live with us, this is what we found at the seed block that was just outside her enclosure…

Peckasso_Tortoise

Ok.. you might be thinking, tortoises don’t stand up like that. Well, Gerti actually does like to pull herself upright along the wall…kinda weird.

The next installation was created, again, on the seed block in the middle of the yard. It was in the spring when all of the quail are running around with their babies…

Library - 2417

Maybe a stretch, but, hey, I can see it!

Next?….

PeckassoA crouching roadrunner.

Can Peckasso top this one? I think so!

We were astounded to discover this last week on the seed block that sits right outside the chicken coop…

PECKASSO5

WTF!

Weird, True, Freaky!!!

Sweet Tree-ts

Todd’s Backyard is basically a desert forest. When we moved here 9 years ago, the property had a lot of mature mesquite trees and Todd decided to plant a few more, just to fill it in. Now, the trees that Todd planted over the years, have grown into beautiful green canopies that shade the desert landscape from the scorching summer sun! A relief to us, as well as our local desert dwellers!

Of course, the yard has become a favorite hangout for all of our feathered friends! The birds have flocked to this branchy paradise, so you will at find at least one bird… or two in every bush ūüėČ

And, since we are on a bird migration route, we sometimes have bird guests, that baffle us. We keep our handy bird book on the porch so if we don’t know who they are, we can look them up!

I think I have identified this one as a White Tailed Kite?…Similar to a Falcon.

The cardinals have been particularly high-profile and prolific this year. There are several cardinal families that have put on some great shows for us, feeding their babies! It’s the dads that actually feed their offspring…who knew!

They make and incredible racket when doing so, so if you don’t spot their brilliant pop of red among the treetops, you just need to follow the tweets!

In Todd’s Backyard, the birds are boutiful, but it’s not just the birds you’ll see in the trees…

We have some real tree-huggers here!

And some tree slitherers!

And some furry little acrobats!

You may want to call Todd’s Backyard a desert forest, but whatever it is, it’s always entreetaining ūüėČ

The Birds and The Bees

Oh, the¬† facts of life! 3 things are certain for the resident’s of Todd’s Backyard…birth, death and rebirth. The cycle of life is incredibly apparent over the years of documenting the seasons with photos. The Summer heat, the Fall lush, the Winter freeze and the Spring blossoms…over and over again. Always something to look forward to!

The yard is rebounding this Spring faster than we have seen it in the past. The bees are going crazy…But something is different this March. The orange trees have not blossomed. And, it seems they may not this year, after loosing all of their leaves to the freeze. Poor bees!¬† Any hives around our place will be filled with ‘hummingbird food honey’.

Luckily, we haven’t had any bad bee encounters. I don’t know if these are Africanized bees, but no one has gotten stung yet. In fact, these bees are actually pretty friendly and entertaining to watch. (Lets hope they stay that way!) I had one fly up my pant leg, and he didn’t get mad…just gave me a tickle and flew back out!

The humming birds can still manage to  get a sip, as soon as the fearless little Rufous Hummer comes in to chase all the bees away.

The Elusive Rufous Hummingbird….

Don’t let his cute looks fool you. He is¬† a vicious little beast! As soon as he chases off the bees, he’s chasing off all of the other birds!

And the birds are thick! We’ve been able to capture a lot of new pics for Todd’s Backyard bird gallery…

The Cardinal

The Starling….. a new resident!

The Thrasher

The Oriole

Nests abound! The doves are in love!

Oh indeed! Hide your eyes!

Well, this is what happens in the Spring…. It is a ‘fact of life’….sometimes you just get screwed!

And as the old saying goes ….”The only things certain in life are birth, death and taxes.” I guess this pic pretty much sums it up for us! Alas, just as the desert is coming back to life, Todd and I have to face tax season. Ouch!!!

I can only hope that after this tax season we can rebound like the yard has! And life goes on!

(S)hawking!

At 8 o’clock this morning, we had a knock at our back door. It was our neighbor, bearing a dead hawk that had just hit their window and broke it’s neck in hot pursuit of it’s prey. It was a smaller hawk, we believe it was a sharp-shinned hawk, that had just moved down south for the winter months. (Probably why he wasn’t used to the reflective glass on the house windows)….It could be a Cooper’s hawk, but I don’t think it was big enough.

I took a photo as a memorial….

Kind of morbid, but still beautiful in death, as if he still has his eyes focused on his target.

Later, this afternoon, we were sitting out on the porch discussing the unfortunate event with our neighbor’s. Just then, another hawk starting buzzing around the yard, stirring up all the little birds. It swooped down and landed just a few feet off of the porch. At first we thought it may be the mate of the deceased, but I’m pretty sure this one was a Cooper’s Hawk…it looked larger, and a little different coloring…

But, I guess you just never know. Regardless, whoever or however this beautiful bird might be related to the poor guy that met his maker, having this momentary connection made the horrible event a little easier to bear.

Some Awesome Hawk Shots

A burst of birds blasting through the trees with a gust of winged wind….a common occurrence these days. The hawks are on the hunt and they are not timid around humans. Todd has had several up-close and personal ‘brushes’ with a hawk soaring right by him while pursuing it’s prey.

He has also been able to get some great pics!…

We were sitting on the porch yesterday afternoon, when we were surprised by a hawk swooping in and landing on the tree limb just a few feet away! I grabbed the camera and slowly crept towards him for a better shot. To my horror, I then saw his likely meal target….Zoe, our little cat was crouched below, in her wild-cat-hunting mode, thinking she was going to pounce on the hawk!

“Don’t mess with me you silly bird!”…….”I will mess you up!!!”…..”Meow!”

Little Things

I got up this morning and went out to the porch with coffee and camera in hand, looking for something spectacular to document for a new blog. But, in the glow of the rising desert sun, it was the little things that caught my eye….The shadows that are changing with the coming of fall, little bursts of colors I hadn’t noticed before, spiderwebs glinting in the morning sunlight…

Even the dried and shriveled remnants of summer splendor have sustained a kind of delicate beauty that needed to be captured on camera.

Hackberry bushes, bursting with berries made a new colorful backdrop for even the most common of subjects.

And shadows highlighted the unique desert landscape, creating eye catching sculptures.

It was a beautiful little surprise that landed right in my camera sites, that confirmed a sense of wonder in the unexpected treasures that I stumbled upon…wandering around Todd’s Backyard this lovely Sunday morning.¬† It’s these little things that keep me focused on living one day at a time. Thank you God, for the little things!

Crazy?‚Ķ Creepy?‚Ķ or Just Amazing?

Ok….this is getting kind of weird. Every birdseed block Todd has put out over the past year has been pecked, nibbled, and munched to create amazing formations that visually resemble something in the surrounding area. I have dubbed this phenomenon as ‘Peckasso’- a collaborative artistic effort of the local birds.

This amazing process caught our attention, when we saw this…

A prickly pear cactus?

Next, this was pretty cool:

Looks like a bunny to me…

Todd put two blocks out a couple of months ago about the same time. We paid close attention to the development of the artwork …was it just coincidence, or did the birds really have something goin’ on?

One block¬† quickly took form…

Obviously a bird- perhaps a dove, or a quail with a baby?

The morning that we discovered this work, we checked the other block to see what progress was made there. But, at that time, there seemed to be little vision to Peckasso’s creation on the other side of the yard.

We didn’t think about it again until Todd stumbled on this the other day…

Does anyone else see what we see?

This block is located just outside the Tortoise garden. Hmmmmm????

Becoming a Bird Nerd!

I always thought birdwatching was basically….for the birds! (or nerds…) I could never imagine getting an adrenaline rush at the sight of some rare feathered foul. I always imagine a group of camouflaged kooks with their binoculars, handbooks and journals, wandering through the woods looking for the elusive Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Well, we’ve got binocs….we’ve got handbooks….

But, we don’t have to trudge around the woods, (or in our case, desert) to go find a plethora of winged wonders.¬† Our porch provides very comfortable accommodations for birdwatching…A nice chair, a refreshing cocktail, a fridge with more cocktails, the camera and a handy field guide to bird identification…how could it not become a fun and interesting hobby!¬† We’ve captured some really cool pics in the process…Here’s a bit of our bird gallery….

Cactus Wren


Hooded Oriole


Gila Woodpecker


Curve-Billed Thrasher


Phainopepla (not related to a Cardinal)


Northern Cardinal and a Pyrrhuloxia (Cousins)


Rose Finch

Gold Finch

This is just a small sample of the variety of birds we get in Todd’s Backyard. This does not include: Hummingbirds, Quail, Sparrows, Doves, Pigeons, Blackbirds, Cowbirds, Warblers, Owls, Hawks, Thrushes, Verdin, Shrikes, Flycatchers, Crows, Vultures…I could keep going!¬† We live on a migration route, so at anytime during the year, we can see almost any kind of bird! I just have to include this last photo, even though it’s not very clear….

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

We think….or perhaps we just had too much to drink!!

Oh Baby!

The blistering desert heat seems to act as an incubator for all the baby birds! Everywhere we look, we can see full nests, or babies just leaving the nests. Baby doves wander up on the porch, seemingly tame. Probably because generations of their families have been born and raised just feet from where we humans hang out. The white wing doves seem to be the most prolific during the summer. They spend their summers here, just to have their babies, then they will leave and head further south for the winter.

Todd caught this picture just the other day! A pair of baby white wings….So ugly they’re cute!

‘Stripers’recently hatched quail chicks

The baby quail are thick! They are born in ‘stages’…The first ‘stagers’ hatch in May, the second ” around the first of July, and the third will show up around the end of August. So this time of year, we have two varieties of baby quail. The ‘stripers’ tiny striped balls of fuzz. And the ‘juniors’, gangly and half-grown, still following their parents around the yard. The family of 27 hatchlings we had several weeks ago, are now a mini horde of ‘juniors’. Unfortunately no longer 27 strong, but there are still a good 15 or 16!

Todd’s backyard also serves as nature’s nursery for other birds…the thrashers, orioles, sparrows, finches…More rare to see, are the baby cardinals…

So when we do see one, it’s a real ‘tweet’!

Great Story No Pictures! Arrrggghhhh!

So, I was on the porch this afternoon, waiting to see if the monsoon clouds were going to unleash something…

Hold on a minute….Now… I need to back up a day….Yesterday afternoon, about the same time, I was sitting in the house. Just out of the corner of my eye, I happened to see a quail bobbing her head up and down on the porch. We don’t get quail on the porch, unless it’s a Whoootooo….If you’re not familiar with the Whootoos, see blog post: A Quail Tale: We rescued and raised a couple of quail last summer and released them into the wild. They continued to come up and visit us on the porch for a few months before they were totally immersed in their new ‘wild’ life.¬† So…when I saw the quail on the porch, I immediately thought Whoootoooo!!! I went to the sliding glass door, and low and behold, there SHE was- With her brand new family! Hubby and 6 tiny baby fluff balls! Our grandquailage!

So the rest of the afternoon, and all day today, we were watching for them.

Back to this afternoon:

So, I was on the porch this afternoon, waiting to see it the monsoon clouds were going to unleash something, and I spotted them! Whootoo and her little family scurrying across the backyard. But, they abruptly turned back, scurrying the other way then back and forth, back and forth. Stange…I was curious, so I tiptoed out to investigate.

What I found, in the wash, was one of the babies on it’s back, flailing about, unable to recover it’s upright position. It looked like, perhaps, a thrasher, or dirt monkey had tried to nab it and swept it off his feet. As I watched¬† a moment longer, the family ran off, leaving the little fellow flailing about! (like mother, like daughter, I guess!) Of course, instinct took over and I snatched the little fuzz ball up and ran back to the porch, grandquail in hand!

Donna, my mother-in-law, was readily available to grab a towel, eye dropper full of water and a Miller Lite beer box. I placed the baby in the box (still in hand), under the towel, and got him to take some water. After my heart rate calmed down a little, I sat with the baby in hand, to get his heart rate down. We bonded a little, but I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t¬† survive by himself. Unlike his mother, when we rescued her, she had 4 siblings with her. Plus, she was plucked out of the wild, the day she was born. This little guy, was all alone, and had enjoyed/endured his wild life for at least one or two days.

We got the little quail settled in a little cage, with food, water and heating pad… But he was frantic! I felt terrible…I thought we bonded!! As I sat there worrying about his fate, I happened to see his family making their way towards the water dish in the backyard.

I quickly plucked the little guy out of the cage and slowly made my way towards the family….”whoootoooo! whooootoooo!” I called out to his mother (that was our call). The family waited under the protection of a clump of cactus. I set their baby down and shooed him in the right direction.

It was an amazing reunion! …Where was the camera!!

But here is last year’s photo….Mother Quail -the ‘Whootoos’ we rescued almost exactly 1 year ago on July 4th!¬† I do believe our little grandquail looks just like his mom!