Happily Heron After

Last Summer Todd got a blazing hot deal on a couple of Koi fish for our pond. We had originally stocked it with gold fish, which were all sadly snatched by the hawk. So, when Todd decided to restock, he added more plants and rocks for additional camouflage and went to the local Petco to purchase a few more fish. Not only are the fish fun to watch in the pond, but keep the algae down in the hot summer. When he returned from the store, Todd was stoked to have found  some 4″ Koi there, mismarked for $1.99! They usually sell for about $25 at the size!!  He picked out 2 (he should have snagged a few more)…Damn! And I wish I had taken some better pictures!…Damn!

Anyway…

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 The Koi grew and thrived in their new environment and all was well…

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Until one day last January when Todd was cleaning out the pond. To his horror, he discovered they were gone! The pond had been de-koied :0

We spent the next days speculating about what could have eaten them! A fine meal indeed, for any desert predator during the lean winter months! Of course, the hawk was at the top of the suspect list, but our neighbor has insisted that he’s seen a raccoon about at night! (We simply have to get a night camera set up at some point!)  But, we thought there would never be any way to prove who dun it!

Until about 2 days after the fish-a-disappearance, it all became quite clear.

I walked out onto the porch and almost had a heart attack when a massive winged creature took flight from the top of our roof, overlooking the pond. And with a slow and powerful woosh….woooooosh of it’s 6+ foot wingspan, it was gone.

It was a rare sight,  A Great Blue Heron!!! A wetland bird in the desert! We see them quite a bit on the beaches down in Rocky Point Mexico. The only place you might see them occasionally, here locally, is on the golf courses. I got a snapshot of this one last time I went golfing….

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Here’s a picture I got of a Great Blue Heron on the beach in Mexico…

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I didn’t get a picture of our backyard visitor until the next day, when we caught him hanging out on our neighbor’s rooftop.

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It was spectacular sitting there, just hanging out. I guess he was hoping to find a few more ponds in the area, having depleted ours!

He stayed there for a good 15 minutes while I got some shots…

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So, I guess we won’t be getting anymore Koi, but we are thinking about restocking it with some 99 cent goldfish with which we could afford to occasionally feed our five foot feathered friend! Although, now that he has a taste for Koi, Todd’s Backyard may be beneath his culinary expectations!  I guess we will see!!

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The Little Dog that Could

Once upon a time, there lived an old* woman who suffered a broken heart after her husband died.  Although she had family and friends who loved her dearly, she lived alone and wished for a little companion to keep her company. One day, the old* woman went with her daughter to visit their friends who lived on a ranch in the country. There, the old* woman met a mischievous little puppy that she immediately took a liking to. She was told the pup was a trouble maker…harassing the horses, pestering the neighbors, chasing cars and perhaps, needed a new home. So, the old* woman took the little dog home to live with her. To keep the puppy safe and out of trouble and fulfill her wish for a companion to keep her company. She called her new little friend Bizbee.

Because the old* woman loved Bizbee so very much, she decided to find her a friend. So, she brought home another puppy she named Benson. The old* woman loved both of her dogs more than anything…Her very life revolved around them!  Over the next several years, Benson grew into a giant 100 lb. dog who commanded all of the attention from the old* woman and anyone who came to visit. But, little Bizbee loved her Benson and didn’t mind that she was not the center of attention.

Because the old* woman loved her dogs so much, she became obsessed that something might happen to them and went to great lengths to keep them safe! Both dogs were never allowed to leave the house for fear they would run away. The old* woman’s daughter pleaded with her mother to let the dogs, at least, come visit her house. But the old* woman was too frightened because her daughter and son-in-law lived where there was no fence, lots of sharp cactus and dangerous wild animals roaming about! But her dogs were happy with their lives. They were well loved and well taken care of. They loved the old* woman and the old* woman was happy.

One day, the old* woman had a stroke and became very ill. Her family was  overwhelmed with taking care of her so, her precious dogs were sent to a ‘safe’ foster home until she was well enough to care for them once again. But, the old* woman did not get any better and she died…Most likely, a broken heart contributed to her death, as she was afraid she would never see her beloved Benson and Bizbee again….

And this is where the story begins…

My mom passed away on December 5th. She had a stroke the first of October and started to recover, but had another stroke and complications that she could not recover from. The day after she died, I called the foster home caring for Benson and Bizbee to see if they would adopt both dogs. My mother was adamant about keeping them together. Benson, a 100 lb. labradoodle was just too much for our little pack, so Todd and I could not take them.The foster mother, our local groomer, was happy to adopt Benson, but Bizbee?…Well, she was a ‘problem’ dog.

Todd and I agreed that we would bring Biz home and see if there was anyway she might be able to live with us….at least until we could find her a suitable home. We were worried that having led such a sheltered life, we would encounter all of the horror’s my mother had imagined…Chasing rabbits for miles and getting lost…fighting with a javelina…getting impailed on a cholla, getting bitten by a rattlesnake, running away at first chance…With Bizbee, you just never knew. She loved to pounce on birds and chase lizard’s in my mom’s yard, much to my mother’s horror! Bizbee could be a handful!

 

I brought Bizbee to our home on Dec. 9th.

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She was a little lost and forlorn. My heart ached for her as she found the blanket that covered my mom when she passed away, and laid on it the first day she was here. But then she found Baily. She had known Baily and our other dogs for years since we had taken them to my Mom’s house many times! I’m sure this was a huge factor in adjusting to her new environment.

Since we were a little nervous about letting her outside, we got a tether so we could hook her up on the porch without worrying about her bolting. But poor Bizbee was not very happy with this situation!

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‘ The evil eye 😉 ‘

 One afternoon, shortly after Bizbee came to live with us,Todd left that sliding door open, forgetting about Bizbee. Upon entering the house and realizing Bizbee was no longer in the house we panicked! I  would be devastated if we lost her! All the fears my mom had would be validated!

But, as soon as we prepared to go walk the neighborhood in search of her, little Bizbee calmly walked into the house from Todd’s Backyard, looking at us like “What’s the big deal?”.

Since then, the tether has been put away and Bizbee is free to have new and fun adventures in Todd’s Backyard….

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 Helping Todd grill with Daizy is one of the best!

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However, it would probably be much more fun to actually help him get the chicken to put on the grill!

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Bizbee has taken her seat on the porch…She does not chase the rabbits, she does not eat lizards (yet). Her only mishap has been an infected cactus thorn in her paw (Sorry Mom!)

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Bizbee has found a new life with a family that loves her, and is also trying to find a new life after the loss of someone they all loved.

Epilogue:

After the little dog found a new home,  she became the little dog that could….

She could make new friends.

She could investigate the yard as she pleased…for the most part.

And she could mend a broken heart…for the second time!

And as for the *old woman’s daughter…..She apologizes to her mother for calling her *old ( Therefore the *) and hopes that her mom is not rolling over in her urn for posting this blog-  But the daughter is sure that that her mother is happy in heaven knowing that her beloved Bizbee is still well loved and taken care of and will live happily ever after.

Mom, rest in peace…

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 A little part of you is still with us through Bizbee….Thank you!

The Lizard of Ahhhs

The lizard has become an iconic symbol of the desert Southwest for a reason. The desert is full of them! And there are many different kinds of lizards that live in Todd’s Backyard. I used to hate ’em. Lizards and snakes. But, having lived here now for awhile, I have come to love the liz! Their fierce scaly bodies and beady little eyes, have become no- so-creepy as I have witnessed their antics!  Having been close up and personal with a few, I must admit they are truly beautiful and intelligent creatures! Plus, they are nature’s best pest control, eating bugs and such   <_> j””””’j——–~

 

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 This Tiger Whiptail is a gorgeous fellow! We caught him hanging out, sunbathing on the side of the house!

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The Spiny Lizard is a spectacular species! We see them everywhere including the trees! When the males go into a mating frenzy, their stomachs turnbright turquoise!  And they are frisky little buggers…

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Actually, not so little…they reach up to 12″ long! We had one last year that started hanging out on our porch begging for a bit of fruit! He eventually would take food right out of my hand!

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Above is a Western Fence Lizard we caught a pic of on our wood pile. We don’t see these very often!

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These are two Zebra Tail lizards I spied doing push ups together on a nice warm rock. The male’s colors are amazing!

Although, all of these lizards are certainly AWEsome!…. There is one lizard that IS the ‘Lizard of Ahhhs’!…

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The Gila Monster!!!

One of only 2 poisonous Lizards. It can get up to 22″ long! This guy is  our local Gila Monster…we believe that his burrow is in our neighbor’s backyard, where this photo was taken.

And, I have a story….

The day before yesterday,  Todd an I were sitting in the living room when I saw this Gila Monster marching up to our sliding glass door!! For a minute, I thought he might scratch to get in, but instead, he found a nice shady spot behind our flower pots and laid down for a nap. Of course, we couldn’t let our dogs out, but we grabbed the camera and went out on the porch to get a few good photos…

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I’m not sure if you can appreciate the size, but he was at least 20″ long! Quite startling to actually see on up this close!  He ended up spending the entire afternoon lounging on our porch, going from spot to spot to find a comfortable place to rest, I’m assuming after a large meal! I figured, if he was ok with me sitting outside at our patio table having a beer with him, he might be amenable to a little love pat. I’ve always wanted to touch a Gila Monster! Todd wasn’t  around, so I did…just a light rub across his stubby tail. The Gila Monster only slowly raised his head a bit. Didn’t seem disturbed at all. But, I did not test my luck and try it again! When I told Todd what I did, he just about bit my head off, as the Gila Monster could have easily bitten my hand off. Or, at least, I could have lost my hand had he bitten it!  But come on, this is what I’ll do for a good story 😉 The large lazy lizard stayed on the porch for another few hours, then went on his way!

Mr. Gila Monster hasn’t been back on the porch since. I hope that if he does come back, he will have the curtesy to knock on the sliding door and let us know he’s out there. I don’t think he would be as well mannered if he were to be stumbled upon!

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OxO j””””’j——–!

Eat, Drink, Be Merry…and Some Other Shit

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The heat is starting to prickle here in the desert. This week promises temps between 100 and 110…. aaauuugggghhh! So, it’s not surprising that the feeders, water dishes and pond are popular hangouts for the local wildlife. Every morning and late afternoon we see it all! Birds, rabbits, squirrels, javelina, lizards, bobcat, coyote, and just the other day our ‘creature from the desert hollows’ (the toad), crawled out of his hole to find refreshment. When it’s just too hot to do anything else, just eat, drink and be merry!…

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Five finches find food at the fully filled feeder.

A quail couple chow down on the ‘Peckasso’ block seeder.

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Baby buns have fun nibbling in the cool grassy place.

A red winged black bird gets photo-bombed while stuffing his face!

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Hummingbirds flirt and hover around their honey hole hangout.

This Baltimore oriel takes a sip stop on his way-back-home Northern route.

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Drink…

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This starling likes to take a sip and a dip.

The bunny takes a drink to put the hop  in his hip!

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 The hawk  takes a water break and claims his domain.

 Mr . Toad  took a sip and a dip now just waits for the rain.

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The coyote gets a cool drink, soothing and calm.

A closer look reveals…yes it is…another photo bomb!  (Silly quail!)

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And be Merry…

 

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 The javelina , you would think, might want some water to swallow. But, they would rather tip over their drink and make a nice mud wallow!

Eat, drink and be merry, then what do we do?

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Guess the only thing left…. you just gotta poo!     (Pictured above, a lovely specimen of javelina shit 😉 )

It’s a Prickly Paradise!

The cactus popped a little early, it’s an awesome event we look for yearly. Gorgeous blossoms bursting everywhere(y), make these prickly plants just a little less scary 😉

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Prickly pear cactus are most commonly seen, yellow flowers on the purple and red flowers on green. Perfectly contrasting colors on a color wheel, and when it happens in nature it’s truly ideal!

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Other cacti that grow wild in the yard, like the buckhorn and cholla we can’t disregard. Although, these are the  barbed beasts we try to avoid, this time of year they can be enjoyed!…

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But, the real show stoppers are that are almost hypnotic, are the blossoms on cactus that are more exotic…

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For instance, our Argentine Giant, we call the Jacktus, has the largest blossoms of all the cactus! Sometimes 8 inch blossoms dwarf  it’s appendage, making it look like some strange awkward assemblage!

Our neighbors have some exotic-tacular cactus blossoms , the kind that gets lot’s of “Eeeews!” and “Awesome!”s. We get to enjoy them when we go over to visit. My exclaimation is just simply, “Exquisite!”

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These pretty pricklies are a variety of Echinopsis. They grow into a beautiful blossoming cacti colossis! Perfect for a cactus garden..”EXCUSE ME, WHAT?!!” …a cactus garden? “I beg, your pardon’.

Varieties have names like ‘Red Torch‘ and ‘First Light’, the Echinopsis cactus are a desert garden delight!

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With  a blossoming landscape in the month of May, it’s always a reminder, the heat’s on the way. But we can enjoy this prickly paradise, beautiful for sure, but a word to the wise…

These flowers are for admiring while still on the cacti…Picking them is extremely painful…and that’s a fact(i) 😉

Chirp Wars

Chirping…Buzzing, crowing, hooting, ka-cooing, whistling, screeching, trilling, tooting, whoot-whoot- woooing, tweeting (not the on-line kind ;)) This cacophony of sound emanates from the yard, bursting through every open window of the house! ‘Tis the mating calls and loud bird brawls that dominate the atmosphere in Todd’s Backyard this time of year. You may think this a serene and peaceful environment, and perhaps it is for some, or most. But, if one requires supreme concentration (like me, with my A.D.D.) or one who would appreciate a nap (like me, with my insomnia), you may get a little irritated with all the HOO HOO HOOpla! There are a few brash birds in particular that dominate that top the high decibel charts with their loud  and abrupt conversation tactics…..

TODD’S BACKYARD TOP 3 AUDITORY AGITATORS:

#1. MR. PETER PECKER The sweet sing-song of the finch and gentle rustle of leaves will suddenly be drowned out by the raucous cackle of the WOODPECKER…or even worse, his pecking on the chimney or front door which will unleash the spontaneous outburst of barking and howling dogs, deceived into thinking we have guests.

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#2 THE CARDINAL’S CLAN- Oh yes, he is strikingly gorgeous in his brilliant red suit, but his piecing screech is as loud as his appearance!  When he’s in love, watch out! And his screaming babies are just as bad…When they want to be fed it’s worse than any child’s tantrum. Witnessing the scene below, I believe , Mr. Cardinal is trying to teach his little screechling how to eat from the bird feeder.

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#3 CAN-NOT-IGNORE ORIOLE- A summer resident, the orioles have just recently arrived along with their piercing call. They sit in the mesquite tree off the porch clacking and whistling, making their presence known.  Oh, oriole, we see you in all your brilliant yellow glory! So put a sock in it and shut the F*&# up!

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Don’t get me wrong, I love all the birds, and we are so lucky to live smack dab in the middle of a  migration route! After all the migratory birds have traveled through, the ones that remain for the summer will soon be drowned out by the buzzing of the cicadas (locust-like bugs)  when the heat starts to crank! So, sing birds, sing! And I will rejoice with you in this lovely pre-Summer Spring!

A sad casualty…

A couple of weeks ago, we heard the most lovely and unusual bird call. And we found it coming from a most lovely and unusual bird! We think it may have been a pet, not a native bird to this area, because it looked rather exotic. As a consequence, we were worried that it may not be suited for the chirp ‘n’ turf wars in Todd’s Backyard desert bird habitat. And we were unfortunately correct….

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Todd found him on the ground, outside the chicken coop 😦 Not sure the cause of death, but appears to have been pierced in the stomach….and possibly his ear drums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Spectrum Spectacular

Spring has sprung in Todd’s Backyard!

Although the weather has been somewhat Spring-like most of the winter with the mild temperatures!  But now, with the arrival of the ‘true’ Spring, we are treated to the budding beauty of the desert awakening from it’s barren winter repose!  Bursting with wildflowers, budding leaves, new green cactus growth…. and lots and lots of pollen…..AAAAAHHHHH……AAAAAAHHHHHHH……AHCHOOO!…sniff, sniff.

But even watering eyes and stuffy nose can’t dim the colors! Believe it, or not, the desert is a living rainbow this time of year!…

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A rainbow, that can be virtually psychodelic with enough allergy medication!…

Now where are the unicorns?   😉

Big Ass Birds

The Harris Hawk is one of the largest hawks in North America….Up to 21″ tall and a wing span of 4 feet! They hunt in groups, and last week a group of three took a little R&R in Todd’s Backyard!  Long enough for a little photo show. Spectacular!

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This guy was not hard to spot, easily meeting the 21″ standard! We didn’t see the others, but could hear them talking (screeching) to each other.

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After about 10 minutes,when they had enough rest, they all took off. Two landing atop a mesquite tree to get the lay of the land to continue their hunt. It was time to hawk ‘n’ roll!

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It always a treat to see these awesome creatures! Although, it’s hard to really get a perspective of actually how big these birds are in photos! So maybe this will give you a better idea…. :0

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The Bobcat that Ate the Owl

Based on a true story….

There once was a bobcat that ate an owl. You might ask why….or you might ask how?

It was nine o’clock this fateful night, when all was quiet and dark. The stars were bright. Nothing was stirring, the landscape serene, except for the darting eyes watching and waiting, unseen.

Finally, a small noise broke the silent surveillance.The watcher’s gaze zeroed in, hungry and intense. A shuffle came from the porch where humans sit by day. But tonight, it was where little mice came to play!

Another night stalker’s ears perked as well,  perched by the pond where his thirst, he would quell. Mice would be nice, perhaps for a snack.  But, would it really be worth his time to attack?

As he pondered at the pond, a drink?… or a swim?… His revery was cut short, when a silent swoosh flew past him.  Oh my! What’s this? A bird out at night? And it landed right by him, to his feline delight!

The mouse, by the house had eaten a crumb. The owl ate the mouse, but this move was quite dumb. The cat ate the owl…Dumb luck may say some. Nay, I cry foul!!…Or fowl?, this should not be! If you are an owl, please, stay in the tree 😉

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Happy Hummer Days!

It’s Christmas morning….for us, with out kids, all is calm and all is quiet. We celebrated with our family and gift giving the previous night, but it was this morning we got a most wonderful, and unexpected gift!

The weather was sunny and mild, so we took our coffee out on the porch to enjoy the beauty of Arizona this time of year! As we watched the morning sun streaming through the yard, we could catch glimpses of sparkling color among the branches of the trees and shrubs. Just like little Christmas ornaments, the hummingbirds were decorating the desert landscape, as they woke up, preening and warming in the rising sun. Perfect timing for getting some great new photos!

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We wandered through the yard, as if on a treasure hunt, looking for all the little jewels among the branches.

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We are so lucky to be able to spend Christmas with our little hummer friends, as folks in colder climates don’t get this opportunity!

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And, this Christmas morning, the hummingbirds were out in their full glory, chirping, buzzing and trilling!

We were having such a great time! And it got even better when this little broad bill posed for me…

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And gave me my best Christmas present!…Photos of a lifetime…

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Hummmazing!!! A glorious day to celebrate all of God’s blessings 🙂

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Wishing everyone a very Happy Holiday season from Todd’s Backyard!