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….

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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….

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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…

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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…

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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…

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WTF!

Weird, True, Freaky!!!

The Bird’s Motel

The nature and desert serenity of Todd’s backyard should be the perfect setting to experience the beauty and joy of Spring. The trees and plants are lush with new growth. Buds are bursting out on the cactus and the smell of orange blossoms fill the air. Especially nice, every Spring, are the migratory birds that travel through the area! We see new faces ‘n’ feathers every year….but they don’t stay long. These travelers know a dark secret that most might miss amidst the flurry of Springtime merriment. And that, my friends, is…..murder! Yes…MURDER….

There is a sinister resident in Todd’s backyard, lurking among the spiny cholla, who set up the scene for murderous mayhem one twig at a time! Not quite a fairytale, her story is rather gory…

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It all started when the young bird carefully built her first nest, choosing an unassuming yet respectable place in a nice big cholla cactus.  She laid her eggs and waited for them to hatch…she was young and innocent then. So happy, when her chicks came into the world that spring day long ago! But, that very night, her beloved children were gone when she returned with food. All that was left, was one tiny leg and a pile of bloody feathers! Her heart was broken. So, she abandoned the first residence and she built another. This time, higher into the spines of the cactus…surely this would protect them from the evil that dwells in the night! But once again, her children were brutally killed, one before it even hatched!

birdhotel7The sites of the first 2 murders.

The grieving  mother’s sadness turned to madness! She must build another nest…and another and another if she had too! She told herself, she will have a child that will survive, and she will do everything in her power to see that happen!!  So she found another spot deep in the bowels of the cholla. There she built a fortress that could never be invaded by the forces of evil!

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She finally had a child, who she doted on until the day he left the nest. We will never know who committed those heinous crimes. But she does! Because now, unsuspecting young birds move into those nests and the monster returns to kill again!

And to this day, the mother still sits in her empty nest and waits…. and watches the horrors that come out at night, in Todd’s Backyard.

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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 😉

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 😉

Relax…It’s All Good!…

Especially when your a dog! Or, at least when you’re one of Todd’s Dogs! Having a nice wet and mild winter has given us all hope for a spectacular spring and I think Baily, Cooper and Lulu can smell it!

There is an atmosphere of relaxed anticipation in Todd’s Backyard…

In his favorite porch spot, sits Baily. Taking in the landscape, daily….

Watching the pond full of bathing birdies, getting rid of all their desert dirties!

Then he spots a humming bird, resting on a branch, undisturbed….

So much to see, so much to smell! Baily’s in heaven and all is well!

For Baily’s brother, Cooper, he’s just not into birds.

His daily nap, is much preferred!

Until, his nappy is disturbed, by the pungent odor of the local herd…

And where o where is sister Lulu?

A friend just flew in to say  “Heyyouwhoo”!

But Lulu is not much of a yard dog like her big brothers.

When it comes to relaxing, she has her druthers!

Princess of the house is her M.O.! Like….what would you expect….Hellooo!

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!

A Peckasso Masterpiece…Exhibit #2

Yes, it’s true…Peckasso does live in Todd’s Backyard! And, has created, yet, another breathtaking sculptural masterpiece! It has given ‘cubism’ a whole new meaning!

Luckily, I was able to document the entire creative process, cooperative spirit and hard physical work which went into the creation of this fascinating organic installation piece.

It all started with a cube (of birdseed).

Phase 1 completed….week #1

Intriguing! As you can see, the composition had developed into a harmonious pattern of crevices with a deep appreciation for the material being used.

Over the next weeks, we continued to spy on the artists, intent on their creative pursuit…

Curiouser and curiouser… As we watched the work in progress, we were filled with questions and anticipation….what would the final piece be?…What could the genius behind this collective masterpiece have in mind?

After a few more weeks, we could see distinct progress…

The graceful curving lines flowed effortlessly, to create visual interest and kindle a strong emotional twinge….but, what is it?  At this point it was still uncertain, but taking shape very nicely!

The excitement mounted as the work got closer to its completion. The creative energy was palpable. More and more ‘artists’ joined the effort….

It has been about a month since the work started.

We have watched Peckasso laboring over this monumental work every morning and every afternoon. Finally, this morning, I thought I would go check on the progress. Surely it was close to completion! And, alas….it was!…. Todd will be so excited to see it when he comes home from work!

Dove in Contemplation

It’s so lovely to share a yard with birds of im-peckable taste!

See the post on 5/3/2010: Peckasso Lives in Todd’s Backyard to see previous works of ahhh!

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’!

Sunday Morning Serenity

This morning started with a bang….literally! A large white wing dove hit the bedroom window, flushed by a hungry hawk. The impact shook the house and instantly killed the dove. It hit so hard, it left a ghostly an imprint…

Needless to say, it did’t seem like a great beginning to an otherwise peaceful Sunday morning.

However, we were pleasantly surprised to open the sliding glass doors to a cool breeze reminiscent  of cooler spring days and the yard drenched in a lovely late Spring, early morning light! The day was looking up!

As we sat with our coffee, taking in the perfect peace, our little ‘Chi-otie’ found a patch of sun to get her warmed up for the day…

And the succulents perched on the porch ledge, were soaking up the sun as well…

I think it IS going to be a lovely day!

sHawk and Awe!

It looks like Todd’s Backyard has become the favorite local dining spot for some of our fierce feathered friends! We can’t sit outside for more than a moment, when a furious flurry of chirps and squawks erupt, along with a burst of birds scattering in all directions…chased by a hawk looking for dinner!

We have several different varieties of hawks that feast on TBY’s vast menu of varmint vittles…

Probably the most awesome, is the Harris hawk- certainly one of the larger birds we see. His wingspan is almost 4 feet! You surely know when he’s around!

I think this is a Cooper’s Hawk. They’re a little harder to spot ’cause they really blend in! Extremely stealthy…We’ve seen these guys pick a dove right out of the sky and vanish. The only evidence of conquest, is a rain of feathers gently floating to the ground where the action took place.

This guy treated us to a little dance one afternoon.  We watched him fluff  ‘n’ puff,  hopping and screeching, up and down the wall of our neighbor’s fence…..Looking for love perhaps? It was a dazzling display that lasted for a good 15 minutes. We never did see the object of his desire, but we heard the other hawk calling back.

This is my favorite ‘Hawk Shot’! Gorgeous!

This is a photo ‘painting’ I created from a pic taken the other day.  (Just thought I’d throw it in, since I’m talkin’ some hawkin!)

As we look forward to the blasting furnace of summer in the desert, we could only hope that the hungry hawk’s flash and dash might create just enough wing generated breeze – perhaps to cool, but certainly to awe!