Meet the Varmints- Episode 1- Rocky

Todd’s Backyard is filled with an assortment of furry little creatures….Varmints, if you will. In fact, we seem to have created a varmint paradise. Supplying a plentiful bounty for our birds, of course invites these little bastards. But, they keep the hawks, snakes, bobcats and coyotes fat and happy around here! You could call it Todd’s  Backyard Wildlife Diner!

Now, ‘Diner’ really fits since we got our new little Bird Photo Booth (www.birdphotobooth.com)- a feeder that is attached to a motion activated camera! We decided to introduce the contraption to the ground dwellers, as they might provide some entertainment before the jaws of nature snap them up.

The first varmint that decided to check it out was our resident rock squirrel, as we so dubbed him Rocky. Not totally original, but fitting….

varmit1a

He figured out quite quickly, this was pretty cool…

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As did a few others.

Rocky got a nice dinner and gave us some great mug shots…

This photo is taken by AllWinner's v3-sdv

This photo is taken by AllWinner's v3-sdv

 

And that, my friends is Rocky!

 

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Dirtmonkey Daycare

Dirtmonkeys…..Arrrrrgh! They keep Todd busy, trying to defend the yard against their appetite for anything freshly planted, and the ‘holey’ havoc they create! This time of year, there is a mass explosion of babies emerging from their underground nests to explore their new above-play-ground… So cute and funny…and so hard to resist!

The baby dirtmonkeys  play all day. Chasing each other, tumbling around wrestling. The desert heat doesn’t even slow these little fuzzballs down. They tentatively approach babies from other families to touch noses and check each other out. It’s sweet to watch their affectionate displays of  friendship.

The ‘dirtmommies’  are very protective and precise in teaching their babies the art of mass destruction!

This is how we dubbed them ‘Dirtmonkeys’… (a.k.a. Round tail squirrels). They love to climb trees and hang out!

It’s hard to hate these little guys….they even play well with others…

And of course this guy really, really LOVES them!….

Bon Appetit!

Hooligans, Holes & Havoc!

I have been reminded in the past few weeks, how hard and sometimes haunting, life in the desert can be.  And, I have to keep reminding myself, that life at home in Todd’s Backyard, is not just a haven for harmony and happiness. There are more than a few residents that are destructive, dastardly, even deadly!  It may make it a little easier  to remind myself of these things, when I’m 1,000 miles away in Michigan, pining away for my peaceful desert oasis.

The  Cow Birds…

The scourge of the summer- 3 of them showed up about 2 weeks ago…now there are about 20. Next week, there will be 50! The nasty little secret about these birds, is that they look for the nests of other birds, like orioles and cardinals, dump out the eggs and lay their own.  Then, they leave their young to be raised by the surrogate parents! The cardinals and orioles must be a bit surprised when they see their foreign offspring, but nature’s duty dictates that they take care of them. We often see an oriole, cardinal, sparrow and other native birds feeding baby cow birds!

Then there are the Cutter Ants….

Ok….I’m in Michigan, can’t go take a picture of the ants. So, via Wikopedia here’s a pic-

Actually, I probably, couldn’t take a picture in Todd’s backyard anyway. These little beasts come out at night.

And….they can destroy and entire small tree or shrub in just 1 night! I was reminded of them today, when I was talking to some of my Michigan colleagues about gardens. They were talking about all of the flowers and luscious produce they will reap this summer. Todd was very excited to plant a ‘Salsa’ garden last spring. Peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, basically everything needed for a fab salsa fresco! Todd built an extravagant  cage to keep the garden protected from the rabbits and other hungry varmints. But….he did not take into consideration…..the ants!

The Cutter ants ate just about everything! So much for garden grown salsa!

Now lets talk about the Dirt Monkeys….a.k.a roundtail squirrels-

Oh, yes….they are cute!!

But for anyone who has walked around Todd’s Backyard, you know. With every step, you feel as if the entire yard will collapse beneath you!

And it could…

Holes, holes everywhere!

Yeah, we see you!

But perhaps even worse…Other creepy crawlers hang out in Todd’s Backyard’s underground laberynths.

This guy came out of his hole to hang with us on the porch one afternoon…Kind of ‘Halloweeny’!

He’s not deadly, but this guy is….

Luckily, we’ve had rattle snake traing for our dogs…but that’s a whole other story!

Ok….now I’m homesick!

Cowbirds, dirt monkeys, ants, snakes….oh yeah, I didn’t mention centipedes, scorpions, gila monsters, tarantulas/tarantula wasps, roadrunners (yes, they are vicious!) The Arizona desert can be harsh (Or ‘vicious’, as my Michigan colleagues claim) But, I love these things! Heaven wouldn’t  be heaven without a little hell! Hmmmmm? After all, it is the WILD west!

Dirt Monkeys

It’s that time of year when all the little dirt monkeys come out of hibernation and start multiplying.

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Sickeningly  cute when they are little, they do grow up and tend to overrun the yard eventually. They do get thinned out a little by fall, since they provide a nice feast for the hawks, roadrunners, coyotes,  and snakes!

Zoe would love to get her little paws on one!

Come on out little dirt monkeys!….We’re ready for you!