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A Matter of Perspective: For Me It's a Garden - for others it's home sweet home


Anjuli_Bai
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San Diego is not a place where it rains often so I keep a bowl (about the size of a large soup dish) of water in a shady corner of the garden just under my kitchen window. It is a favorite place for the birds to drink and wash up. They literally line up (by size - biggest first) to flutter in the water. Each has his/her own style. The male blackheaded phoebe dives through once or twice and he's finished. His plain brown mate takes her time and as he stands guard, she repeatedly immerses herself making a large splash pattern.

 

The mockingbird loves to bathe too, but he is more consumed with keeping track of an occasional thirsty (hungry?) cat or two who live nearby and come to drink.

 

One morning after a very gentle overnight rain - while all this busy activity was going on, I noticed that one of the leaves of a large Peace rose bush was turned up (like a cup) and had trapped a few drops of rainwater in it. Though very small - it was the perfect size for a ruby throated hummingbird to have a bath. And, there he was - fluttering his tiny wings and thoroughly enjoying himself.

 

For some it was an upturned rose leaf - for another it's the perfect bathtub.

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I live in a highly urbanized area but we have grey fox, coyotes, possums, skunks, raccoons, garden lizards, garden snakes, rabbits, and countless bird varieties.

 

Actually they are counted and San Diego regularly wins the Audubon national bird variety count. A mile from my home there is a city lake which is a major stop on the migration routes. Thus we get lots of visitors. The most impressive are the white pelcans which are the largest waterfowl in North America. Brown pelicans are native here. All pelicans are magnificent flyers.

 

Sometimes I can see the hundreds of resting geese and ducks fomring aerial spirals as they climb up into the sky and form the characteristic V - and continue on with their migration. It is quite a sight.

 

The most fun are the mockingbirds (noisiest, too) and the green parrots. Hummingbirds are very common.

 

Lots of raptors too: a resident chicken hawk, lots of red tailed hawks, osprey, eagles, kingfisher, etc.

 

Last summer I rescued a crow who had its wing broken by a hawk - and then hid behind a tree, while the hawk waited. This went on all day until I realized what was going on.

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We mostly get sparrows in our garden, which is good. On the beach (10 mins walk) I've seen (without bins) dunlin, redshank, (my favourite) oyster catchers, starlings, martins as well as all the usual gulls. We also see a lot of another favourite of mine, pied wagtails. Lots of fowl on the canal and marine lakes too.

 

Another good place to see lots of wagtails is actually the carpark at Stafford Services northbound on the M6.

 

I don't like the idea of snakes in the garden, Anjuli.....

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We mostly get sparrows in our garden, which is good. On the beach (10 mins walk) I've seen (without bins) dunlin, redshank, (my favourite) oyster catchers, starlings, martins as well as all the usual gulls. We also see a lot of another favourite of mine, pied wagtails. Lots of fowl on the canal and marine lakes too.

 

Another good place to see lots of wagtails is actually the carpark at Stafford Services northbound on the M6.

 

I don't like the idea of snakes in the garden, Anjuli.....

 

I haven't seen any snakes, but I'm sure they are around. Wait - I did see one which had crawled into a doctor's office.

 

A garden snake is a good thing - keeps the rodent population down. We also have barn owls which do that. Someone a few miles from here put up a webcam outside and inside an owl nesting box. For months people around the world were glued to their computers watching them hatch and grow - two sets of babies. The parents supplied huge amounts of rodents to the young owlettes - several every night.

 

At a failed attempt at humor I once commented to the cam watchers that we might consider making owlette omelettes - they were NOT amused!

 

The mother owl sits inside while daddy hunts and guards. But one night mama owl scrambled out of the nest box and flew in a fury at another female who had landed beside daddy owl. Mama was having none of it. She attacked the other female, ran her off, and then gave her mate a full measure of her wrath. Then, she went back to minding the kidlettes.

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My Mississippi sister-in-law sent me a photo of a snake in her garden just the other day. She says that the raccoons are a pest because they empty out the rubbish from the bins.

 

Cousin in Colorado can't let his dog out at night, since they lost the other one to the wolves.

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I don't find any damage from the animals which trot through my garden. There are a number of canyons which separate neighborhoods and the people who have homes on the rims of the canyons (gorgeous view) do have to be careful about coyotes getting a hold of small dogs and cats. I don't live on a canyon so that's not been a concern.

 

We did see a family of skunks one time playing in the garden. They are beautiful creatures and other than seeing them - they are no problem. No problem from the racoons either.

 

It's probably that feisty mockingbird who keeps everyone at bay. He was fighting off crows one day and a hummingbird yesterday. Hummingbirds are feisty, too. The mockingbird keeps track of any cat unlucky enough to wander by. He makes a sound like "TSK TSK" and dives at the cat until the cat gets annoyed and leaves.

 

My neighbor once had a huge huckleberry bush and the birds gathered to eat but the berries had begun to ferment. I had a long row of tipsy birds trying to maintain their balance on my clothesline. It was really funny to watch them reel about. I did bring the cat in because drunk birds were just too easy for her to catch. She was relishing the thought of coq au vin. She was very upset with me.

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Well, yesterday the mockingbird was more upset than usual about the itinerant cat which likes to lay up through the afternoon under a dense bush. The mockingbird came to look for him - then spotting him began diving at the sleepy cat. This attracted the attention of many other birds and at one time two mockingbirds, the blackheaded phoebe and mate, a hummingbird, and a small flock of assorted finches and sparrows joined in.

 

As the cat reluctantly got up and sauntered off -the birds were dive bombing as close as they dared to speed him on his way - obviously persona non grata.

 

Wasps can be dangerous.

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