Wasps!

Brr. There’s a cold front visiting from Alaska, and the sky is thunderstorm cloudy and it’s cold. It’s been a somewhat cool June so far, but the thermometer dropped from 42 down to 40 degrees in the half hour I was walking around nuking wasp nests and suspected wasp nests.

We don’t usually countenance chemical weapons up here on the hill, but make an exception for wasp spray.

I try to take a live and let live stance up here, but when I come right up to a nest crawling with adults and grubs right out of a freaking nightmare, why, I just aim the nozzle and press the button and the bad dream goes away.

Nothing ruins your day like being stung by a wasp.

Spring is almost over, but not just yet.

A light rain for a couple hours early yesterday morning.  It has been a wet winter and spring, and it is good to see an extra splash or two before the hard light of a hot summer hits.

After so many years of drought, the trees are really responding to the good rains. The pines and oaks have a “leggy” look to them, as they race to grow as tall as fast as possible. They are not only shooting out new tips and leaves, but the main branches themselves are growing in between the places where other branches have forked off.

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The picture above is a good illustration. The tree on the left is shooting out new growth up and out from the trunk at a furious rate, giving it a more stretched out look. It’s sibling to the right is more compact, not expending as much energy to grow out and taller.

Speaking of which, I’ve been reading a new book called “The Hidden Life of Trees” by a German forester named Peter Wohlleben. Quick review: Broken into small, easily digestible chapters, this book discusses how trees exist together as a community in forests and live alone in urban centers as street foliage or in parks. It’s a good book, folks who spend time outdoors under the canopies of trees would do well to read it. It’s been a real eye opener, I’ve been totally rethinking how to coexist with the forest which surrounds the cabin on the hill, as well as seeing the forest and the trees with new eyes.

An example is demonstrated by the picture above. The two trees are cooperating in a mutual growth strategy. The tree on the left is the one which is utilizing the local common water and nutrient resources to sustain a burst of growth while its sibling to the right is content to grow at a more conservative rate. It is in fact likely that the tree on the right is contributing the sugars produced by its leaves through the underground root and fungus network to the tree on the right to “help” it grow.

Mind. Blowing.

I love this place.

Vultures!

We were wondering why so many vultures were swooping so low over the side of the hill, close to the cabin.

One of the great things about the hill upon which our cabin perches is that it is pretty steep and tall, looming over the nearby meadow and the canopy of the forest around the foot of the hill. Birds passing through the area, flying 20 feet above the trees, fly right over the cabin at rooftop level. So we are used to raptors and vultures wheeling overhead, but not like this.  Again and again the vultures would swoop down the hillside a few feet above the ground.

Peggy solved the problem when she noticed eggshells midway down the hill. On a visit earlier in the month I had “composted” the remainder of a carton of eggs by lobbing them down the hill. The poor vultures thought there might be something dead down there, and were looking in vain for a corpse.

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Sorry, guys. My bad.

Turkey for breakfast, hail for tea.

It’s been getting warmer for the last few days, and all around the hill, a few of the more daring oaks have started sprouting buds and getting ready to unfurl this years leaves.

Around breakfast time, the turkey troop came up onto the hill pecking at the ground. The kitchen window afforded an excellent front row seat, so I sat with my coffee and admired the show.

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Though the toms are more flamboyant, the hens also possess iridescent feathers, and break out in unexpected patches of colors sometimes when they move and the light is just so.

The day started getting cloudy, then breaking out into light scattered rain. In between showers, the local birds carried on making a living.

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Birds love perching on the kindling and logs around the fire pit in the front of the house when they sweep by to peck around for food.

This is a black phoebe.

 

 

The true sign of spring, a robin sitting among the buds of an oak.

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Then a thunderstorm blew in, with near constant lightning, and hail suddenly started to fall hard, loud rapping on the metal roof overhead, for about half an hour. Some of the hail was an inch or so in size. Glad I was inside!

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Okay, what a day.

Zero complaints.

Wild Life

Wow. This has been a pretty great critter day, additionally so because I have the new crazy amazing Nikon Coolpix P900 camera up here.

I managed to capture a blue jay during the dawn patrol shift of feeding birds which visit the hilltop here in view of the kitchen windows.

After working all day hauling dirt to make a nice flat spot, I was sitting out under a large oak coppice when the late afternoon patrol of feeding birds flew in to catch some dinner in the trees surrounding the oak.

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Maybe a female Yellow-Rumped Warbler?

 

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A male Western Bluebird. This feller looks a little aggravated about something.

 

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A Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

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A red-breasted nuthatch.

 

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Being still for a few minutes on a plot of land with no dogs is great. Stuff happens, like this squirrel who came over to some pine trees about 40 feet away from where I was sitting  quietly. It went under a pine tree, grabbed a pine cone, put it in its mouth, then climbed the pine tree, where it safely ate the pine nuts out of the cone, then tossed it to the ground and then scrabbled down to the ground and repeated with another pine cone until I stood up and it scampered down the hill. A little later, I saw it at the bottom of the hill, a slash of gray, about 300 feet away and snapped the picture above. Have I mentioned what a cool frikken’ camera this is??

 

Turkey Invasion

I heard the gobble-gobble the day I got up here, so knew there were turkeys somewhere nearby. A couple days later I was walking around with the new awesome camera when I was surprised to see a little squad of 6 turkey hens wandering a couple hundred feet away, pecking at the ground for breakfast.

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Later, when I was making lunch in the cabin, I was surprised to see the hens, joined by 2 toms, wandering around the hilltop.

The toms came first to the back door, and then to the front, gobbling fiercely and pumping themselves up to make sure I didn’t get any ideas about messing with the hens.

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Not a problem, guys.

 

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When the tom puffs up their feathers, there is a sound like the wind drumming on stretched canvas. Their feathers are multicolored in the sun, depending on the angle of view.

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There is no getting around the fact that though beautiful, wild tom turkeys are creepy looking bad-ass mother fuckers.

Cavalcade of Critters

The golden glow of the sun had just spread across the hilltop, and I was opening up the curtains in the bedroom. A flash of movement caught my eye and I watched a large, handsome jackrabbit loping along the gravel road which circles the hill and then scamper down the side. Jackrabbits are fascinating creatures, visually. They look like hunched over old men with long ears, and when they run the effect is both magnified and very creepy. It’s like watching your grandfather scabbling across the ground on all fours. Brr.

Anyway, I was charmed and wondered where the rabbit was scampering off to.

A few minutes later, I had my answer. There was a coyote standing in the back yard, looking off in the direction the rabbit’d gone. A very beautiful, elegant looking creature, I grabbed the camera and snapped off pictures while it crossed the back yard and went down the other side of the hill.

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Off he went and that was that.

But when I looked out the front window in the kitchen, there was his mate and a young pup loping through the trees along the edge of the front yard.

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The coyote’s mate was also beautiful. The pup was a gray color but too low to the ground to capture with the camera.

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Awesome.

Zero complaints.