Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hoppy Easter | Hooray for suburban wildlife!

This is one of our wild little backyard bunnies.

Ever since our sweet old Bijou, a Boston Terrier, died last spring ~

Following the passing of our nineteen-year-old cat Cairo the previous fall (you can tell what a good cat he was) ~

We've been wanting more pets but just haven't been ready yet. Three kids is a lot to juggle, plus going back to work for me - in any capacity - is a recipe for chaos.

One good thing about having no pets is that there's nothing in our yard to deter the local wildlife from coming around and staying around. I would say that following the passing of our pets, the wildlife in the backyard has really flourished because there are no permanent resident predators - just the kind that always exist (coyotes and birds of prey, as well as the occasional marauding neighbor cat).

Behold our current "wild" pets. I know they're pests for some, but I don't have a decent vegetable garden to defend so I love watching these cottontail rabbits. They live under our home office/shed in the backyard and come out to explore often.

They hang out together and find different plants to nibble.

There are parents and babies (kits).

They scratch themselves and clean their faces with their paws between feedings.

The kits sometimes come in pretty close out of curiosity.

I guess they like honeysuckle!


They like to nose around in the kids' sandbox.

And what about birds? I've started putting out peanuts to attract crows.

But someone else has stolen their thunder with its beauty, personality, and moxie - the California Scrub Jay.

This is how it tucks into a peanut (I used to think this was a male, but then its mate showed up and they are identical). Did you know that they mate for life? For other amazing facts about these brilliant corvids, check out their Wikipedia page.

When it's finished all the peanuts, it perches right outside the window and looks at me expectantly.

They also pick up and drop several in a bid to determine which nut is best before flying away.

 I can sit only four feet away now!

We have other birds too. I'd be lying if I said these mourning doves didn't make me a little hungry. Hah!

This is a California towhee.

This is one hunting.

A Mockingbird.

Anna's Hummingbird!

She was thinking about nesting again in the chandelier.

This is a plucky House Wren.

They sing a loud, lovely song!

And a giant Red-tailed Hawk.

This is the smaller - but still sizable - Cooper's Hawk.

 And a lovely little Hermit Thrush.

Here's a handsome male House Finch. 

This one's a Flycatcher - a darling little hunter!

And this is a Western Fence Lizard, which eats a lot of the same insects that the birds do.

So now to our Easter Day. For us, Easter is the ultimate celebration of springtime. We started the day with a leisurely breakfast while watching our backyard animals after the initial excitement of basket-finding - with colored pancakes and bacon and eggs and strawberries.

Then I made my soft pretzels for the Easter party we were celebrating at a dear friend's home. I told you I make them for every party! She asked that we bring a dish "preferably from our country of origin" (assuming prior to the United States) so I used the Austrian heritage of our surname and had my daughter make a painted menu ala Jacques Pepin.
Haven't seen his lovely hand-made and painted menus? Take a gander herehere or here.

And the party! The kids enjoyed the egg hunt - the dads all hid tons of candy-filled eggs while the kids and moms waited inside. Here they are searching for their tiny treasures.

It's fun to spend Easter with the same families you've spent it with several times over the past years, watching all the children grow. I like comparing this year:

- with 2012: (how funny is Hugo in this one?)

We got home just in time to have a lazy Easter evening with a dinner of rack of lamb and roasted potatoes with a salad and baguette. Easy peasy for sure, especially when you buy the lamb pre-seasoned and make the potatoes using the Lipton soup recipe, tossing in a bagged salad to boot!

Hope you enjoyed your springtime Easter celebration.
Thanks for looking! xo

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Harbor seal darlings

Got inspired recently by one of my local dive buddies, Greg Amptman, who had a great encounter after a dive with some harbor seals... and it turned my opinion around on them totally. 

Check out my video to see why:

I was trying to find a good way to access Children's Pool from the ocean since the entire beach is closed to humans through May due to breeding season. You can enter at Casa beach, but the tide better be calm or you're going to get shredded making your way around the rocks and into the cove.

I settled on Shell Beach. It's very rocky and also has the potential to tear you up on rocks, but for me once you're in, it seems less risky to actually get to prime spots. In fact, a lot of spear fishermen enter here since the area to the north is off limits as the protected Marine Reserve. This is one such fisherman making the seagulls' day by cleaning his catch on shore.

These harbor seals are the ones most likely to nibble your fins and mess with you when you're ending a Cove dive and making the hard swim back in to shore, which is just when you have the least patience for their antics!

I've always vastly preferred hanging with the sea lions, which I've felt are more predictable and - unless it's a male during breeding season - less likely to pester you when you're lumbering around at their mercy with all your dive gear on... an interloper in their world.

That all changed on this solo dive. It's so exciting when you have a positive new animal encounter and feel that you've not only made a new kind of friend, but discovered the treasures of a whole new species you didn't even know existed. How had I doubted how delightful harbor seals could be? These babes (and their mothers) really turned me around.

Free-diving fun ~ this dive is definitely easier if you don't have a big tank and weights to haul around!

We even brought the kids back for a great low-tide exploration.

The clarity of the water on this day was stunning ~

I hope you enjoyed these little nuggets as much as I did...

... and I hope to bring you more stunning footage of them soon!

Thanks for looking :)