Birds, Bugs and Beasties

So the rains came and all 1.40 inches that fell in Morro Bay slipped underneath my garage door and flooded the interior. Yes, I know there is a drought but I can do without any more rain! The problem with rain in California is there isn’t any for months and months and then all 10 or 14 inches comes down in two to three days, and this year it came in a different direction, directly into my garage.

Have you noticed? Nature is changing.  What happened to the huge flocks of blackbirds that used to land in my yard every winter searching for bugs? Okay, some of them were starlings, but I miss them nonetheless. They would fly in and swirl about landing one, two, three, four, and more on the grass. Then raise their heads and look around to make sure the neighborhood cats were not near and finally get busy pecking away. After a time, up they flew to perch on my drain. Every day they were there during December, January, February, and finally one day as spring approached they were there no longer. But not this year.

Brewer's Blackbirds on drain

Well, I still see birds of course. Crows and pigeons. Now some people like crows and some people hate crows, but me, I am neutral.  For me, growing up in the city, crows were birds of the countryside. I don’t relate to them as urban birds. Pigeons were always city birds. I do not like pigeons and dearly wish that whoever is feeding them in my neighborhood would cease and desist.

A Murder of Crows

Two pigeons courting

This has gotten me thinking quite a bit about urban wildlife. How much of it do we see and how much is hidden from view? This all came home to me recently when I went to the front door to call in the cat and found him paralyzed with fear, staring at the street, as the largest raccoon I have ever seen was blithely crossing the street and this at 10:30 in the morning! I have since come to realize that we are living intimately with this usual nighttime rover as he makes himself home in the trees of my neighbor’s yard.

Raccoon in pine tree

Now I don’t think of Morro Bay as urban. To me it is a country town. Still, it is town where people dwell and there are houses and shops and streets and traffic; so yes, it is urban. The question is how much urban and how much country.

I decided to do a neighborhood survey to record every bird, bug and beastie that I saw. Naturally I started with the resident raccoon and from thereon have so far recorded 22 separate species. Each time I see a new one, I write it down. I don’t know the names of all of them. For instance I see a variety of butterflies that visit my flowering plants. There are bees, hornets, and hummingbirds all vying for the available nectar.

The aforementioned pigeons line up on the overhead wires along with the Eurasian-collared doves. What happened to the mourning doves? They seem to have disappeared.

A mourning dove feeding in yard

Turkey vultures soar overhead and gulls wing up from the bay. In the yard at least one pesky gopher tills my soil, and late at night a possum crawls along the fence line. I see the neighborhood cats springing upon an unsuspecting mouse and playing with it in the driveway across the street. I spot a yellow-rumped warbler, a blue-gray gnatcatcher, a striking bluebird, and a black phoebe that perches on my mailbox. Its cousin, the Say’s phoebe, picks at the ground in the vegetable garden next door. Sparrows and finches scamper in the dust by the side of the road. They should beware because a Cooper’s hawk is watching them from atop the power pole. Then a brush rabbit scampers down the driveway, while a California ground squirrel pops up out of a hole. At dusk a mockingbird starts singing someone’s song, not necessarily his own, and when darkness creeps up from below I hear the who-who-who of a great horned owl.

This is urban wildlife here in my country town.

Possum eating cat food on porch

California Ground Squirrel

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Male house finch feeding in yard

Brush Rabbit in Driveway

Western Bluebird feeding in yard

Black Phoebe with bug in beak

Say's Phoebe in garden