Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wildlife Sanctuary????

I'm thinking we might need to apply for wildlife sanctuary status in our backyard. Our yard is tiny, hardly more than a glorified patio with some scraggly trees and bushes and a lot of dog poop. But for whatever reason, the birds seem to love us.

Last year we had a hummingbird build a nest on top of one of our wind chimes (We've got Babies!). Mama hummingbird came back again this year and built another nest which resulted in at least one fledgling hummingbird on our patio.

Fledgling Hummingbird on our Patio

Additionally, Brian has spied an egret, or was it a heron?, in our backyard possibly going after the fish in our little pond/fountainy thing. Either way, it had a big enough wingspan that when it flew away its wings dominated the yard. Today Brian spotted either a falcon or a hawk in the yard (apparently I need to invest in a birding book!). We also have kites that like to nest in the trees near us.

On the protected hill just behind our home we have cows (they're there to eat the non-native grasses so that the endangered Bay Checkerspot Butterfly will have their native grasses returned to them for their habitat). Brian has also spotted a coyote or two and I've spent many an early morning listening to their howls passing from one coyote to another (it always reminds me of the dogs transmitting messages in Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmatians). We have jack rabbits on the hill and turkey vultures soaring overhead, too.

Now we have a new addition that actually is in our backyard. A robin built a nest in one of the scraggly trees about 5.5 feet off the ground. Inside are 4 bright blue eggs.

Eggs in the Nest

Mama-Robin-To-Be flies away every time I try to take her picture. I waited outside quietly for all of about 10 minutes hoping she would return, but I quickly realized I do not have the patience to be a wildlife photographer. Finally, once night arrived, I was able to go outside and snap a few shots. I was aiming in the dark but I think I did OK. I don't know if I woke poor Mama up or if she was blinded by the flash or if Mama sleeps with her eyes open, but she didn't fly away.

Mama Robin Protects her Eggs

So while our backyard isn't the most exciting place and doesn't have much in the way of kid friendly space, it does offer an amazing amount of wildlife diversity in an suburban setting on the edge of the country. I can't wait to see what develops next.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Early Earth Day

The Only Way to Travel:
Kiersta Crawling Through the Garden Tunnel

Each year the moms' group I belong to, Las Madres, gathers for an Earth Day hike. Normally we head over to Rancho San Antonio but the parking there on a weekend morning is nothing if not horrendous. It seems that more time is spent cruising the parking lots searching for an elusive space than is spent out on the trails. As a result, we decided to switch things up this year and go to Hidden Villa ( in Los Altos instead. Hidden Villa is a magical place and well worth checking out. While there is a $5.00 parking fee, it was so much better to spend a little money to have a spot, and support a worthy cause, than it was to spend $5.00 in gas searching for a parking space.

Three families gathered this year, with a fourth one missing us by minutes, for our hike. After we finally set out, we passed through the various animal areas, including the cow with a cute! We also went into the hen house where there were at least 100 chicks under the heat lamps...more cuteness!

Mama with her Baby

We finally made it past all of the distractions and hit the trails. Hmmm....which way to go? We decided on the The Bunny Loop Trail, cute name and the kids hoped we would find some rabbits along the way; we didn't but we did find quite a few banana slugs. 1.75 miles and 400 feet of elevation gain later we found our way back to the farm. The kids did a great job (we had 4 year olds hiking with us)! After our hike we crossed the creek and had a nice picnic lunch in a field under a shady oak where the kids decided to climb up the hill and run down, only to find themselves surrounded by pricker plants.

The Las Madres Earth Day Hikers (Minus Me)

After lunch the other two families took off but we stayed around for a bit to let Kiersta play in the creek. Kyle had fun sporting my hat and eating leaves when I wasn't looking.

Kyle with my Hat

Kiersta on the Bridge after Playing in the Creek

Once we finally left, we headed over to a nearby cemetery to visit Brian's grandparents. It would have been Grandma Annette's 101st birthday. We sang happy birthday to her and introduced her to Kyle. Finding the letterbox in the cemetery was an added bonus.

This was a fantastic day with beautiful weather, unlike today where it is pouring and in the '50's! I'm thinking that Rancho San Antonio will not be seeing us for another Earth Day hike, this was just so much nicer.