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The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

02 July 2008

My Town Wednesday: Stuff in my yard

Stuff in my yard, part 2: Critters (vertebrates)

“My Town Monday” is the brainchild of Travis Erwin at One Word, One Rung, One Day. The goal is to introduce one's blog readers to what’s special about the place where one lives.

In New Orleans, most of our animal visitors were squirrels, anoles, blue jays, cardinals, dragonflies, and plant-devouring bugs.

In our Riverside yard, all are rare or absent. Below are pictures of some Southern Californian vertebrates I have been able to photograph, with tentative IDs. (Please correct my IDs if you know these animals.)


Pocket gophers (possibly Thomomys bottae) are hard workers and constantly expand their network of burrows. Many people here kill gophers because they dig many exits to their tunnels, killing grass and leaving dirt mounds. We think the fun of watching them makes up for the damage to the lawn. This gopher put a tunnel entrance under a bird feeder so it could eat spilled seeds. At bottom, it makes a rare foray out of the burrow. It does not have measles; its cheeks are stuffed with seeds.

People here also dislike rabbits (possibly desert cottontails, Sylvilagus audubonii) because they eat plants. My observations so far suggest that they far prefer grass and clover to landscape or garden plants. (That said, I have lost several ornamental plants and young trees to their nibbling.) Several rabbits live in our yard, and at least two females gave birth this spring. Here are two young ones; the one on the bottom is two months older.

Coyotes (Canis latrans) must spend quite a bit of time in our yard, given the loud howling we often hear at night and the amount of new coyote scat we see each morning. We don’t actually see them much, though. The only picture I’ve gotten so far is of this coyote puppy, which died in our ditch. Coyotes occasionally snatch and eat cats and small dogs that wander from their yards. In addition to pets, they eat birds, snakes, lizards, small and large mammals, and fruits and vegetables. They prefer fresh meat but will eat carrion.


Our most frequent feathered visitors are finches (various kinds), hummingbirds (various species), mourning doves ( Zenaida macroura), black phoebes (Sayornis nigricans, American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos), common ravens (Corvus corax), sparrows (unidentified; they look too much alike to me), hawks (red-tailed hawk [Buteo jamaicensis] and others), and greater roadrunners (Geococcyx californianus). Pictured above are several adult finches and one fuzzy-headed young finch—purple finches (Carpodacus purpureus and American goldfinches (Carduelis tristis).


The desert spiny lizard (Sceloporus magister) is a member of the iguana family. One that lives in the jasmine vine in our courtyard, and another lives in a bush by our garage. Their territories seem small; I’ve never seen them more than a few feet from their shrubbery. They have easy lives, it seems, for they spend hours each day basking in the sun. You'll have to turn your head sideways to look at these pictures; Blogger rotated them when it uploaded them, and I don't know how to fix it.


Coming soon:

Stuff in my yard, part 3: wildflowers

Wasp nest update


Charles Gramlich said...

Beautiful. Lana and I both love these kinds of photos. Sad about the coyote pup, though. I'd rather we had moles than squirrels. They eat everything we leave for the birds.

Michele said...

I've heard we have gophers in our area as well, but I haven't seen any in our neighborhood. Lots of lizards and a host of wild birds (because of the wetlands), though.

Great post! And very informative. Love the pictures.


Steve Malley said...

Sometimes I miss my old US yard-neighbours, too: squirrels especially.

Bernita said...

Lovely shots.
Am glad you have purple finches.( Always think of them as raspberry finches!)

Lana Gramlich said...

Wow, so cool! Thanks so much for sharing. The differences in wildlife on opposite sides of the Rockies & in the desert areas are so diverse, y'know? Very glad to see what your area has to offer!

Rae Ann Parker said...

How interesting, Shauna. Your photos are great. It is amazing to hear that you have coyotes in your yard. So different from New Orleans. Isn't it interesting how different areas of our country are so diverse?

Lisa said...

That's quite a menagerie! I think the pocket gophers are pretty funny. I've never been able to get annoyed with animals who come around to snack on the vegetation. Five years ago I lived in an apartment in the basement of my friend's house in Manitou Springs, CO. Her gorgeous yard was bordered on one side by a stream and in the summertime, deer grazed through all the time. Laura would usually shoo them away or squirt them with the hose -- I couldn't blame her since they loved to eat her flowers. But they were so pretty I never had the heart to do it. They were so used to people they'd stand less than six feet away from you!

Travis Erwin said...

The critters in my area are very similar. I got you linked for this week.

Shauna Roberts said...

Thanks, TAVIS.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Really nice post with great pictures.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Lovely pics. I love finches.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Interesting post and great pictures. We sometimes get raccoons around here at night. I haven't seen them, but they leave footprints when the grass is damp, or when they've been in the pool.


Shauna Roberts said...

TERRIE and PATTINASE, glad you stopped by and enjoyed the pictures.

LINDA, I'm glad we don't have raccoons. They get into everything! Hope we get a chance to talk and get to know each other a little better at RWA National.

Barbara Martin said...

Very nice photos. Too bad about the coyote puppy. The bird bath seems to be a popular place.

It's always interesting to see what kind of animals, birds and reptiles live in other areas.

For Charles, if he returns here, put out saffron seeds for the birds. Squirrels won't eat saffron and they don't like the smell.

debra said...

We also have coyotes, rabbits, groundhogs, possums, skunks, foxes (bad luck for my chickens); we've had lots of woodpeckers this year, including pileated woodpeckers. Thanks for an interesting post.

Tea N. Crumpet said...

Your little gophers are sweet! I dropped in from Steve Wylder's site-- I enjoyed reading yours as much as I enjoy reading his!

Sam said...

Lots of different critters!
Thanks for the lovely pictures!

Robin said...

Shauna...great photo's. I'm hoping to figure out this blogger thing so I can share.

I live about 60 miles west of Travis and I wish I would have had a camera last week.

My SE (spouse equivalent) came home from central Texas last week and I was emptying his suitcase, which was on the bed, underneath the ceiling fan.

I took clothes out of his bag and put them on my shoulder. The tassle I have hanging off the fan kept tickling my face. I finally brushed it off my shoulder with my hand. It wasn't the tassle, it was a snake!

Little garter snake which I looked up called a "Texas Lined Snake" but at that point I didn't care! Did it come from his suitcase or the little space above my fan? Well, apparently it was from here and my SE did NOT bring it home...this snake somehow got into my house.

Yikes...if I'd a had a picture you would have seen a tiny, though rather long, snake...and me freaking out.

My Country Home Monday!

Loved the pics and will keep checking your site!

Debbielou said...

Lovely photos- the coyote looks a a little like a fox that we have here in the UK

Shauna Roberts said...

BARBARA, that birdbath attracted no bathers for the many months it was filled with water. Then the bottom started leaking, and I converted it to a sunflower seed feeder. Now the birds wait each morning for me to put out the seeds and then swarm in.

DEBRA, I was surprised to hear you have coyotes (as well as the pythons you didn't list). I grew up in Ohio, and I don't recall anyone every seeing one then. Perhaps they have been reintroduced?

TEA N. CRUMPET, thanks for dropping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the gopher pics. They are so fun to watch.

SAM, thanks!

ROBIN, that garter snake must have been quite a surprise. I found a teensy snake in my kitchen watering can in New Orleans once, and I just kept blinking and looking at it because it seemed so impossible that it could be there. Feel free to email me at ShaunaRoberts [at] ShaunaRoberts [dot] com if you need some help with Blogger.

DEBBIELOU, now that you say it, the coyote pup does look a lot like a fox. As adults they look more like dogs. Thanks for stopping by!

Shauna said...


The pictures are beautiful!! I love your take on us Californians and how we don't like certain animals; there you are allowing the gophers to live. Unheard of here, although I'd have a problem with the 'getting rid of them' myself; Thankfully, I've never had to deal with them. You enjoying them is such an expression of who you are.

Do you do any professional photography? I don't remember if you told me or not.

Can't wait for the wildflowers! A girl after my own heart; mine flowered and went to seed, there will be a brand new bunch soon!

Take care sweets!

Shauna Roberts said...

SHAUNA, no, I don't do any professional photography. I did take a class on field biological photography when I did a summer semester at the University of Minnesota's Itasca Biological Station. I find the "kill 'em all" attitude toward wild animals here puzzling and sad. Why do people buy a property next to a mountain and then complain about coyotes? If I felt like that or had small (edible sized) kids, I would have looked for a house somewhere else.