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.
Stuff in my yard, part 3: wildflowers
Wasp nest update