“Doggonit!”

Almost an inch of rain from a rare late May series of storms. Today at 7am, I stuck my head out. It was “cloudysunny,” with the sun just showing its face. It was that bubbly time of morning for the critters, with the jackrabbits arching their bodies toward the sun, and delighted bird chatter everywhere. There was a quartet of our unusually dark-marked mockingbirds down by the orchard. Three were catching the sun, perched nearby on a wire cage protecting a small male pistachio tree. The other was watching from another tree.

Up the hill on a wet brush pile stood a wet female quail. I had looked up upon hearing the quail call, and it was the only quail I could see, but I had never heard this call from a female before, and she flew off before I could further investigate. I walked up and there was no male quail in the area.

Speaking of quartets, we have last year’s seemingly same quartet of western king birds. They don’t seem to be quarreling as much as last year, even when they’re all together, but I have not spent enough time watching them to be sure it is indeed last year’s group.

One barn swallow came by as I was standing on the northeastern house deck, looking downhill as if it was still interested in looking over the house for a nest site. The rest of today’s swallow story is the fly-around by a number of cliff swallows. They were flying fairly low, and I hadn’t noticed them earlier this morning. They were looking over a pile of bare earth mounded in front of my wife’s studio. It was wet and a great mud source for their nests under a bridge on nearby Olive School Lane. My being there probably discouraged them.

Further speaking of quartets, there are two pair of mourning doves frequently found together in the willows by the pond’s “big hole.” Maybe they have a nest there. There are also three to four jackrabbits that like to lie in the morning sun, clearly visible from my kitchen window and easy to carefully study with my binoculars. Each one can be identified by scars, nicks in their ears, some facial coloring, or a prominent odd lump on one of the legs, abdomen, or chest. I’ve named them One, Two, Three, and Four, and it’s interesting to see how they pair and play, often taking their own special sun-rest area.

Last night, as I was fertilizing all kinds of ranch trees in the rain, my golden retriever Jock followed me around with something in his mouth. I didn’t take the time to look until my wife called out, “What’s Jock got in his mouth?” I looked and saw that he was tentatively holding a baby blue jay, amazingly long legs and tail. It was dead. Perhaps he found it that way, or my dog Brindle had gotten to it first and killed it, and he wanted me to find a good place for a burial. Two weekends ago on Mother’s Day, my daughter and I noted that Jock was carrying a baby redwing blackbird from the pond. Daughter Lynne put it back in a nest she found, since it seemed unharmed. Better this than the dead skunk he was carrying earlier.

And speaking of skunks, nearby neighbors Irwin and Amy Liu were coming back to their house one evening last week, when their Labrador retriever chased after a skunk that was walking in their driveway. They started to unload the car through the front door when they were suddenly panicked by the appearance of their naughty dog with the live skunk in his mouth. They desperately tried to close the door before the dog, with its gushing skunk, barreled inside. They didn’t quite make it in time – what a mess!

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