What’s All the Crowmotion?

LizzieLou | nablopomo,wildlife | Friday, November 30th, 2012

First the gull started squawking. Then the crows started shouting and assembling en masse, mobbing I suppose you’d call it. (One would think one was tossing an old chicken thigh out onto the yard but one was really inside minding her own business.) On closer inspection, there was something happening on the roof next door. A bird was molesting another bird on the steep slope. I wasn’t sure why this would make all the crows upset until I realized that it was a hawk of some kind trying to kill one of the poor pigeons that roosts up there. I think I’ve seen this hawkish bird around before. I grabbed binoculars and the crappy camera, but I was too late to catch any of the action since one of the neighbors had come outside and was making a bunch of noise on his own. A little bit later, Ocho was looking out the front window and emphatically cherping. I peaked out and that hawk was perched on the wire in front of the house. I grabbed binoculars and the crappy camera again, but again by the time I got to the front window it was gone. I went outside to the backyard to look around and there it had returned to the roof next door, perched high on the chimney. The crows were continuing to monitor the situation and swooped down to sass the hawk who clung to the roof for a while, until finally they seemed to succeed in driving it off.

The hawk had a roundish body and a long tail with stripes across it, a light colored chest with brown flecks, and yellowish feet. It had a slight resemblance to a chicken when it ran on the roof, and it’s wings were… wingish. Looking it up later I think I have identified it as a Sharp-shinned hawk.

I totally needed my camera-toting entourage!

Reason I Should Have an iPhone #11: Ornithological

LizzieLou | nablopomo,wildlife | Friday, November 9th, 2012

While I occasionally see some bird things that are pretty cool, like a crow playing with a ping pong ball — or I should say, attempting to open it like it was an egg and then chasing it all around the street — I think I saw something several weeks ago that was really pretty rare.

I was walking to another building for work in the afternoon and I passed by some birds frolicking — or again, probably not really playing but instead trying to eke out a little sustenance — and noticed a funny looking one. I thought at first that it was a pigeon hanging out with the robins, but on closer look, was actually an albino robin. (I know some of you might think that I see an albino Robin everyday, but it’s just not so.) This one was male. He was still red-breasted, but all the rest of his feathers were white with wee flecks of gray here and there.

And if I only had one of them fancy phones all the kids are using these days I could have probably made a bunch of bird watchers extra happy!

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

LizzieLou | wildlife | Saturday, November 12th, 2011

This past spring and summer I became an old lady a backyard bird watcher. It started before last year with my budding interest in the crows – tossing snacks out the front door for them so they would come and entertain Weezie Meep. The neighborhood crows like peanuts, but not peanut M&Ms. They like neither gluten free bread nor gluten free peanut butter puffs. (But the squirrel did and he carefully hid them all under the moss and dandelions.)

So this year as I sat in the back yard, I took more time to observe the birds, instead of observing Weezie observing the birds. (Although, I would like to share a little bit about her awesomeness right now because I was complaining about her earlier… Like many cats, she does a curious chattering at the birds when they capture her attention. Because I know she likes watching, when I see them out the window I try to alert her. One day I was calling her to come to the window, and calling, and calling, but she did not come. Until I tried something new. I looked out the window at the birds myself and said, “Cherrp. Cherrp, cherrp cherrp. Cherrp cherrp.” And she came running! Running and already chattering herself as she jumped up onto the window sill. Several days later when there were some birds out the window and Lolly was present to witness, I did it again, but without calling her first, just with the cherrp-ing. And she came running to look out the window with me again, and has continued this behavior since. Cool, huh?)

And now the crows… The first one I was able to distinguish due to a missing feather on its left wing I started calling Leslie. It was big and curious and started to recognize me too. The second one, companion to the first, I was able to identify due to one screwy foot. The toes point the wrong way. I started calling this one Frances. While I’m not totally sure, hence the neutral naming, I think Leslie is male and Fran is female. She is a little smaller and a little more cautious. Later they had a loud, shouting baby, who is now all grown up and I can’t tell it apart from other crows except that when one swoops right down without hesitating, I suspect that is Baby. I think sometimes Baby brings friends over and gets special props from them for being brave.

They would come around when I was outside reading (or when Lolly and I were outside grilling. Come to think of it I think these interactions all started with bits of hotdog. Or maybe because Lolly too is all dressed in black and likes me to shell her peanuts for her they thought I was already crow-friendly.) and I would bring my binoculars with me. I could look closely when they sat above me on the house and I could see which tree they were flying off to. I have no idea what the neighbors might have thought about me and what I was doing. Maybe they could tell I was looking at birds. Maybe they thought I was peeping into their kitchens.

Of course, I’ve watched the nature shows and read some books about how freaking smart these crows are. I LOVE them so. If they didn’t have parasites and sharp pointy bits, I would grab them and hug them and squeeze them and name them George. I have since read that I am not supposed to be feeding crows, but I have tossed nuts and salmon skin and chicken gizzards and old hamburger and biscuits and scrambled eggs and expired lunch meat onto the garage roof for them. I could see where my feeding noisy obnoxious crows could annoy a neighbor or two. I tried to be sneaky but only a moron would not know what I was doing. Thankfully, no one has complained yet.

Also of note to my birdwatching self were the house sparrows. I had to look these up to find out what they were. They are small and super cute, some have this orangey male-pattern baldness look to their heads, and say “Cheep cheep!” and hop around. They live in the horrible grass monster (see previous post) that I wanted to chop down. Now I can’t because little cute cheep cheep birdies live there.

I accidentally took a picture of them having bird sex one afternoon. I didn’t realize what they were doing until after I took the picture, but now I can add it to my collection of other backyard hi-jinks (i.e. fornicoons and fornisnails). Lastly, speaking of birds and bees, this is my favorite of my backyard photos this year and I just feel like posting it.

Not My Kitty – Part One

LizzieLou | neighbors,pets,visitors,wildlife | Saturday, August 20th, 2011

About three weeks ago Lolly and I returned home from shopping to find a naked tuxedo kitty in our yard. We had never seen her before and thought it must be someone’s lost pet. After she vaulted over the fence, she flopped over in the alleyway and showed off her belly. (The kitty, that is, not Lolly. Although it would have been equally charming – and surprisingly studly with the fence leaping – if it had been Lolly.) Then a car pulled in, but she was in no hurry to get out of the way so we scooped her back into our yard.

As our gluten free fettuccine noodle dinners were thawing in the shopping bags, we stood around perplexed and worried about what to do next. Was she really a stray? Just some other neighbor’s cat? Dumped in our yard because of the pinkness of our lady house and the stunning cat-shaped topiary by the street?

We quickly surmised that she was not feral because a) the belly presentation, and b) taking of treats out of our hands. Also, whilst a little scabby, she also had some shininess and substance indicative of someone maybe doing some caring for her. So we did what anyone who remembers what her mother told her about not feeding a stray cat because it will keep coming back would do and fed her.

…And, lo and behold, she doth return…

However, without capturing her and stowing her in the basement –which we felt we couldn’t do because of exposure to our other extremely sheltered, coddled, spoiled, fraidy, indoor-only cats– I didn’t think we could put up flyers in the neighborhood to say she was “FOUND!” Really she was just “SEEN!” and “SOMETIMES ON MY PORCH!” and those wouldn’t make for very helpful signage. Instead I did some sleuthing: posted on our neighborhood forum and called around to local vets and the city animal shelters, repeatedly checked Petfinder and Craigslist, and looked for “LOST” signs in the area. No luck. No match. I also started pestering people about taking her in if she was in fact a homeless kitty, e.g. phoning my boss after work and telling her, “Your cat is on my porch again. I think you should come get her.”

I knew that the next thing to do entailed bringing her somewhere to have her scanned for a microchip (because cats with chips are allowed to roam around without tags on according to someone at the city shelter). But the thought of taking her somewhere, finding out she was nobody’s, then plopping her back out into the alleyway to continue to fend for herself seemed too cruel. If not just to her, then also to me. Closing the door in her little face every night and leaving her out there in the dark alone was making us anxious. And some of us began weeping regularly.

Then, a breakthrough. My boss’ daughter lives two blocks away. One afternoon she was over there with her new grandbaby and started a conversation with one of the neighbors. This neighbor, we’ll call her Alice, told my boss about a black and white cat that she used to have, three of whose grown kittens she still has, who didn’t want to stay with them anymore and was taken in by another neighbor who then moved away without her. Hence, Alice’s former cat was now roaming the neighborhood for the past year, coming and going as she pleased with no particular place to call home. Could this be the same cat?

The squawk box in my head told me I had a new mission: to confirm tuxedo kitty’s identity. I wrote a letter. I printed out some pictures. I left the letter on Alice’s porch. Later that day, her husband called me and filled in a little more of the story… Their daughter brought them a kitten one day. They kept her for about three years or so. In that time she had kittens of her own (because -I paraphrase- having animals needlessly reproduce is a great thing for kids to witness and kittens can be sold to people, who will even come from out of state to buy them, for twenty bucks or more, so kittens are not the burden one would think they are, and besides, she is spayed now). Then, mysteriously, the cat no longer wanted anything to do with her kittens when they got a little bigger and she stopped coming home. She “divorced” Mr. and Mrs. Alice. “We didn’t abandon her. She abandoned us.” He said she was not friendly to them and was even “semi-hostile.” Still, she was welcome to come around if she wanted and have some food, etc. etc. I thanked him for calling and kept my WTF to myself.

I made some more letters up and delivered them to the house where the lady-who-moved used to live to find out if anyone living in those apartments had taken up care for the cat. One of them, we’ll call her Betsy, called me to tell me that Socks/Boots was left behind by the woman who lived there before her. She does visit with her, feed her, and allow her into the house last winter, also that she gets along okay with her two cats.

We felt quite relieved by this information, but by this time she was already at our place in the morning (asleep in her be-blanketed crate until we make kitchen sounds), back in the afternoon (to have a nap and a treat if Lolly sees her), and here in the evening (for dinner, petting, playing, and sleeping). So while folks have been looking after her now and again, she has pretty much taken up residence here, and even more neighbors have noticed. To date, when I’ve been busted feeding her spotted with her, I’ve been asking, “Hey, do you know this cat?” because she is NOT MY CAT!

The Week in Review: Some Stuff

LizzieLou | wildlife | Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

This past week I turned in my first submission to win THIS YEAR’S big bookbag of crap from the library. YAY!!! It’s fine that there are no coffee cards to give out this year, I guess (poor little Starbucks, closing stores!). I’m trying to lay off the daily coffee, the shitty coffee at work mostly (poor little Me, can’t afford Starbucks!). I’m too filled with anxiety and I don’t need to be any more jumpy.

Starting tomorrow, for a work thingy, I have to do some training stuff that includes…. Role Playing. For one of the exercises, we are supposed to have come up with an issue about which we are undecided – a work decision, a life change – something, although the instructions were not very clear. These are the two issues I’ve decided to present:

  1. should I have gender reassignment surgery?
  2. does my butt look okay in these pants?


But it’s not all roleplay and no work. On Saturday, there was more animal action in the back yard. I give you…



Hello Fornicoons

LizzieLou | pets,wildlife | Thursday, April 17th, 2008

What a day it has been. First I have a bunch of work appointments scattered throughout the day. Then, before I can even start on those I accidentally KICK Weezie Meep in the eyeball. And it’s just terrible and she’s miserable and I call the vet, crying, to tell them that I Kicked My Cat in the Face! and I think she needs to be seen this morning. So now it’s 8:30 a.m.

I weep to Lolly too and we decide not to wait to see our regular Best Vet Ever at 2 p.m. but take Meep to the vet now. So we do and after a bunch of driving back and forth we get her and her scratched cornea back with some eye drops, a shot of pain-killer in her bum, and new blue bib-slash-bonnet. (It really brings out the color of her EYE.)

Finally home again, and I am sitting with Meep on the sofa (with a pounding headache from my guilt-ridden weeping) trying to chill, but she is agitated. I think it’s the drugs. I pause the TiVO and listen. I think I hear cats. But the rest of them are sequestered away upstairs because I can’t right now deal with the hiss-fest that ensues after every trip to the vet. Meep hops up and kind of ambles around like she’s looking for something. I pause and listen again. And now I am sure that I hear cats fighting, and I get up to see what the neighborhood Poop Kitty is up to in our back yard. I go to the door, pull back the curtain and I see….



Holy cats! In the middle of the day? What a racket! Meep wants to see too, but mostly it is just freaking her out even more. The other kitties are in the bedroom and can’t see what’s happening, but I’m sure they can hear it. Lolly comes quickly and we spend the next 30 minutes taking pictures (and a little video) of this (un)usual springtime activity. Not because we are perving on the raccoon sex or anything, but because we’ve only ever seen one raccoon –at night, and skittish– in this neighborhood before, and these are huge! raccoons. I felt as surprised as if I had looked out and seen BEARS in the yard. For a while the fornicoons roll into the big grass thing and it’s quiet for a few minutes until they start up again and roll out the other side.


(stop watching us, Perverts!)

They quiet down a little, but show no signs of going anywhere. I creep out onto the porch, hoping I have time to flee back into the house when they turn to attack me, but I end up scaring them off. They gallop away, squeezing their fuzzy butts under the gate, and disappear into the neighbor’s yard.

Aftermath: The other three cats are still hiding in the bedroom this afternoon. There were weird and frightening sounds, and now there is a weird New Girl in the house with one glowy green eyeball (from the dye they used to check it), wearing a floppy thing, and smelling like a stranger. Oh the HISSING! Oh the FORNICOONS!

The Week in Review: Housepainting, Misdemeanors, Wild Kingdom, and Reading to Achieve

LizzieLou | home & garden,reading,wildlife | Saturday, June 30th, 2007

First, for Eelaine…
here is the house


all decked out in “Hidden Sanctuary.” (It actually makes the house more noticeable.) The trim is “Brilliant White” and the porches are “Platinum Gray”. None of the immediate neighbors have yet commented.And the rest of the news…

1. I crankily report that the painter has not returned to do those last few spots. The four ladders that were in the yard for a few days have one-by-one disappeared. There are still the buckets filled with paint slop. After our talk last weekend when Mike said he might come back after dark and “take care of them” (and then gestured towards a house down the street that is being gutted – thus indicating to me that he might go dump them there), I am a little relieved that they haven’t vanished mysteriously, but a little bit pissed-off that they are still here. I will have to take them to the other side of the city to the household hazardous waste site; a strenous and messy undertaking I put off again today. For the most part we have our backyard back.

2. I have an amusing story from a co-worker that I am not supposed to tell anyone involving something lost, something found, some trespassing, some crying, some breaking and entering, something being tossed over a fence, and some bureaucratic neglect. (I am unsure if I should spill it or not.)

3. I commuted rather uneventfully every day this week. I didn’t get into a fight with anyone, was harassed not at all, and grossed out very little! Amazing! However, it was a critter intensive commuting experience. I witnessed a crow eating a dead pigeon (which is not something I had ever at all imagined in my head to my self until now even once) and I had to do a little do-si-do two-step with a pair of medium sized grey rodents so we could avoid stepping on each other. I did have a little Eek!-A-Mouse-or-wait-maybe-that-was-a-ratty moment, but not because I am normally one to say “Eek!” but because of the curiously bendy scampering and the near squooshing.

4. I have taken up the library’s challenge to all adults to read three books this summer. I am well on my way to finishing the first three in order to procure my Big Reward of a Starbucks(TM) coffee card and to be entered into the Big Bookbag of Crap Sweepstakes! I have to fill out a form which includes a few sentences about each book, presumably to test that I have actually read them. Will someone be checking? (Janie?) In my youth, my mother issued a similar challenge where for every 10 books I read, she would take me out to buy a new one. My first three entries are:

“The Discomfort Zone” by Jonathan Franzen (a rambling but ultimately engaging memoir about growing up awkwardly, experiencing the death of one’s mother, and discovering the joys of birdwatching, which includes the word ‘eidetic’);

“Cross” by James Patterson (the latest in the series of popcorn detective novels that I began reading when I worked at Barnes and Noble where the first not very challenging book was left in the breakroom, which does not include the word ‘eidetic’); and,

“Intertwined Lives: Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict and their Circle” by Lois Banner (because once an anthro major, always an anthro major and who could resist the riveting drama of well-known academics, their lesbian love affair, and dollops of biographical information on anyone they ever came into contact with ever, which also uses the word ‘eidetic’ multiple times).

5. And finally, if anyone asks, you saw me at 78 different parties this weekend and I was having an AWESOME time at each one.

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