Summer Successes

Black-headed Grosbeak (male), California

Black-headed Grosbeak (male), California

Although we are still experiencing high temperatures where I live, the northern hemisphere has assumed an autumn angle, and the new season is underway.


Here are a few glimpses of our northern California summer wildlife.


Violet-green Swallow, male, California

Violet-green Swallow, male, California

The black-headed grosbeaks arrived from Mexico for the summer, as usual.  We had several dozen pair and they produced many young.


Numerous other bird species nested here as well.


We were especially aware of the pacific-slope flycatchers because one pair nested right outside our back door.


Day 15, flycatcher nestlings

Day 15, flycatcher nestlings

They had two broods in a row.


The California quail were a special treat.  They are stealthy when their chicks are born, because as ground birds they are extremely vulnerable.


California Quail, California

California Quail, California

They do, however, take undercover paths to our feeder and water sources, and on two great days we saw a dozen chicks in their puffball stage.  No photos of that, but a memory so great I smile as I type.


Reptiles and amphibians were suitably abundant, and mammals too.


Coyote, California

Coyote, California

We were thrilled when coyote showed up repeatedly, because for the last five years they haven’t been here.


On my morning walks there are a few wild plum bushes that belong to no one, miles away from any structure.


plums-caI try a plum every year, and this year they were especially tasty.  So every day I would enjoy one as I walked.  (Too small for baking.)


Once they had ripened, I noticed deer tracks and found that the deer were eating the low fruit, but the high fruit remain untouched.  Thereafter I would eat my one, and then pick five high ones, and set them on the ground.


The next day they would all be eaten and I would find the pits.


Canyon Bat, Calif.

Canyon Bat, Calif.

From the tracks and scat, I discovered that mostly native fox were enjoying the plums. This was a thrill.


All the summer residents have gone, but I still see numerous bats every dawn.


Gray Squirrel

Gray Squirrel

The winter bird migrants have not arrived yet, but we have lots of madrone and toyon trees loaded with berries awaiting their arrival.


The earth keeps spinning, the seasons keep shifting, and every day is a new gift.


Western Fence Lizard

Western Fence Lizard

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander



68 thoughts on “Summer Successes

  1. Jet, here in the PNW, bunches of the Grosbeak suddenly appear in our back yard pecking for goodies hidden in the grass, then there is a long period when we don’t see them again. We don’t supply a bird feeder for the birds and that could be the reason. Also, once in awhile I will see a California Quail adult with chicks following close behind as they cross the road and scurry into the woods. We mostly see them in the open fields of arid Eastern Washington.

    The coyotes are plentiful on our island. During the dark early morning hours we can hear them crying, howling, and barking not far from our house. There maybe only one or two making the loud cries but it sounds like 10 are joining in the chorus.

  2. Jet you could do wildlife tours right from your home! I love that you picked the plums and set them down on the ground for others. The coyote image is so special as not easy to see one let alone photograph it. Do the coyotes ever cause a problem? Here they can roam in packs and sometimes attack small dogs and cats.

    • I’m delighted you enjoyed the summer wildlife post, Sue; it was fun to write. On our mountain, any resident with small cats and dogs knows, sometimes the hard way, that their pet will be eaten if they do not bring them in at night. It’s a wilderness with predators, which is the best part. Have a great week with those lovely larch trees.

  3. …several dozen pair and they produced many young, can’t imagine being there and watch them.
    So wonderful to be this close to nature. 🙂 plums look delicious. Beautiful captures, Jet!

    • Yes, having so many grosbeaks is a true joy. When we first moved here there were only a handful of them, but over the years they have found the feeders and literally multiplied. Thanks so much for your visit and comment, Amy…another true joy.

    • Hi Laura. Yes, you have all of these critters where you live too. The grosbeaks come to feeders (in the summer); the swallows do not do feeders, but they nest in nest boxes in the summer. I hope you get to see them next summer. Since you are an accomplished photographer, I’ll warn you that the violet-green swallows are nearly impossible to photograph. It just happened that the male perched repeatedly one morning, while checking out our nest box. Thanks so very much for your comment, Laura.

  4. You’re a good sport Jet! All creatures deserve some love and understanding, you always have some good words for them. I like that. I do like all creatures too, but I give more attention to avians since I have more access to them in my backyard. I enjoyed your post very much my friend. 🙂

    • I enjoyed your comment very much, HJ, thank you. I really do like all wild creatures. And as you probably guessed, there were some creatures that I left out of the successes…like the scorpions who seemed to proliferate more than ever this year, they were successes. but argh. I never killed them even when they came into my office while I was working. But I did get them out of the room and sealed up the hole they were coming in, and I wasn’t all that pleased to see them. ha. We take the bad moments with the good, don’t we…lol. My thanks~~

    • That swallow photo is a real favorite. They are incredible acrobatic fliers and rarely perch and are usually very high up. Additionally, the light has to be just right to capture the emerald and purple. I’m really glad you enjoyed the post, Sarah, thank you very much.

  5. Fantastic summer, Jet. As the hummingbirds wind down here, we gear up for more outings away from home. It is rather charming to have nature so close you can enjoy right where you are!! I always heave a sad sigh as one season gives way to another, but (we hope) the animals return again the next year.

      • Thanks Shannon. That one actually took both of us, because I noticed the unusual swallow activity of the male stopping by to check out the nest box. And Athena ran and got her camera and tri-pod. Then mostly he was flying, so while she had her lens pointed on a nearby snag where he occasionally perched, I watched and announced when he was about to land on the snag. ha ha. Sounds a little funny when I type it out. lol. Many thanks~~

    • Thanks so much for stopping by Shannon, great to “see” you. The new season always takes me some time to adjust, too. Like most people, we get into rhythms, and then they change. I can’t believe, for instance, how quickly the light has changed in the past few weeks. Where I live it’s dark by 7:30p now, and just a few wks ago it was light out until 9:15. Nature always has a way of sharing its wisdom, as I know you know. I appreciate your visits, Shannon, and send you my best~~

  6. Great posting– I love the Quails the best and the fly catchers. We have plums too but the deer reach up higher then I can. I watch the deer and they stand up on their 2 hind legs.

    • Oh, I wish you could’ve seen those little quail babies we saw this summer, Bill. They were born that same day and they were adorable little puffballs, each one smaller than a baseball. At least a dozen of them. We were coming out of the front door to go somewhere, and unknowingly disturbed the whole covey. The next day about the same time, we saw them through the window and Athena took window photos but they didn’t turn out so well. I like hearing about your high-achieving deer! Many thanks~~

    • Thanks so much, Mary, I’m glad you enjoyed the summer wildlife post. The bats are really fun to have around. This past week I have seen them every morning in the dawn light. They flutter rather than fly, circling near some fir trees, and just happen to fly where the dawn light is brightening. As a painter you would appreciate the peaches and pastels of the sky with the two, sometimes three, little fluttering bat silhouettes.

  7. Absolutely enjoyed the glimpse into the northern California summer wildlife and your very calm coexistence with not only the birds, but the coyotes, foxes and bats (I’m not so calm when I see a bat). Especially enjoyed the California Quail photo, the plum story and your wonderful ending.

    • I had a lot of fun during that week with the plums and I wasn’t sure about sharing such a personal story, but I am glad you enjoyed it, ACI, and I’m glad I shared it. I had snake and scorpion stories, and mice too, but I stuck with what I thought might be a little easier for folks to read about. lol. Your kind comments and careful reading are much appreciated. My new mystery novel will be out soon, a big story to share. Thanks so much~~

      • Probably a good thing for those of us who are an amateur outdoor enthusiast that you left the snake and scorpion for another story, the bat was more than enough. I’m looking forward to reading your latest mystery novel and learning more about Anne. Glad to hear you survived the rewrites and congratulations on such a wonderful accomplishment!

  8. What a wonderful post! So many successes, and I particularly enjoyed the plum story. (How you remain focused on your writing and research when scorpions might scuttle in at any moment…hats off!)
    I really enjoyed reading about your summer. Thanks, Jet!

    • Fun plum story to share, and the scorpions got in there too. Thanks so much, pc, for your attentive interest and kind comments. I always enjoy sharing the stories with you, you read every word. 🙂

  9. I think I’ve met all these bird species that you speak of here, except for the California quail, although I know the common Gambles. Surprised to hear you had so many black-headed grosbeaks in one location!

  10. Wow! There are so many treasures where you live, Jet! Your daily walks sound like pure heaven to me. I especially love your ritual of tasting the wild plums—what a delicious morning treat that would be. Like you, I love all of nature. All of its facets bring me joy. But I have to say I’d really love to see your adorable California quail chicks. California quail only live in southern BC here, so we only get to see them on our visits there. The way the whole family moves together and the way their little head plumes bob about always delights me. I would also love to see your resident bats. We have bats here in the city, but I rarely see them (some summers I am lucky to spot one at dusk flying past our window), but its rare. Your lizard is pretty cute too! What a successful summer indeed. Thank you for sharing all your treasures with us. Happy Autumn to you and yours! ~ Jeannie :))

    • Thanks so much, Jeannie, for your lovely comment, I am happy you enjoyed the summer stories. I do love my morning walks. Sometimes I think I don’t have time for them, but it always turns out they are one of the highlights of the day, and there’s always something beautiful to enjoy, even if it’s just winter lichen. The quail chicks were a really special treat, and you described them well. They move together in such a tight unit, and when they are close you hear many sweet sounds. Always fun to share these special earthly delights with you, Jeannie.

  11. Such a lovely post, Jet! So, the foxes ate your plums. How wonderful it is.
    I saw the quails in August again. It looks like they had a nest in my daughter’s front yard, deep in the conifer bush. The chicks were all grown up at that time.

      • Quails have been living in the neighborhood for ages, and make it from one backyard to another every day, with their families of feathered chicks, sometimes accompanied by ‘single’ adults. The singles can come over and sleep somewhere in the shadow. They are a very familiar sight, and walk pretty much in the open. There are some birds of prey living nearby, and I guess it is how the quail population is controlled. A lovely sight when they cross the fences and look around before let their young to follow..

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