An Egret Dropped in for Lunch

gardening

I looked out the window and saw an egret in our yard. While we have had egrets in the yard before, they are always a treat to watch. This particular egret was especially interesting.

The egret started out near a brick pile and was hunting around for something. It seemed to catch something but I could not make out what it caught. He then, slowly made his way around our potting table. I know for a fact that lizards hang out up there and the egret seemed to sense it as well. I saw the lizard run for cover under some potting items. The egret slowly moved on.

I went out front to get the mail and then saw the egret by our hedge. I decided to go back in the house to get my camera. I quietly took a few photos and then started a video. Amazingly, the video caught the egret catching and devouring a lizard. Amazing, but actually a bit gross as well. He then headed back past the potting table and this time was lucky enough to snatch the lizard from the table. (Photo above)

I learned a lot from watching this egret. I never even knew that egrets ate lizards. They are very quiet and sneaky predators. Lizards are, after all, pretty fast and hard to catch. Remember the post I shared when one got into my house? Maybe next time a lizard gets into the house I should find an egret to help me out….https://anotherdaywithjulie.home.blog/2020/05/04/friday-was-not-just-another-day-with-julie/

From a little research, I found out that egrets eat a lot more than I thought. I assumed they ate fish, which is correct. However, they also eat other small animals. Egrets are carnivorous birds. They eat fish, aquatic animals, insects, amphibians, reptiles, small birds, and small animals. The list of small animals on the menu can include mice, rats, rabbits, squirrels, meerkats, etc. The egret swallows its food whole. That long, elegant neck can surely stretch out a bit! I saw the egret swallow the lizard, but a larger animal, oh my!

As always, Happy Nature Watching!

Hawk Watching

gardening

My husband noticed a hawk hanging around our home recently. He seems to like to hang-out on the wires in our front yard and also in our tree. He comes and goes more than a few times a day. He seems to have a pattern of places he likes to visit.

He seems fairly tame really, as he does not startle easily. I went to get the mail one afternoon and did not think he was in the yard, only to be surprised to find him on the ground. Our eyes met and then I carried on about my business and he his. Yesterday, I was walking past our tree on a path and was surprised to look up and see our hawk friend. Again our eyes met. I kept walking, so as not to alarm him. He stayed in the tree. After a bit, he flew up to the wires. Bicyclists, cars, etc., do not bother him.

Every day we catch ourselves looking out the window in search of the hawk. He is most likely hunting as he is very focused on the ground below. I have taken photos of him and compared them to the photos in a bird book I have. I believe he is a Red Shouldered Hawk.

Well, we hope he likes our yard and continues to stay around. He is a beautiful and fascinating bird. I wonder what he thinks of us?

As always, Happy Observing!

Looking at the Neighborhood Through a Lens

life

I asked my son if he’d like to go on a walk with our cameras. A picture taking adventure. I think what we found in our own neighborhood surprised us both.

We hadn’t gone far when we spotted a woodpecker. Then around the bend and another. Not a big surprise to me. My husband and I had seen three woodpeckers in the same spot when on a walk the other day. I was looking for them. This is obviously their new hangout.

Then a ladybug! I love ladybugs. This was the first one I have seen this season.

Someone was leaving painted rocks around the neighborhood before Easter. My son and I spotted a few interesting ones.

We saw red-tailed hawks flying. A baby hawk was crying in the tree.

We had a nice walk. It took much longer than a normal walk as we were constantly stopping to take photos or point out things of interest. Finally a beautiful, warm, sunny day with no rain in sight. Good to be out in the fresh air ‘stopping to smell the roses’ as the saying goes. The neighborhood looks different when looked at in a new perspective.

Walking…A Great Way to Start the Day

life

It rained here last night. On my morning walk the air was brisk and the sun was shinning. With hands tucked in my pockets I walked along and took in the beauty of the morning. Drops of dew were glistening on the plants and Christmas lights in the neighborhood. Birds were chirping on the wires and in the treetops. Neighbors driving by waved hello. A boy walking to school responded to my “good morning”. Appreciating the simple beauty in every day…a great way to start the day.

Crested Ducks

life

My children and I always enjoyed seeing the same two ducks at the lake. We could spot them a mile away due to the pouf of feathers on top of their heads. Were they just having a bad feather day every day? No, they were born like that. They are what is known as crested ducks.

Crested Duck

In crested ducks, the crested gene is a genetic defect. According to backyardchickens.com, the crest (or what I call the pouf) is actually fatty tissue covering a gap in the skull. Oh my! Breeding crested ducks is considered cruel by many as the chance is greater that the chicks will die in the shell due to this genetic defect. If bred, the chicks have a better chance at survival if one parent does not have the defect.

I never knew this before. Sometimes it is worth the while to look up things one is curious about. It could lead to a new appreciation or understanding of a subject. Defect and all, these crested ducks will always have a place in my heart.

Chrysalis Crisis

gardening

Last week, I published the happy, exciting news of caterpillar sightings in our garden. I even found a chrysalis on the side of our house. I had never spotted a chrysalis before. How exciting!

The very next morning, I checked on the chrysalis. Everything looked the same. I was intending to check the chrysalis frequently, as I did not want to miss out on the butterfly as it was developing and breaking free to fly away. My son and I left the house for a few hours and when we returned I decided I should take a picture of the chrysalis. This I decided to do every day so that I would have a record of the butterflies emergence.

As I went outside, I noticed first the side of the house had been splattered with something. Then I looked at the chrysalis. Only the top part of it remained. At first, I thought it hatched while we were out. Then I realized it should have changed first to a dark color and then to a clear encasement. It was too soon in the process to have fully developed. Something had gone wrong. Had something gotten a hold of the chrysalis before the caterpillar had time to complete the process?

We will never know exactly what happened to the chrysalis. Unfortunately, things like this happen in nature all the time. It is hard for animals to survive in the wild. Predators, weather, lack of food, all sorts of things put animals at risk. My poor little Monarch.

There are still caterpillars on our plants. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to find another chrysalis in the yard and hope to see that one turn into a beautiful Monarch butterfly. I wish them all good luck.

Visiting Joshua Tree

Travel

Somehow, when picturing Joshua Tree National Park, I always thought of one lone Joshua tree. After all, if there were a lot of trees the tree would be plural, right? Oh how wrong I was. Joshua Tree National Park has more than one tree and is a vast desert.

One thing that overtook me about Joshua Tree (roughly 45 miles from Palm Springs, California) was how large it was. It seemed the desert could go on forever. It is actually made up of two deserts coming together to form the park. Below 3000 feet makes up the Colorado Desert or Eastern part of the park. The higher elevation makes up the Mojave Desert where the Joshua trees can be seen.

Skull Rock

When planning a trip to Joshua Tree, keep in mind the temperatures. We took our trip in December, which was a perfect time to go for pleasant hiking. Temperatures are in the 60’s Fahrenheit in December, dipping down cooler at night to somewhere in the 30’s. Spring is the most popular time of year at Joshua Tree due to the desert flowers in bloom. Summer would be the least desirable time to visit as it is a desert and the temperatures can get to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a bit warm to be hiking.

Joshua Tree has a lot of hiking trails and is a beautiful place to visit. At night the stars are plainly visible without any light pollution. If you want to see the stars at night pack a jacket, as it does get cold at night. There is nowhere to purchase food in the park, so pack a picnic and plenty of water. Be sure to pack a camera to capture this remarkable park. Happy Traveling!

Nesting Grebes at Lake Hodges

Travel

Are you interested in birds? If so, you may want to check out Lake Hodges located in Southern California. Right now is the perfect time to take a short hike to see the Grebes nesting on the lake.

Grebes build large nests at water level on the sticks and branches that are protruding from the water. It is quite a sight to see. In-between the sticks there are lots of nesting birds. My son and I were lucky enough to see one of the birds take a break from the nest and go for a swim, exposing a couple of yellow eggs. Of course the mommy did not go far from the nest and kept swimming close to check on the eggs.

It is an easy walk from the gravel parking lot to the Pedestrian Suspension Bridge where you can view the Grebes nesting. Once on the bridge just look west (away from the freeway) and you will see the nests. I highly recommended that you bring binoculars to view the birds. You can also see them by zooming in with your camera. Without binoculars or a camera you will not be able to see the birds in detail. Also, be sure to bring water. Even though it is a short walk, Escondido gets very hot depending on the time of day you are there.

Besides viewing the Grebes, Lake Hodges offers other activities as well. You can bring your mountain bikes or hike on the many trails around the lake. If you walk to the end of the bridge and turn left, there is a nice hike to a stream and then back around past the lake. A drive to the other side of the lake would also allow you to rent kayaks, which my family and I did one year.

To get to the Pedestrian Suspension Bridge to view the Grebes, take exit 26 W. Bernardo Drive/Pomerado Road off I-15 in San Diego, CA. Head left (West), pass the bridge, and park in the gravel lot on your right off West Bernardo Drive. There is a pathed bike/walking path from the lot to the bridge.