After what seemed like months of rain, suddenly it’s Spring with a vengence in Sonoma. All week temps have stayed close to 80, the sun has been shining furiously and all the wild critters are in full mating mode. It starts with the birds. But doesn’t it always start with the birds? Dozens of barn swallows are swooping and hollering around … well…around the barn. Several pairs are building nests in the eaves. One bird, who must be the self-appointed Neighborhood Watch leader has decided that living in the wing mirrors of my Prius are two evil birds who must be stopped.
The most spectacular avian mating, though, has to be the pair of Red Tailed Hawks who have staked out Two Terrier Vineyards as their turf. I’ve searched the net for video of these birds mating and can’t find anything. Judging from how difficult it’s been for me to try to get footage or even a still shot of it, it’s no wonder. Let me describe it. The two Hawks wheel and circle around each other, occasionally streaking right for each other like heat seeking missiles. Then both of them will shoot up into the air, come together grasping talons and plummet nearly to the ground. All the while issuing the most ear-splitting shrieks. In fact, in my unsuccessful Google travels to try to find footage of this, I did come across the interesting fact that the scream of the Red Tailed Hawk is one of the most used nature sound effects in movies. Doesn’t matter if the birds shown are Eagles or any other kind of Hawk or even just Jeremiah Johnson or John Wayne or Clint Eastwood riding through the wilderness. The scream of the Red Tailed Hawk is somehow worked into the soundtrack.
We won’t even discuss the masses of turkey vultures that have been clustering in the skies in the evenings.
The birds are fascinating, but they are the least of our worries. Seems the coyotes and maybe the Mountain Lions have decided the barn is a good place to pick up a date. I surprised one of the coyotes late one night taking the dogs out for their final “bathroom break”. Where there is one coyote, I’m assuming there are several. And it appears something has been stalking around. The minute I let Oscar out in the morning, he runs around the barn “marking” everything. Poor little guy can barely drink enough water to keep up with his efforts. Lucy, on the other hand, has been crouching in corners and trying to hide.
That brings me to the bees. In one of the more bizarre rites of Spring, a huge swarm — and I mean hundreds and hundreds — of native bees descended on the driveway to the barn and began a mass mating ritual. John the Baptist and I tried to get close enough to investigate, but they were quite aggressive, hovering like little helicopters in front of our faces until we backed off.
Unlike European Honeybees (the kind we’re all familiar with), Native California bees don’t form hives or even hang out together all that much. So this shin-dig was pretty unusual. Again, I haven’t yet been able to identify what kind of bees these are, but I’m liking the description of a Native Bee nicknamed The Head Bonker Bee because they fight interlopers away from any flowers they’ve claimed by bonking them with their heads. Our bees weren’t quite as yellow as the pictures we found of Head Bonkers, but they certainly displayed the same kind of behavior.
Now, we come to the carrots. Yes, another crop I’ve been attempting to grow in my completely amateur, no-nothing attempt at a kitchen garden. The first thing that happened was that the squirrels raided out all the seeds I planted. Then I replanted and covered the beds with netting. That took care of the squirrels, but the torrential rains swept everything into little piles, so I have carrots growing on top of carrots. The results aren’t pretty.
Since we’re off the topic of fauna and on to flora:
And the Zigadenus fremontii, also known as the Star Lily:
Obviously, there’s been some mating going on there!