My wife and I spotted these 33 species of bird on our ranch during April 2007 through casual observation:

Great Blue Heron * Mallard * Turkey Vulture * White-tailed Kite * Red Shoulder Hawk * Red-tailed Hawk * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Anna’s Hummingbird * Rufous Hummingbird * Northern Flicker * Acorn Woodpecker

PASSERINES * Black Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Tree Swallow * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * Bewick’s Wren * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * European Starling * Western Tanager (new visitor!) * Black-headed Grosbeak * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Dark-eyed Junco * White-crowned Sparrow * Golden-crowned Sparrow * Red-winged Blackbird * Brewer’s Blackbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted a record 39 species of bird on our ranch during May 2007 through casual observation (including a record 4 new visitors!):

Great Blue Heron * Green Heron * Mallard * Turkey Vulture * Cooper’s Hawk * Red-shoulder Hawk * Red-tailed Hawk * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Anna’s Hummingbird * Acorn Woodpecker

Western Wood-Pewee (new visitor!) * Black Phoebe * Ash-throated Flycatcher * Western Kingbird * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Tree Swallow * Oak Titmouse * Bushtit * White-breasted Nuthatch * House Wren * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * European Starling * Western Tanager * Lazuli Bunting (new visitor!) * Black-headed Grosbeak * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Lark Sparrow (new visitor!) * Savannah Sparrow * Bullock’s Oriole * Red-winged Blackbird * Brewer’s Blackbird * House Finch * Purple Finch * Lesser Goldfinch * Lawrence’s Goldfinch (new visitor!)

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 34 species of bird on our ranch during June 2007 through casual observation:

Great Blue Heron * Green Heron * Mallard * Turkey Vulture * Sharp-shinned Hawk * Red-tailed Hawk * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Anna’s Hummingbird * Northern Flicker * Acorn Woodpecker * Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Black Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Tree Swallow * Oak Titmouse * Bushtit * White-breasted Nuthatch * House Wren * Western Bluebird * Northern Mockingbird * California Thrasher * Phainopepla (new visitor!) * European Starling * Black-headed Grosbeak * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Bullock’s Oriole * Red-winged Blackbird * House Finch * Purple Finch * Lesser Goldfinch * Lawrence’s Goldfinch

We spotted the Phainopepla on the first of the month. He must be happy because we’ve seen him (or a friend) almost every day this month. The mallards on our pond have been raising ducklings in the cattails. Six of them have now fledged. The Purple Finches have raised two chicks in the eaves of our barn. We continue to enjoy the bright colors of the Bullock’s Orioles and the Black-headed Grosbeaks. We’ve been able to prolong what we expected to be rare sightings through a steady supply of suet and oranges. The Nuttall’s Woodpecker made an uncommon appearance near our feeders just a few days ago.

Our neighbors called us this month with a Barn Owl chick that got stranded while fledging. They’ve got a nest box which doesn’t open onto enough tree limbs to allow the natural process of "branching" so the little guy found himself on the ground. We fed him a nice juicy ground squirrel to give him some extra energy and put him back in the nest box with his clutch mate(s). The neighbors are going to keep their dog on a short leash until the owlets are fully fledged. We also took in a beautiful Garter Snake who sustained a moderate injury to a non-vital area on our road. He seemed fine after a night with a heat lamp so we released him on the ranch far from the road. We also "overnighted" a California Quail who seemed to have suffered a similar brush with traffic.

Chick season has left us with eight new chickens. We take them in from a local farm supply store when they are injured or in jeopardy because of their small size. They are an Ameraucana, a mille fleur Belgian d’Uccle, a black Cochin, a salmon Faverolle, a Rhode Island Red, and three Silkies. Seven Silkies (and hybrids) now predominate our flock of 23 chickens. All eight new chicks seem to have made full recoveries.

Buchanan, one of our 17 cockatiels is facing liver failure. Our vet has stabilized her condition with steroids but we must now consider her quality of life on a regular basis. Betula, one our Rock Pigeons passed away suddenly. We took her in several years ago along with dozens of friends from a horrible environment. No one knew their ages, but most are still with us. Everyone else is doing just fine with only minor complaints.

In early June I made a trip back to the San Francisco bay area to visit with friends and family. I had a great time with my friends and survived my visit with the family. On one of Mary’s rare Saturdays off she and I visited the Santa Barbara Zoo. Visiting on the weekend meant we had to negotiate crowds but we also got to see the Lorikeet aviary which we’ve missed on our last several visits. We also got a great look at the Tawny Frogmouth (a gigantic Poorwill relative) and the Livingston’s Turaco, two favorite but reclusive birds.

Our digital camera crapped out last month so we had to replace it. This month we’ve had a great time putting it to work.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 31 species of bird on our ranch during July 2007 through casual observation:

Green Heron * Mallard * Turkey Vulture * Red-shoulder Hawk * Red-tailed Hawk * American Kestrel * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Anna’s Hummingbird * Rufous Hummingbird * Acorn Woodpecker * Downy Woodpecker (new visitor!)

Black Phoebe * Western Kingbird * Western Scrub-jay * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * House Wren * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * Phainopepla * Black-headed Grosbeak * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Lark Sparrow * Savannah Sparrow * Red-winged Blackbird * Brown-headed Cowbird (new visitor!) * House Finch * Purple Finch * Lesser Goldfinch

July was miserably hot. What made it miserable was not so much the temperature but the terrible inconsistency. Almost every day was remarkably different from the day before. Just as I was getting used to triple digit temps it rained. And so it went.

The heat has kept us from working on projects. With any luck we’ll make some headway in August.

Our main pond survived remarkably well during a 100 year record drought, but July brought it to drydown. The wild birds got a treat in the mosquito fish and frogs that became easy pickings. Hopefully some of the pond’s residents found a home.

The chicks have continued to get bigger and sweeter. August will find us working to introduce them to the adult chickens. Buchanan is still enjoying her life but we did have to visit the vet for another steroid injection.

Mary and I had a few small adventures this month. We went to the California Mid-State Fair on opening day and enjoyed the chicken judging (ours are cuter) and heard Aerosmith blasting away from the main concert stage. We also made it to Gilroy for the annual Garlic Festival. This was Mary’s first time so we pigged out on many of the vegetarian offerings.

We bought a boxed set of seasons 1 through 4 of Monk on DVD to give us some indoor entertainment as we hunkered down through the 85 degree evenings.

One of our friends lost his mother in late July. I am making this post a little late because I was in the San Francisco Bay area August 1-2 for the funeral. It was nice visiting with our mutual friends even on so sad an occasion.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 25 species of bird on our ranch during August 2007 through casual observation:

Turkey Vulture * Sharp-shinned Hawk * Red-tailed Hawk * American Kestrel * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Anna’s Hummingbird * Rufous Hummingbird * Acorn Woodpecker * Downy Woodpecker

Black Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * House Wren * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * Phainopepla * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Lark Sparrow * Brewer’s Blackbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch

I think the heat played a big part in the species who moved on to greener pastures. Those birds who did stick around seemed more appreciative of the water we set out for them. I made sure to keep it fresh and full which was more difficult since more mammals have approached the house for water since the ponds went dry.

On the 10th we took in a homing pigeon who’d been hanging around our pigeon coop. She was a little thin but she’s put on some weight and she’s halfway through her quarantine. On the 15th we lost a pigeon named Ziziphus. He was one of dozens we took in six years ago (along with Betula who passed away in June) from a dilapidated coop. We think he died principally from age.

On the 17th Templeton suffered a prolapsed cloaca. She’s been with us the longest of all our pigeons, having been a rehab who refused to be released. Our vet got her stitched up but it was touch and go for about a week. The root problem may persist so we’ll have to pay strict attention to her health, but for now she’s back to her old adorable self.

On the 20th while getting Templeton’s stitches removed a wounded Mourning Dove was brought into the vet’s office. She has a bad break on her wing but we’re treating her as a rehab for now. If she is unreleasable we’ll take her in permanently. On the way home from the vet on that SAME DAY with two separate hurt birds in Mary’s tiny pickup we learned about two roosters who had been dumped in a local parking lot. We rounded them up and put them into yet another box and started yet another quarantine. They had to ride in the back of the truck.

The roosters turned out to be relatively rare purebred Gold Campines. Someone apparently ordered unsexed chicks with the intention of raising hens. When the chicks turned out to be roosters the owners turned their back on their responsibility as pet owners and decent people and left the young birds to face traffic and predators. The roosters are taming down nicely and seem to enjoy their new home.

All eight of the chicks we raised this season have joined the main flock. The first six have integrated fully. The younger Silkies are still finding their way.

Buchanan, our cockatiel with liver trouble, flies a lot less and we have had to remove fluid from her abdomen on occasion to help her breathe more easily but she and Ike are still enjoying a fine romance.

On the 11th I participated in a forum on health care reform organized by California Speaks. The Governor and several state Representatives made cameos and vowed to use the data from the forum in their decision making. I was disappointed that the topic of coverage overwhelmed the forum and little opportunity was left to address the shockingly poor quality of the health care I have received.

Mary and I went out book hunting earlier this month and more recently on the 27th made an overdue return to Monterey. Of course we visited the Aquarium. Mary loves the new otter exhibit, but we also spent some time exploring Pacific Grove.

August was consistently hot. About half the days exceeded 100F. On occasion it was cool enough to work on projects including awnings over the south facing windows which help keep the heat out. On the night of the 29th we got a surprise thunderstorm. One lightning strike was close enough to start a small brush fire in the vicinity which CDF extinguished quickly. Unfortunately .2" of rain did nothing to revitalize our ponds.

It occurs to me that I’ve never mentioned what I do for fun. Outside of playing with the birds I spend a lot of my down time listening to music on my computer. I’ve accumulated 20,000 songs on iTunes. This month I’ve been enjoying Jerry Garcia, Bill Evans, Maria McKee, Cream, Elvis Costello, Leon Redbone, Branford Marsalis and especially Richard Cheese.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 28 species of bird on our ranch during September 2007 through casual observation:

Turkey Vulture * Red-tailed Hawk * American Kestrel * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Greater Roadrunner * Anna’s Hummingbird * Rufous Hummingbird * Acorn Woodpecker * Downy Woodpecker

Loggerhead Shrike * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * Bewick’s Wren * House Wren * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * European Starling * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Lark Sparrow * Dark-eyed Junco * White-crowned Sparrow * Red-winged Blackbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch

Although we spotted no new species during September this month was significant in that it marks the first time we’ve kept track of our ranch birds for twelve continuous months. My illness makes consistency very difficult and I am grateful to my wife for helping me keep up this hobby which makes days easier to endure.

Our new homing pigeon has safely come out of quarantine. She has become affectionate during our frequent visits but we have kept her in her current housing to keep our new dove company. We briefly flight tested the dove and it seems she may become a permanent resident so we’ve begun to handle her in preparation for socialization.

Templeton continues to recuperate and has enjoyed spending more time with me during the day. The Campine roosters were wounded while "play fighting" with each other. One scratched at his own wounds seriously enough that we had to isolate him in a large carrier and temporarily "hobble" him with a plastic egg and vet wrap. We believe that more space will solve the fighting problem when their quarantine ends in early October

Buchanan, our cockatiel with liver trouble, flies well again and is no longer accumulating fluid in her abdomen. We are delighted and appreciative of this miraculous recovery.

We tried a new medication on a persistent eye infection in Agapanthus, one of our rock pigeons. She seems to be improving steadily. Our German Owl pigeon Orson had lost quite a lot of weight. It seems she may have just suffered from the competion for food. We’ve put her in isolation adjacent to Agapanthus and she seems to be regaining her weight.

On the 17th we lost Koshi, our beautiful white Giant Cochin hen. When she came to us as a day old chick her feet were paralyzed. We kept her in a scotch tumbler and hand fed her around the clock until she regained use of her feet. She grew up in our kitchen with roosters Sean, Sam, Beep and Buttercup. She spent many happy months in our pigeon flight and our sun porch with Elvira, Cindy Lou, Raffles and Katie, but she never stopped being a lap chicken.

She was sweet and gentle and beautiful. I can count the humans who mean as much to me on the fingers of one hand. Her absence still hurts. She died of genetic weaknesses caused by humans who selectively breed chickens for eggs or meat, not for health. May they burn in whatever hell they most fear.

We had begun the month with enthusiam and an ambitious list of projects. We managed to plant eight new pines complete with a drip irrigation system. With any luck we will complete a new chicken coop in October which will give everyone a lot more space for the winter.

The month finished on a slightly better note. On the way to a Bird Mart to shop for toys and treats we spotted a Great Horned owl on a neighbor’s fence during the daylight. We found him to be suffering from an eye injury as well as a skunk encounter. Having no quarantine spaces available we called Pacific Wildlife Care, the organization through which we rehabilitated for years. They were able to take him in at their new center in Morro Bay. It was great to see the organization had turned around from gross inefficiency to create this functioning facility. It was also great to remind ourselves that there are other caring people.

This month I’ve been listening to Patsy Cline, Mel Tormé, Arvo Pärt, Concrete Blonde, Canned Heat, Oasis, Django Reinhardt and Duke Ellington.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 32 species of bird on our ranch during October 2007 through casual observation:

Turkey Vulture * Cooper’s Hawk * Red-shoulder Hawk * Red-tailed Hawk * American Kestrel * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Anna’s Hummingbird * Northern Flicker * Acorn Woodpecker * Downy Woodpecker * Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Say’s Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * Bewick’s Wren * House Wren * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * Phainopepla * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Lark Sparrow * Dark-eyed Junco * White-crowned Sparrow * Golden-crowned Sparrow * Red-winged Blackbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch * Pine Siskin

October brought some light rains which helped our new pines settle into their new homes. The rainfall soaks into the parched ground too quickly however to lift our pond out of drydown. We miss our wild Mallards and Black Phoebes.

Our new homing pigeon has safely come out of quarantine and has quickly adjusted to life with our main flock. We’ve named him Bowie because his eyes are two different colors.

The Campine roosters are both fully healed and have joined the main coop of chickens. The rooster with the wattle scar has been named Boo Boo and his buddy has been named Trevor (naming assistance from our nieces and nephews). Despite their size and apparent agression they have filled in the bottom of the rooster pecking order. Ironically it was Trevor who received the only wound from the introduction. It was minor and is already healed.

We briefly flight tested the dove and it seems she may become a permanent resident so we’ve begun to handle her in preparation for socialization.

Templeton has good days and bad. Sometimes she seems completely recovered despite evidence of kidney trouble. This past week has been the most hopeful but she’ll probably spend the winter in the house anyway.

Buchanan, our cockatiel with liver trouble, flies well again and is no longer accumulating fluid in her abdomen. We are delighted and appreciative of this miraculous recovery.

Our rock pigeon, Agapanthus, seems better. Our German Owl pigeon Orson has regained her old weight and her ability to fly. She and Agapanthus are enjoying each other’s exclusive company but will rejoin the main flock soon.

Houdini, our Mitred Conure has accelerated his feather picking. We’ve run out of medical treatments and have begun changes in his environment to reduce his stress.

The health problems and sudden drastic changes in the weather have temporarily slowed work on our projects but we have hopes for November.

On the 13th Mary and I celebrated our friend Anita’s birthday with her and some friends at her home in Harmony, CA. On the 14th Mary and I took a Garden Tour of Paso Robles. We’re anxious to try some of the plants we saw here in Creston. On the 27th Mary and I celebrated our friend Sarah’s birthday (& Halloween) with her and some friends at a friend’s ranch here in Creston.

This month I’ve been listening to Cannonball Adderley, SRV, the Doobie Brothers, Tom Petty & Uncle Bonsai.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 29 species of bird on our ranch during November 2007 through casual observation:

Turkey Vulture * Cooper’s Hawk * Red-tailed Hawk * American Kestrel * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Greater Roadrunner * Anna’s Hummingbird * Northern Flicker * Acorn Woodpecker * Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Black Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * House Wren * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * European Starling * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Dark-eyed Junco * White-crowned Sparrow * Golden-crowned Sparrow * Red-winged Blackbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch * Pine Siskin

November turned cold. We cleaned out the chimney and fired up the wood stove. The first light freeze pointed out the flaws in our pipe insulation.

Mid-month while feeding the barn birds we opened the barn door to find a very small pigeon waiting on the ground for us. With little difficulty she allowed us to pick her up and place her in a cockatiel cage. As soon as we offered her food and water she ate and drank with relish.

Our rock pigeon, Agapanthus, took a sudden turn for the worse. He spent his last night with his daddy and left us on the 28th. We broke quarantine to allow his mate Orson the company of our latest addition.

Templeton is hanging on but she is noticably weaker. We will try to stay positive and give her the best days we can.

Elvira, our Ameraucana hen, is having problems digesting food and has lost an alarming amount of weight. We are hoping to nurse her back to health through a new diet and some enzymes. Progress is slow.

Buchanan seems well. Houdini’s condition is unchanged. We are looking forward to having more time to devote to their problems.

On the day she was to be released the dove freaked out in our owlery and tore her scalp off trying to escape. If she recovers we’ll try a "remote" release in a couple of months.

As our main aviary is covered for Winter the overcrowding is taking a toll in a variety of ways. BooBoo, Sophie, Big Red, Harry & KoKo are taking a temporary break from the flock in our newly vacant Owlery.

I’m finding it very hard to continue. This Winter may be the thing that finally kills me.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 24 species of bird on our ranch during December 2007 through casual observation:

Turkey Vulture * Red-tailed Hawk * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Greater Roadrunner * Anna’s Hummingbird * Northern Flicker * Acorn Woodpecker * Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Black Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * California Thrasher * European Starling * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Dark-eyed Junco * White-crowned Sparrow * Golden-crowned Sparrow * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch * Pine Siskin

December was bitter cold. It’s been worse but we’re feeling it more this year.

Our new pigeon has come out of quarantine and we have named her Kava. She and Orson are bonding in our laundry room.

Templeton was still losing weight so we began feeding her infant food with a feeding tube. A visit to the vet showed bacterial infection in her swollen abdomen. We believe she is fighting peritonitis. She is also receiving antibiotics. She has begun to respond with more energy and more interest in eating on her own.

Elvira is responding very well to the enzymes and has put back a lot of the lost weight.

Buchanan seems well. Houdini’s condition is unchanged. We will begin experimenting with Prozac to reduce anxiety in the new year.

The dove has recovered from the scalp wound and we’ll try a "remote" release in a month or so.

Just when it looked like 2007 had dealt it’s last blow our beloved budgie Scootie died suddenly. His health had been exemplary. He and his buddy Puck had been in constant free flight in the office with daddy over the last month or so. At over 11 years of age we suspect a heart attack.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 28 species of bird on our ranch during January 2008 through casual observation:

Mallard * Turkey Vulture * Red-tailed Hawk * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Anna’s Hummingbird * Northern Flicker * Acorn Woodpecker * Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Black Phoebe * Say’s Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * European Starling * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Savannah Sparrow * Dark-eyed Junco * White-crowned Sparrow * Golden-crowned Sparrow * Red-winged Blackbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch * Pine Siskin

The storms came this month. The pond, which had been dry since July, finally got water. From the first significant rain it took only about ten days to fill completely. Much of the rain arrived horizontally amidst gale force winds. There has also been enough of a cold snap to bring two days of snow. I hope to be able to enjoy the beauty of the phenomenon next time it happens but we are still behind in our projects and were unprepared

Despite a few close calls we seem to have saved all the plants (including the newly planted pines). We kept the worst of the chill from our pigeons and chickens by using heat lamps. Our beloved German Owl Pigeon Orson passed away suddenly. Her last day saw her flying well, eating heartily and nesting happily with Kava. A necropsy revealed no obvious cause of death outside of a slightly enlarged liver.

A few of the pigeons picked up mite infestations and/or canker. We brought them into the laundry room and treated them with Metronidizol and Permethrin. They seem to be free from both complaints now and most are wintering upstairs in the barn with Ella and the still overwintered dove. Smidgen, our lone carrier pigeon has taken a liking to Kava and they remain together in the laundry room.

We are still tube feeding Templeton although she has regained her interest in seed. We are treating the persistent infection with Piperacillin, a more aggressive antibiotic and we continue to draw off fluid from her abdomen. Her general disposition is encouraging.

Elvira continues to receive enzymes although she seems to have regained her full weight.

Puck is still in the office with me and has occasional company from cockatiels.

Mary and I have joined the new gym in Paso Robles. So far we’ve had fun working out together. It’s been nice to enjoy an hour out of the weather each day.

We took a little time off this month to make short day trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 32 species of bird on our ranch during February 2008 through casual observation:

Mallard * Turkey Vulture * Red-tailed Hawk * American Kestrel * Merlin * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Anna’s Hummingbird * Northern Flicker * Acorn Woodpecker * Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Black Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Tree Swallow * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * Western Bluebird * American Robin * California Thrasher * European Starling * Yellow-rumped Warbler * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Savannah Sparrow * Dark-eyed Junco * White-crowned Sparrow * Golden-crowned Sparrow * Red-winged Blackbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch * Pine Siskin

The weather seems to have turned a corner. February began with intermittent rains and some thick fog. A friend of ours died on the 18th while driving home throught that fog. She was only 26. She leaves behind a grieving family and hundreds of grieving friends.

On the 23rd & 24th we had a violent storm with some of the worst wind gusts we’ve seen. A two-man lift steel barn door was thrown over our two-story house but did minimal damage to an oak before we secured it.

On the 2nd our R.I. Red hen Lucy had a partial prolapse of her cloaca. She is currently recovering nicely in our laundry room.

On the 9th we lost BooBoo. He was a Golden Campine – a rather rare breed. I believe irresponsible breeders exacerbate genetic flaws by overbreeding from insufficent gene pools. He just seemed to become weakened suddenly. He never really had time to find his place within the flock but Mary and I miss him very much.

On the 26th Mary and I made the painful decision to euthanize Templeton, our beloved Rock Pigeon. She had been ill for many months but we had felt that we had reason to hope for her recovery until the end. She spent her last day with me visiting her friends and her favorite places. The weather cooperated and gave her a beautiful sunny day. Her life was too big and the pain is too fresh to tell her story now but I will make her the subject of a future blog entry.

Our vet pointed out that with 120 birds with an average lifespan around 10 years we shouldn’t be surprised to lose a bird each month. Odds are of little comfort these days. For better or worse my life goes on.

On the 14th, 15th, 16th & 19th we took in several new animals. We took in two Red-eared Slider turtles from Farm Supply Co. in Paso Robles. We took in a blue Silkie cockerel from Santa Maria. We took in a Red-Rumped parrot, a Green Anole, and a House Gecko from Santa Margarita. Each of them have stories and new names but we’ll save them for the March Ranch News. By the time that rolls out the birds will be coming out of quarantine.

We finally finished the second large aviary. We’re currently moving pigeons and chickens in small groups after rigorous health checks and re-banding. We hope to use this opportunity to completely eradicate the persistent infections and infestations that have lingered in our flock due to overcrowding.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 30 species of bird on our ranch during March 2008 through casual observation:

Great Egret * Mallard * Turkey Vulture * Sharp-shinned Hawk * Red-tailed Hawk * American Kestrel * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Anna’s Hummingbird * Rufous Hummingbird * Northern Flicker * Acorn Woodpecker * Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Black Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Tree Swallow * Oak Titmouse * Western Bluebird * American Robin * European Starling * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Dark-eyed Junco * White-crowned Sparrow * Golden-crowned Sparrow * Western Meadowlark * Red-winged Blackbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch

March offered some pleasant weather (especially when compared to the recent past) but Winter has not let go of us. The very last day of the month saw a light freeze. Most of our deciduous plants have budded out and the grasses and weeds are in full bloom.

As our new blue Silkie cockerel who we’ve named Fuster (Cluck) came out of quarantine we took the opportunity to combine two flocks of chickens in our new West aviary. The result was, of course, conflict. Raffles, our bantam RI Red rooster seems to be in a standoff with Denzo, our gigantic Faverolle rooster. Harry (formerly Debbie), our buff Silkie cockerel has taken a secondary role. Fuster is relentlessly fiesty if not wise. We’ve temporarally taken him out of the fray to gain some conditioning. Fortunately, he seems very gentle with the hens so he’ll be a house & porch chicken with Katie, our "elder states-hen". The combined hens seem to get along well.

Our new Red-Rumped parrot, who we’ve named Lily has turned out to be very vocal. She had been calling upstairs to the cockatiels throughout her quarantine. Her first day amongst them has been uneventful. We fully anticipate that she’ll find a place in the flock without any trouble.

Our new Green Anole has been named Larry and the House Gecko has been named Claude. Our budget hasn’t allowed us to heat the larger tank so they remain in their old tank until the weather heats up. Until then their old tank has been sterilized and they seem to be thriving from their improved diet and substrate.

The Red-eared Slider turtles are languishing in our bath tub until we come up with an orthopaedic environment for the male who suffered quadruple amputation. They are molting through some fungus from their previous caretakers. We’re still considering names for them.

On the 4th during one of the worst storms we took in a female House Finch who had taken refuge on our front porch. She had developed a severe infection in both eyes and was probably almost blind when she roosted inside our porch eave. As we captured her we saw one male House Finch out in the storm. We believe her mate had brought her to us in desperation. We cleaned and treated her eyes, gave her some fluids and put her on a heating pad for the night. The next morning she was eating like a piglet. On a sunny, mild March 10th we released her in good health.

On the 13th a friend called us to let us know an abandoned pet tortoise was found nearby. He’s quickly rebounded from some injuries, exposure to brutal winter weather and serious weight loss. We’ve named him Fred.

Mary took a week off from work beginning on the 18th. On the first day she hoped to lift my spirits with a day trip to Santa Cruz. Instead we both came down with colds.

Our Mitred Conure, Houdini had continued to lose weight and plummage. On the 24th, out of desperation, we took him to a vet with more expertise in birds. His condition is grave and the problems are not yet fully diagnosed but he is tolerating our continuing treatments. He suffered from a lack of sufficient attention during a critical time because we were absorbed with caring for another gravely ill bird. We’re trying to keep alert to everyone’s condition now so we do not repeat this mistake.

We finally finished re-banding pigeons with numbered bands. In a few cases the old color-coded zip tie bands had broken off leaving us uncertain of the identity of a few individuals. Rigorous health checks have given us a cheerier picture of the Pigeon Canker infestation than we feared. Only 18 out of the 44 still show any symptoms and several of them are near the end of treatment. We seem to have completely eradicated the mite infestation. Unfortunately a new bird has developed an abdominal mass.

I’m still struggling each day with the absence of Templeton. I can’t write about her now, but I still intend to make a log entry in the future. Hopefully a healthy Houdini will be sitting on my shoulder while I write.

 

 

 

"Should" woke me up this morning at 4 a.m.

A relative and friend wrote: "I enjoy your letters very much and envy you seeing so many birds. Sorry to hear about all of the problems with bird recovery, but bad things do happen and we have to make the best of it. The work you are doing and all of the birds you help recover should make it very satisfying and enjoyable and make up for a few discouraging losses."

It should but it doesn’t. "Should" is a word that divides the average person from the exception. "Should" is the comfort of expectation for most. "Should" is a stinging slap of torment for those of us who dwell in the spaces beneath the cracks.

I should be able to enjoy my successes but I can’t. I should be able to fall asleep (and stay asleep) when I’m tired but I can’t. I should be able to remember happy memories but I can’t. I should be able to stop remembering sad or tragic memories but I can’t. I should be able to stand in a room full of people without feeling anxious and threatened but I can’t. I should be able to stand on my feet for five minutes without feeling pain but I can’t. I should be able to alleviate my depression by taking anti-depressants but I can’t. I should be able to take anti-histamines for my allergies without experiencing uncontrollable rage but I can’t. I should be able to sit in a room on a windy day without feeling like I am being personally besieged by an angry violent mob but I can’t. I should be able to feel physical pleasure from sex but I can’t. I should be able to reliably meet appointments by stepping out my door any time I want and thereby hold a job but I can’t. I should be able to pick up the phone and respond to the caller with appropriate tone and clarity of mind whenever the phone rings but I can’t.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 38 species of bird on our ranch during April 2008 through casual observation:

Great Blue Heron * Green Heron * Wood Duck (new visitor!) * Mallard * Turkey Vulture * Red-tailed Hawk * California Quail * Killdeer * Mourning Dove * Anna’s Hummingbird * Rufous Hummingbird * Acorn Woodpecker * Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Western Wood-Peewee * Black Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * American Crow * Tree Swallow * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * House Wren * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * Cedar Waxwing (new visitor!) * European Starling * Yellow-rumped Warbler * Western Tanager * Black-headed Grosbeak * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Savannah Sparrow * Dark-eyed Junco * White-crowned Sparrow * Golden-crowned Sparrow * Bullock’s Oriole * Red-winged Blackbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch

Birding went better than husbandry in April.

On the 5th our R.I. Red pullet Lucy had another prolapse of her cloaca. Her condition was degenerative. Another convalescence would have meant isolating her from her beloved flock for a month after which she would probably suffer another prolapse immediately. So we chose to euthanize her with memories of a long string of good days.

We adopted Lucy from Farm Supply on the 16th of last May in Paso Robles. She had a badly splayed leg, a deformed spine and poor anal tone but she grew into a big sweet pullet. She was one of the first chickens to live in the west aviary with her friends Elvira & Cindy Lou and her rooster Raffles.

On the 4th Houdini fell from his perch and began to slip away. Mary and I said our goodbyes and held him through the night. He rallied and spent the next few days convalescing next to Bob and Narsai. On the 7th he finally passed away in his sleep.

We adopted Houdini in November 2002. His previous owner acquired him as a "young" bird about three years earlier. He hadn’t been out of his relatively small cage in years. We bought him a big, new cage and gave him lots of "out" time. Beginning last year he had socialized enough to roam freely with Bob.

In the last week of March we tested our well water and found coliform bacteria. This was probably not the cause of Houdini’s illness but it may have contributed to his death. We have taken steps to clear up the water but we’re giving the animals treated water pending further tests.

April brought a short heat wave that marked the first hot days of spring.

On the 3rd we adopted three silver Phoenix hens. They were raised as a 4H project. On the 4th a pair of squabs were found in a hay shipment to Farm Supply. They had been without food or water or the warmth or protection of their parents since the hay delivery five days earlier. Mary and I traded off between feeding them at home and work. They have done a great job catching up on some growth. They fledged pretty quickly and by the end of the month they are close to being weaned. They’ve all been a wonderful ray of light in a dark time. We’ll wait for a hint of gender before settling on names for the squabs.

On the 15th Farm Supply delivered an 8′ x 8′ shed they’d been using as an office for their nursery. We plan to set it up as a temporary house for our four hybrid roosters. Eventually we’d like to use it as a potting shed. It will always bring us great memories of our friends from the nursery dept.

Mary had the day off for her birthday on the 21st. We got good news from the vet about our pigeons, did a little book shopping and had a nice Chinese lunch in SLO. On the 26th Mary stood up for our friend Anita at her wedding. The weather cooperated for the outdoor ceremony in Harmony. Everyone had a great time. Mary and I had an excuse to dress up and I had champagne and cake on my birthday.

Fred had begun to show symptoms of mycoplasma. On the 29th we began a series of antibiotics.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted a record 44 species of bird on our ranch during May 2008 through casual observation:

Great Blue Heron * Green Heron * Mallard * Turkey Vulture * Red-shoulder Hawk * Red-tailed Hawk * American Kestrel * California Quail * Killdeer * Mourning Dove * Barn Owl * Anna’s Hummingbird * Northern Flicker * Acorn Woodpecker * Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Western Wood-Pewee * Black Phoebe * Say’s Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * American Crow * Common Raven * Tree Swallow * Violet-green Swallow (new visitor!) * Cliff Swallow * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * House Wren * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * Phainopepla * European Starling * Western Tanager * Black-headed Grosbeak * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Lark Sparrow * Savannah Sparrow * Bullock’s Oriole * Western Meadowlark * Red-winged Blackbird * Brown-headed Cowbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch * Lawrence’s Goldfinch

May began with a cold snap but has become milder. A second water test found coliform bacteria persisting in our well. We continue to truck in water for our animals while we try a stronger bleach solution. For a few days we couldn’t even use our water for laundry or irrigation.

I have two stories of chickens in class, one good, one bad. On the 2nd Mary was invited to make a presentation at a local primary school for their Ag Day. She brought, Koko, one of our Silkie hens and a box of chicks from her work. Eight classes shuffled through her area and learned about the things needed to raise chicks into healthy chickens, the things needed to keep chickens, and a handful of fun facts. K-2 kids were surprisingly attentive, grade 6 kids were more difficult to interest but all of the kids came around and said "Goodbye Koko" (not Mary) when they left.

I was supposed to go along to help but at the last minute had to stay home with a new chick. The new chick was a class project from another school. She was born with paralyzed feet and is thus far unable to stand, walk or safely negotiate a water dish. The teacher who had incubated the egg in class brought the chick to my wife in tears. Apparently the egg had not been properly turned by the incubator as a mother hen would have. The chick died. Both approaches left the kids with an appreciation of chickens and new knowledge. The first required minimal work on the part of the teacher and gave Koko a great day. The second was labor intensive and traumatic. We will try to offer chicken education units at local schools each year from now on so we can sidestep future incubation nightmares.

Later in the month three more injured chicks came to us. A second chick died. The remaining two had seemed to recover nicely, but on 2 June our four week old Orpington chick had a frightening relapse of her neck injury. As I write this she seems to be responding to round the clock care. Our sex-link chick seems recovered from leg paralysis and waits for her friend to recover.

On the 4th we set up a new home for our Red-eared Slider turtles upstairs in our barn. They immediately took to their expanded digs. Their appetite has nearly tripled as they have become more active. Larry our Green Anole passed away on the 16th. We learned too late that Larry and Claude the House Gecko should never have been housed together. Larry spent his last days with privacy and an ideal environment. Claude got a new home upstairs in our barn next to the turtles. Unfortunately it was not sufficiently secure. Claude is now free range in the barn. Brief, sporadic sightings lead us to believe he’s doing well. We’ll continue to leave food, water and heat in his enclosure for him to enjoy.

On the 8th my aunt Tomi & uncle Forrest from Montana came for a brief visit. They are the only other birders in my side of the family. We all had a great time and saw nesting Green Herons and Acorn Woodpeckers, Black Phoebe fledglings, an uncharacteristically cooperative Killdeer and Say’s Phoebe and lots of Swallows collecting mud for nests.

The three silver Phoenix hens came out of quarantine and quickly integrated into the flock in our East aviary. The pair of squabs came out of quarantine and are transitioning to flock dynamics in our laundry room with Kava, Sidgen and Mimulus. They’ve all been wonderfully healthy and help keep my spirits up.

On the 19th we stopped by Leon’s Books in San Luis Obispo for their going out of business sale. Leon’s was the oldest bookstore in the area and it’s loss leaves only one decent used book store between Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. I never really liked Leon’s but it was a part of a disappearing world which I miss.

On the 26th we moved our four hybrid roosters to our new shed. They love the new home and enjoy the more frequent visits from us that proximity affords. We hope to give them an additional 12′ x 12′ run in June.

Our Desert Tortoise, Fred is now being treated for pneumonia. We will soon begin a treatment cycle for nematodes. Ella, who turns out to be male, has just completed a treatment cycle for pin worms. All the medical attention has distracted us from finishing their new pen in our garden.

I finally got my truck fixed, but I find myself with little desire to drive anywhere where there are humans. After a particularly unpleasant episode at my former gym, my patience with humanity is gone.

This post comes a little late partially because our computer is nearly paralyzed from persistent viruses. It completes one uninterrupted year of monthly posts. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to keeping a journal despite many attempts. The depression makes consistency incredibly difficult. I realize no one actually reads this but the feat of sticking with it helps me imagine other daunting projects with some measure of hope.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 35 species of bird on our ranch during June 2008 through casual observation:

Great Blue Heron * Green Heron * Mallard * Turkey Vulture * Red-shoulder Hawk * Red-tailed Hawk * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Anna’s Hummingbird * Acorn Woodpecker * Downy Woodpecker

Black Phoebe * Say’s Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Tree Swallow * Violet-green Swallow * Cliff Swallow * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * Phainopepla * European Starling * Black-headed Grosbeak * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Lark Sparrow * Bullock’s Oriole * Red-winged Blackbird * Brewer’s Blackbird * Brown-headed Cowbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch * Lawrence’s Goldfinch

June was baby month for wildlife here on the ranch. We spotted the young of Green Herons, Mallards, California Quail, Mourning Doves, California Towhees & Spotted Towhees; and we observed Acorn Woodpeckers, Western Scrub-jays, Tree Swallows & Cliff Swallows nesting. Many other species probably raised young, which are likely indistinguishable from adults, out of our sight. We’ve also seen baby Cottontail Rabbits, Muledeer fawns, & lots of baby toads and frogs.

While the rest of California has been literally on fire since the lightning storms, Creston has been on fire figuratively all damn month. There have only been a few days this month that were cooler than 90 degrees. Worse yet the nights have brought little cooling and the heat has built early. Even the coastal cities have seen temps as high as 114 degrees. Between this and high gas prices, we haven’t been able to get temporary relief by quick trips to the coast. Smoke from the fires has made breathing harder and aggravated our allergies badly enough to create cold-like symptoms.

On the 1st I was in the SF Bay Area for the Lake Chabot Trail Challenge. It’s a tough half marathon (13.1 mile) trail run that features a 600 foot climb over a single mile stretch. My training had been going very poorly and I anticipated trouble. I hit "the wall" around mile nine and finished at little better than a jogging pace, but I did finish. Stomache trouble, allergies, and depression contributed to nutrition/hydration trouble. I plan to put a little more effort into strength training for next year.

After a few hours rest I drove back home in desperate need of rest. Unfortunately one of our new chicks, a buff Orpington who we’ve since named Gilda collapsed. Mary and I spent the next 48 hours giving her round-the-clock care – several medications, hand feedings, fluids, etc. By the 4th she had improved enough that I got to sleep through the night. On the 5th a bantam Cochin was brought to Mary with a hip injury. We’ve so far been unable to help but we’ll keep trying.

On the 21st we took in a guineafowl keet with paralyzed feet. She seems to be responding to a new treatment we found on the internet. Once she’s fully recovered we have a nice home lined up for her.

Gas prices have kept us from traveling as much this year but on the 22nd Mary and I went to the Pismo Beach Classic car show. There were lots of nice cars but the real treat was the cooler coastal temperature. On the 30th we ended our month with a trip to the Chaffee Zoo in Fresno. There were plenty of familiar faces and quite a few new ones including a Victoria Crowned Pigeon.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 27 species of bird on our ranch during July 2008 through casual observation:

Green Heron * Turkey Vulture * Red-shoulder Hawk * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Belted Kingfisher * Anna’s Hummingbird * Acorn Woodpecker

Black Phoebe * Say’s Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * European Starling * Black-headed Grosbeak * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Lark Sparrow * Bullock’s Oriole * Red-winged Blackbird * Brown-headed Cowbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch * Pine Siskin

This July was as miserably hot as last year, but at least this year the heat was consistent. The smoke and wind have aggravated our allergies, but at least the fires are out. All in all it’s been a crappy month to step out the front door.

Our main pond is drastically diminished but has so far survived drydown. The mosquito fish we got from the county mosquito abatement program have thrived. We’ve caught a few hundred for friends with stock tanks or ponds and for a help yourself program for local ranchers.

The new cochin hasn’t improved at all and we honestly don’t know what we can do. The guinea keet’s feet never really improved much but she’s compensated for them. We found the keet a wonderful home with some friends who already had two keets of a similar age. The mourning dove who’ been with us far too long finally gre her flight feathers back out. We set her free about 5 minutes after we noticed this. A week later she proved me wrong by showing up in our front yard for some free seed.

Mary and I went to a neighbor’s house for a vegetarian BBQ on the 4th of July. On the next night we went to a b-day party in Harmony. We also went to the California Mid-State Fair yet again. This year’s fair was disappointing on several fronts. Neither the fair administators nor the local fairgoers seem to have invested much energy. Attendance seemed to mirror the poor quality. All this contact with humanity has taken its toll leaving me tense and irritable.

We put a few agave and a cactus in the ground. Mary’s cactus garden is beginning to take shape.

Our hamster Biscuit had been slowing down a bit this month. Towards the end of the month we gave him access to a heated area in one of his rooms. He seemed to enjoy the next few days. We gave him a few more exotic treats than usual including a fresh blueberry. He was sleeping a little more than usual but still moving through his kingdom. On the 25th he finally passed away. He was a great little friend. We miss him terribly. Nights are longer and lonelier now.

This post comes late because I felt less communicative than usual.

 

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 26 species of bird on our ranch during August 2008 through casual observation:

Green Heron * Turkey Vulture * Cooper’s Hawk * Red-shoulder Hawk * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Belted Kingfisher * Anna’s Hummingbird * Northern Flicker * Acorn Woodpecker * Ladder-backed Woodpecker * Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Black Phoebe * Western Scrub-jay * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * Bewick’s Wren * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * Black-headed Grosbeak * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Lark Sparrow * Savannah Sparrow * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch

August continued the miserable heat. The Kingfisher stayed around our pond most of the month. We hadn’t seen the Ladder-back in a while. An "expert" convinced us that since we get the Nuttall’s Woodpecker we must have mis-identified the Ladder-back. So much for experts.

On the 3rd we took the guinea keet to a new home with other keets that are close in age. We’ve checked in on her and three of them have become fast friends.

On the 14th we lost our quadroplegic red-eared slider turtle. His mate is still with us but we’re looking for a home for her with turtle experts. We’re also hoping to find a better home for our Desert Tortoise, Fred.

Our blind cockatiel, Stevie has been more adventurous lately. We’ve moved him and his buddy to a two-story cage so he’ll have some room to explore when he’s not loose.

On the 23rd we picked up eight new pigeons. They are adapting to their new quarters in our quarantine room.

On the 24th we got a visit from Anita & family. The birds enjoyed the extra attention from their children.

On the 29th our computer died while I was preparing this post. We’ve temporarily revived an old model while we shop for a replacement.

 

 

 

My wife and I spotted these 31 species of bird on our ranch during September 2008 through casual observation:

Great Egret * Green Heron * Mallard * Turkey Vulture * Cooper’s Hawk * Red-shoulder Hawk * Red-tailed Hawk * California Quail * Mourning Dove * Anna’s Hummingbird * Northern Flicker * Acorn Woodpecker * Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Black Phoebe * Say’s Phoebe * Loggerhead Shrike * Western Scrub-jay * Common Raven * Oak Titmouse * White-breasted Nuthatch * Western Bluebird * California Thrasher * European Starling * Black-headed Grosbeak * California Towhee * Spotted Towhee * Lark Sparrow * White-crowned Sparrow * Red-winged Blackbird * House Finch * Lesser Goldfinch

The heat finally broke in September only to return as an "Indian summer". The Green Heron has stayed around our pond feasting on the fish and frogs. The pond level seems to be holding at knee deep. We saw our first White-crowned Sparrow this month. So far he’s alone amongst the usually rare Lark Sparrows. We also saw our first duck of the season. Hopefully the pond will fill before more ducks arrive.

On the 5th we saw Claude, the escaped Gecko still in our barn and looking great. We’ll continue to leave water out for him and we’ll prepare a warming area for him this winter. On the 10th we went to our first TooSLO meeting. This local group shares info and resources to care for tortoises and turtles. On the 15th we took our Desert Tortoise, Fred, and the female red-eared slider turtle to a tortoise sanctuary in Arroyo Grande operated by TooSLO members. We believe they will get better care there than we could provide. On the 27th we went to TooSLO’s annual tortoise show and had some fun. We even won a door prize!

On the 8th I was excused from jury duty for a medical hardship. On the 13th I picked up a mitre saw in advance of a few projects. On the 20th we went to visit friends in Harmony for one of the kids’ birthday party. On the 21st we went to a gem show in Paso. On the 25th we got some help to put together a new computer. We’re still trying to get the bugs out.

On the 21st we lost one of our oldest pigeons to a tumor. Another pigeon is looking worse for wear. We’ll spoil her and see if she can get back to better health. The eight new pigeons are anxious to leave the quarantine room. We’re hoping to do some work on the east aviary before they meet the flock. The guinea keet is a confirmed hen and is enjoying life with her two friends. On the 28th we moved our goldfish into

1 Comment
  1. revealed65 12 years ago

    this made me smile. i’m so glad you have found something in which you can immerse yourself into. i wish i could visit your ranch! wow..

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