|This is a Weekly Coffee Share Essay.|
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It was a particularly gray Sonoma County day early this past week when I ventured out to walk and enjoy whatever the yard held in wait for me.
We are fortunate to have a large enough yard that walking it actually provides several different opportunities for miniature adventures and views and encounters with nature here in our blurred edge of both suburbia and local agriculture, but this day, whew, where to start?
Okay, it was a very cold morning but, not really unusual for mid-March, but cold enough that standing in the direct sunshine, whenever it was available, was welcome.
We have a path that surrounds part of the house and I often just walk it to see what’s happening in the yard and today, the first find was our live rodent trap had caught something. “Ah – what do we have here?”
I’m trying to catch rats, but we’ve not seen evidence of one for a couple of months. Still, I would consider it a public service to catch and dispatch one. I climbed over a short hedge to check what it manged to capture this morning, hoping it was not another robin like it was another day (robins don’t do well in traps — they just panic and all but beat themselves silly trying to break free when you come close enough to release them) but today it was an old pal, the blue belly lizard I’d just caught last week.
“Dude! What did you do — spend the whole night out here? You must be almost frozen. Let’s get you out and into the sun.” He barely moved as I lifted the cage and walked him back to the brick planter box. He and I did this dance once before so I knew he was not going to just perk up and walk out if I left him and he really needed to warm up in the sun which had just carved a hold in the clouds. So, I snapped a quick photo of him in the trap hoping to capture a view of his amazing blue belly (which really didn’t come out very well, but you’ll see it below) I carefully prodded him out with a stick — just like before. When he did leave, he stopped (again) on my knee to warm up that blue belly of his against my leg.
When lizards are this cold, they’re not in much danger from hypothermia, but they can’t move as fast or as far as when they are warm and full of ready-energy. So, he sat there for a bit as I put the cage behind me and just enjoyed his sitting there like an old friend. His breathing was regular and obvious so I doubted he was in any danger there on my knee, but I did wonder how much attention he would tolerate so I moved my hand closer with no reaction from him, then closer and then closer still. My third motion was enough for him to decide it was time to move and he sort of jumped down to the bricks and hid — closely in the shadow of my leg, out of sight.
Great, now if I bend that direction to see him, I risk squeezing him between the brick surface and my pants fabric. There was a whole open planter box right there, but he chose to hide from me in a way that made no sense. So I leaned the other direction and stood up. He turned enough to see me depart and scooted down along the brick ledge some. Good, I thought and continued my walk. “Let’s talk later then.”
On my return, he was still sitting there, in the sun, which was fading behind the clouds again. but nearby there were the omnipresent blue jays which I suspect have an appetite for lizards. “Hey BB (yea, I’ve taken to calling him ‘BB’) you need to get to the other side of the planter and your rocks.” He just starred back at me. Hmm.
I thought, Okay, I’ll either chase or carry you over, but instead he started jumped away in the wrong direction and leaving himself more exposed. Thus began the little drama of my trying to herd or catch him without moving fast enough to traumatize him. I was never able to actually grab him, but only because he managed to jump onto my forearm (oooo – nice and warm, I could almost hear him realize) so I took the few steps needed to get back near his planter box home with the rocks that they often lay on when the full sun is out.
Suddenly, he was in my open hand and happy to stay there despite being right at the brick ledge he must know so well. Fine, I thought. You stay right there while I fumble with my phone camera and document this odd meeting.
So, here he is. Tell me, how would you react if you found yourself with this little guy suddenly in your hand? I can tell you that he weighs virtually nothing and if your eyes were closed, you would not be sure that anything or anyone was actually there. This in-hand shot did give me enough scale to do an indirect measurement and he’s almost 6 inches from tail-tip to nose.
I finally moved enough for him to jump off and go for the cover of his familiar rocks, so my day proceeded.
Later I transplanted the second volunteer ornamental cherry tree and stopped by to see how the lizards were doing now that it was sunnier and Cool! You have a friend, or mate so now I know there are two of you living behind our planter box. “Hold still guys. I want to get a shot of you two together.”
Here are both the new tree (sorry about the weak contrast – this was as good as it got) and my trap-experienced blue belly buddy with his newish friend.
Just now, I walked out to enjoy some of the Saturday sunshine and found both of them again, but this time at opposite sides of the planter. You’ve tolerated several close up shots of my growing lizard collection. Here’s what their brick patio and the rocks I’ve laid out for them looks like. You have to look closely to see them, one at either end.
Each spring, the local gopher union sends out it’s teams to cause havoc to the local home owners and each spring I meet the challenge with my little jar of traps and various shovels. At the first appearance of one of those dreaded gopher mounds, I dug my hole and set my trap. The onslaught was heavily manned (or rodented (?) ) but my traps and I have developed some special skills against the annual rodent hoard and after the latest casualty yesterday, the score for the past week stands at humans 0 and gophers 7. There was a record breaking two days in a row that I took down 2 gophers in one day for a total of 4.
I will spare you the details, but even this excellent trap design does not make for a clean kill every time so some unpleasantness comes with this task.
Finally, late last week, I’ve been doing a certain quarterly project that I love at work since 2007, so going on 13 years now. The past few months I had an idea for a big improvement. The project deals with presenting a large amount of data in a way that is easy for our customers to understand and use to make a very expensive decision about patching security problems in out software. So it’s even important.
My reviewers have loved the proposed change and I think my customers around the globe will too, But I needed one guy to approve it because he owns the data presentation to all our customers so I need to keep him happy as well.
As things in this world often go, he was tied up and I had to stand in a long line for his attention but I was able to close last week out with his approval in-hand. Both my co-author and management who pays for the production and distribution are thrilled with the improvement.
Such are the simple pleasures in the days of Covid-inazation. Between my lizards adventures, my second cherry tree, the gopher war carcass tally and my big project at work, I’ve had a great week and now it’s sunny outside and, “Oh look. It’s time to check the gopher trap again.”
That’s it for me. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be around to visit your share shortly.