... is lazy, just the way I like it. After a uncharacteristically warm, wet June up here in the hills, July is feeling ̶ dare I say it? ̶ fall-like. I'm hoping it's just an anomaly. Even though I'm not fond of hot weather, I'd rather have that than a protracted fall. Don't get me wrong, I love fall, but summers up here are short enough already.
The rain has kept me out of our field and woods, but I'm hoping it brought new plant life to photograph. Every year, it seems, I find something new and colorful out there. It certainly has helped the wild raspberry plants, grasses and wildflowers. The leafy cinquefoil is growing like crazy and the yellow stonecrop with its neon flowers beckon. For the first time in six years there are flowers on the lilac bush. Until this year I wasn't even sure it was a lilac. It's entirely possible that the deer that frequent the yard ate the buds in years past and the bushes just never had a chance to bloom. The deer are scarce this summer, though. The fact that the empty acreage surrounding us has been purchased and the new people are doing a lot of earth-moving and building probably contribute to that absence. For now.
And this year, for the first time ever, I was able to plant some flowers in the window boxes that hang from the front porch. Well, that's not entirely true. I've planted them before, but within days the ground squirrels have stripped them bare, even when covered with screen. They're a voracious bunch of critters. The plants have now been unmolested for nearly a month. The only thing different from past years is that we're no longer feeding the birds (other than the hummingbirds) and with no seed dropping to the ground from messy birds, there are much fewer ground squirrels and chipmunks. Generally, there are dozens of the creatures in residence. They know a good thing when they see it. It's a trade-off. While I love all the winged visitors, I don't love walking out onto the porch and having a ground squirrel scamper across my feet as it flees from its snack of flowers. Once the little darlings have gone underground to hibernate in early fall, the birds will be fed once more.
In the meantime, I content myself with the antics of the Broad-tail Hummingbirds. The two males are territorial bullies, chasing off any females ̶ and each other ̶ from the feeders. They're noisy and great fun to watch. In about a week, though, they'll get a taste of their own medicine when the migrating Rufous hummers come through. No bigger bullies exist anywhere. They'll stick around for a couple of weeks terrorizing all the others. I've even seen them chase ground squirrels. They're mean and make the oddest, low buzzing sound with their wings, but they're entirely gorgeous with their irridescent orange feathers.
The foxes have been scarce this summer, which makes me sad. The activity next door and the fact that they can find more prey where people feed the birds probably have something to do with that. The last time I saw one was back in May and it had two voles dangling from its jaws. It trotted off, I think, to feed its kits.
Other people in the canyon have reported and photographed a number of bears. We had our share last year, but haven't seen any this year and probably for the same reasons. They LOVE seed, but won't find any here. They also love hummingbird nectar, which means bringing in the feeders each night. I had to learn that the hard way, but most everyone up here does. There's nothing like interrupting a bear as it stands on your porch pulling down a feeder. One learns quickly up here to never keep food in one's car or garage, or put out the garbage until just before pick-up. One very hungry bear broke into someone's freezer, which was in the garage, and made off with a few frozen chickens. And it's believed that it was a very confused bear that clawed and gnawed two child-sized motor bikes a couple months ago.