Monday, April 26, 2010

Claret Cup, Owl Box & Black Widow

Claret Cup
On our evening around-town-wear-the-dogs-out ride tonight, we cruised up to Bookcliff Avenue just below the hospital to check on the Villa d'Oro claret cup. The Villa d'Oro is a bleak apartment building that is landscaped with concrete, gravel, and a couple of rocks -- most definitely no oro to be found here. Somehow this sole claret cup found its way into the scene, and must have done so eons ago because it is HUGE and spectacular! I stopped counting at 100 blossoms.
From dirt & dogs

Owl Box
The screech owl nest box is occupied! (eggs lower right)
From dirt & dogs starlings! Based on the wrappers still in the nest, Mom has clearly been having the predictable pregnancy cravings. (mom lower right, beak pointing 11:00)
From dirt & dogs

*Sigh* Now, we must decide whether we want to evict the starlings or embrace them as the myna birds they are -- invasive, yes, but with the delightful and impressive imitative skills of the myna. It is true that at any given time, the bird symphony in my yard includes the lovely warble of the meadowlark, the soft clucking of the quail, the haunting cry of the bluebird, the gobbledy-gobble of the wild turkey, the clear, rich whistle of the Bullock's oriole, the soft, sweet twitter of the goldfinch, the raucous caw-caw of the desert raven... many of which emanate from the beak of the humble, beady-eyed starling.

Their mimicry is quite entertaining, and they are just critters trying to make a living, and similarly to dandelions which you can think of as either a perfectly lovely, humble flower or a terrible noxious weed -- depending only on whether they are where you want them to be or not -- perhaps starlings ain't all that bad? Maybe we should let them stay? But will they run off the goldfinches that also nest in the linden tree? And will they out-compete the red breasted finches that make the most wonderful trilling songs? Is it not too late for screech owls to claim the nest box and if so, would they be so bold as to kick the starlings out? Would they even want it now that the starlings have, beakful by spewing, spitting beakful, removed all the lovely wood shavings and replaced them with sticks and candy wrappers?

Black Widow
I seem to have my own special mutant strain of black widows here in my little paradise. There was one of these in the house last winter with exactly the same red-and-yellow dot-and-stripe marking on her back. She also had the classic red hourglass on her underside, connecting to the stripe you see in this photo. Turns out - see links below - there are a number of black widow species that have markings other than what we think of as the definitive black widow hourglass.
From dirt & dogs

The proliferation in my domain must have something to do with this:
From dirt & dogs

~ trina

1 comment:

  1. The bird tribulations had me chuckling! The bit about the starlings replacing the wood shavings for candy wrappers was both hilarious and very true. Finches were always my favorite little visitors.
    There are so many different kinds of black widows, and their markings do vary greatly between breeds and even within the same breed. But some of the pictures in the links I know to be falsely labelled as black widows; there are spiders called 'false black widows' and another called 'redbacks' both which can look exactly like a black widow.
    That is most certainly a black widow egg sac in your last picture. My instincts tell me to say "KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!" But my love for critters disagrees. It is a beautifully intact nest, and the fact that you were able to photograph the short time between hatching and fleeing is remarkable! Surely only moments later they would have departed in order to search for homes of their own... most likely on your property. So killing it with fire may have actually been a good idea...