Another storm has been drenching Los Angeles, and we are actually getting light rainfall too in the desert. It has been a very dry winter so far and there aren’t many wildflowers blooming, but it is still a welcome relief and very much appreciated.
Callie loves it when a storm front moves in and you can tell the smells are intoxicating to her. She sits primly on the pool deck and wiggles her nose in search of scents riding on the wind. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is always buffeted by wind before any rainfall is received and this storm was no exception. The wind roared last night as it pulled the storm up and over the barrier of the mountains.
The rain finally came around 5:00 pm and while not much of a drenching, it is still so dramatic with the dark and ominous clouds and lighting. It was also much cooler today. I just finished listening to the chorus of coyotes yipping and howling behind the house. The Coyotes love a storm too!
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t take at least a couple of photographs of poor Callie. Whatever we are doing together, I have my iPhone 7 plus handy and I am always capturing the moment with images of her. I would hate it if someone had the lens turned on me, and Callie sometimes shows great irritation when I have it aimed at her, but for the most part, she is a good sport about it all.
So this afternoon we spent time rescuing wild desert honey bees from the pool and basking under the diffused light of the sun. There is a hazy cloud layer but the temperature is warmer, maybe 82 degrees and the insects are starting to hatch and the gnats which feed the hummingbirds aim for your eyes and nose and ears. They are quite annoying but a necessary part of living in the desert where water has been interjected.
So many wild animals benefit from the water sources of golf courses and the trees and shade that they provide. I for one am not a fan of golf but do appreciate the shade and cover from the sun the park-like setting provides for birds, cottontails, and coyotes, even the bighorn sheep depend on the grass and water before the rains come. There have been times that I am driving at night and I will see an entire pack of coyotes romping along the lush green belt.
Springtime is almost upon us and you can feel it in the air. The days are getting longer and this is probably the best time of year for desert inhabitants. Cactus start to bloom which feed the hummingbirds and pollinators, insects thrive which in turn sustain the flocks of migratory birds and people get to enjoy the mild climate in a paradise setting.
The storm arrived last night around 1am and I felt like doing a happy dance in the still of night. It is such a big deal when it rains in the desert that everything and everyone celebrates on some level. I didn’t exactly put on my dancing shoes, but I did pull on my UGGS for a second day in a row and Callie got to chase olive leaves and observe a beautiful rainbow developing in the northwest. It is fresh and brisk outside and the trees have been washed and the dust and sand packed down for a day. The winds are just starting to pick up and there is a chill in the air which means I actually get to put a sweater on too! With the winds come beautifully formed clouds that spiral and sail past the mountains at dizzying speed. When a storm arrives, it is time for me to get out the camera to take landscape photographs. Cloud formations add so much to the overall scene and the desert landscape has such a big sky format that it compliments the dry and arid ground. Southern California received some much needed rain yesterday and Anza Borrego Desert State Park accepted the storm today with relief and appreciation. It feels like the ocotillo turn green and leaf out over night and the beautiful red blossom on the tips of the branches were noticeable today when I went out on a bike ride. You can smell the sage and creosote and quail are dashing around in the underbrush while the white winged doves choose to risk flying erratically overhead. There is a sharp-shined hawk that is so athletic and fast out here that even when the doves are hiding under a bush, it can divebomb down and force them to take flight. There is much more of a sense of the precariousness of life in the desert and every day a bird or jackrabbit survives is a gift. I could hear the coyotes howling last night and the young pups do their best to join in the chorus. Their voices are higher pitched and so joyous that you just have to hope the season will be kind to them. The scorching hot summer temperatures are behind us and for that, I too can rejoice. Thanksgiving arrives this Thursday and Michael and I and hopefully our good friend, Fred are going to go to Ram’s Hill Country Club for our traditional feast. I don’t have to cook this year, another cause for celebration! Happy Thanksgiving to all…
Nothing will keep Callie from following her bliss. Her beloved olive trees were being whipped and swirled into circular motions but Callie still found a way to climb up her favorite tree. A beautiful flock of possible Townsend’s Solitaire or some kind of mountain thrush flew in with the storm and landed on the tree, on the ground around the tree and a few took a quick splash in the bird bath. It happened so fast that I was not able to identify them nor take a decent photograph. A big gust of wind sent them careening back out and on to wherever they were going. They appeared to be having a blast and the wind made flying fun and exciting. I had to take the wind chime down and place it at the base of the tree because it was banging so loudly. With other animals, it can be a severe detriment to hunting, scavenging and searching for food. The winds were about 30 mph and most desert wildlife have to seek shelter until the storm blows over. If the storm is powerful enough inland, the dry side of the mountain, which is the desert, will receive rainfall. Today’s storm didn’t produce rain but instead blew sand and leaves and dust everywhere. I have given up on the idea of having a clean and dust free house. Instead, I have tiny litttle sand dunes below all my windows and doors. I have accepted that this is the way it shall be in the desert and I am appreciative that I at least have shelter. I wonder what the coyotes do, and the jackrabbits, quail and roadrunners? It can’t be as easy an acceptance as mine to deal with sand and dust everywhere. Some storms blow for days and I wonder how they manage to eat and sleep? Anza Borrego State Desert Park is one of the largest State Parks in California. If you live north and west of Anza Borrego, next time it rains where you live, reflect on what is happening in the desert. The storm has to have a powerful enough punch and clouds need to be heavy with enough moisture to produce rain in the desert. The mountains prevent the storm from traveling to the other side unless winds are strong enough to carry them up and over. Today’s storm was relatively mild compared to some storms and Callie was able to take a few moments to climb her tree and sharpen her claws, face the wind and follow her bliss.
Now, you may very well ask that question, how DO you teach a cat to ride a bike? The answer to that question, is that you can’t. And to put it more bluntly, how can you teach a cat to go on a bike ride with you? Dogs, you can teach, but cats need to be asked if they are willing to try something new. In the case of Callie, I first introduced her to a backpack and taught her how to enjoy walking around with me in the safety of the house. She wasn’t exactly thrilled with this new activity but she was game to the experience. Callie and I have a wonderful relationship and for the most part she trusts me and accepts that I am the boss. I placed a rolled up towel at the base of the backpack so that she could stand up in the pack and put her front paws on my shoulders. I also have a harness that I clip onto the backpack just in case we have a disagreement on whether she wants to stick around or not. Once she got use to walking around the house, I was able to graduate her to the bike. She took to the bike like a duck to water and from the very beginning, I knew I had her trust and the rest was easy. She loves riding around the De Anza Golf Course and checking out the birds and sometimes, bighorn sheep, coyotes and butterflies. It is especially thrilling to sneak up on the common grackle, which will explode in a flurry of feathers and noisy shrieks when we get too close. Riding over a puddle makes her flinch, but the only thing that truly frightens her are loud noises from trucks. If a truck roars up behind us, she dives down into the backpack like a turtle pulling its head back into the shell. As soon as the truck has passed, she pops her head back up and leans into the wind. It is a wonderful way to take in the sites and Callie likes this almost as much as riding in the car. When she has had enough, she licks my ear, and homeward bound we go.
Before moving to Borrego Springs, California, Callie had free rein of the outside world. I was always vigilant about keeping her in at night but allowed her to explore her surroundings during the daytime. She usually stayed close to home and preferred to have me around so that the local tom cats left her alone. In the desert, it is not safe even in broad daylight, because of all the predators around that would love to have cat on the menu. We have a beautiful silver kit fox that hunts right outside of the backyard and coyotes, rattlesnakes, scorpions and even owls and hawks are abundant here. The coyote population is steady and you can hear them yipping and howling most nights. Michael and I see them during the day when we are on a hike or biking and even though they are shy, they wouldn’t hesitate to snatch Callie if they could. Because Callie loves dogs and when I watch her response to midnight coyote serenades, she has no fear of coyotes. She would probably let a coyote come up to her to touch noses and that is my worst nightmare. So, Callie cannot be left unattended in the backyard, and I have had to teach her to stay and not go over the wall. She is tempted and when we first moved here, she on several occasion, went butterfly chasing out into the desert. She knows that it is wrong now, but because of a cat’s nature, I don’t trust her in the least. So, in order to keep her safe and happy, and to feel some freedom off the leash and harness, most mornings we have a routine of climbing the olive trees. There are three trees in the backyard that she loves to climb. She usually flattens herself on the ground for a minute or two before dashing up the nearest tree and running as high as the branch will allow. She loves climbing trees and she is good at it. She will follow me from tree to tree and does her personal best at getting to the top of the tree before climbing back down and starting all over again. The sun is just starting to rise in the east and the light reflects off the foothills in the desert behind the house. It is a beautiful time of day and Callie and I both look forward to it. I can have a cup of coffee and watch her play in the trees and she can work off some pent up energy. Of course, there are hummingbirds that flit in and out of the foliage and she tries to catch them. It is fun for both of us. When she is finished with playing she is brought back into the house and served a nice breakfast. She has adapted to this routine and seems quite content as long as I find other activities later in the day to entertain her. It has been over a year now living in the desert, and except for the inferno during July and August, Borrego Springs has been a wonderful place to live and retire in… I think that Callie would agree with me. Extending an olive tree branch has kept the peace, and best of all, Callie is safe and sound.