If you don't get down and look at the little things, you are missing the richness of life. --Robin Foster

Update: Woody the Woodrat


August 8, 2004

 I just cleaned out Woody's nest under the tractor hood. No sign of Woody in the shed. And no sign of his burrow. Just a huge heap of straw. But Woody is still around.

Woody surprised us one day last fall when I went to drive the garden tractor to pick up some rocks and bags of weeds. Upon entering the shed where the tractor is parked, I noticed some long grass stems sticking out from under the hood. So, I suspected trouble. As I carefully lifted up the hood, which hinges at the back, just a little bit, two beady little black eyes peered back at me as if to say, who the hell are you, this is MY HOME. So, I gently closed the hood again. I ran to get Lynn and she came out with her camera. Again I carefully lifted up the hood and she got a couple of shots with flash before the little guy(gal) decided to exit. It has a beautiful nest right on top of the motor made of fine grass with a deep tunnel. Didn't see any babies. Not wishing to disturb this home, all cozy for the coming winter. I shall not have the use of the tractor at least until next summer.

Too bad this animal is called a rat since people don't especially like rats. It, of course, is a rodent, real cute, about the size of your two fists doubled up together not including the tail. This Mexican Woodrat lives in the southwestern U.S. and western Mexico and then extending southward into Central America, according to Rocky Mountain Mammals by David Armstrong. In Colorado it prefers the foothill habitat of the Ponderosa Pine and Rocky Mountain Juniper forests, often denning in deep crevices, although he may rent out man-made structures such as outbuildings, cabins and mines.

Woody, like other Mexican Woodrats, has gathered huge piles of plant material near the nesting site for eating throughout the winter. In our shed Woody stores his pile of food inside a wooden box that was standing on one side next to the tractor. Also, there is a large 2 foot high pile of cut vegetation sheltered under a porch alongside our house foundation, located 100 feet from Woody's abode. Being so far away, this may belong to another woodrat denning inside the rocky foundation terrace.Breeding begins in March after gestation of about four weeks. Two to five babies are born in April. A second brood may be produced in the summer. Females born early in the spring may reproduce their first year, but males wait until they are a year old. Every-so-often I like to check to see if Woody is still around so I put out a handful of cracked corn or sunflower seeds under the open side of the shed. Sure enough, the food is gone the next day. So, Woody is still living in its tractor nest after four months (September 'til now in February). I suspect he'll stay till May.

I just cleaned out Woody's nest under the tractor hood. No sign of Woody in the shed. And no sign of his burrow. Just a huge heap of straw. But Woody is still around. Now he's piling up soft sticks, leaves, pine cones,below the drainpipe right next to the front door! Is he hoping to be invited in this winter?

RED-SHAFTED FLICKER BABIES 2004: Hatchlings to Fledglings


5 June 2004: For two to three weeks Mama has been sitting on eggs. How many? Now we know!

12 June 2004: The babies are still just a jumbled mass of bodies--but starting to get feathers.

20 June 2004: What beautiful feathered babies! Somehow Mama is finding food for six big ones!

28 June 2004: One flicker baby checking out the world before leaving the nest. How many are still left? When we checked the next day, all had fledged.

The Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard

flat tailed horned lizard

The Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma m'callii) is listed by the CA Dept. of Fish and Game as a "Species of Special Concern." It prefers desolate areas such as sandy hummocks and hard-pan flats, the same type of area where we were looking for the Mojave Sootywing and the Western Pygmy Blue. Notice its sandy color and almost perfect camouflage.