July 29, 2010

A Second Sighting?

We truly thought that what we experienced was a once in a lifetime thing. To see a river otter in the creek that runs through our Secret Garden, was unbelievable in and of itself; but, for Michael to have actually got a few pictures was even more incredible (See previous post).

The evening that followed that eventful first sighting was somewhat low key. As we sat on the balcony, I tried not to look down at the creek with any expectations. However, I secretly was hoping that the little river otter would visit us again. I even hoped that perhaps he lived in our secret garden. In an attempt to keep myself from constantly staring over at the creek, I said to Michael, "In all my 49 years, I have never seen a river otter in the wild and I don't personally know of anyone who has. I should be content with the fact that we got to see him at all and that you even got a few pictures. I have to move on and stop spending my time starring at the creek or I am not going to get anything else done."

He agreed. We laughed and then both turned our heads towards the creek.

The following evening, I went down to the creek to visit the dragon flies. As I peered into the water, I could see just the tip of the tail of the red crayfish, (the one we had spotted the previous evening) and I moved some of the algae away from the rock he was hiding under. He quickly buried himself deeper into the muddy silt and was gone from sight.

I was delighted to have the wild turkey's join me and the neighbor's little cat. They both decided to climb up into the oak tree which lay across the creek. (The mother turkey seems to tolerate the curious teenage cat. At one point, the cat was attempting to get a sniff of the turkey and she turned around and actually touched his nose with her beak. What a shot that would have been! Unfortunately, my camera was still zipped away in the camera bag that I had hanging on my shoulder.)

I went back upstairs, quite content, and joined Michael for some delightful conversation. About an hour or so later, Michael came in from the balcony and said, "Guess who's back?" as he rushed around to put on some shoes and grab his camera. I was fast behind him, and asked him to head down the path along the creek and see if he might be able to keep the otter from leaving the area. I went down to the spot where he was sighted and he had already headed south down the creek to where Michael was stationed. After about 5 minutes, I heard Michael calling from quite a distance, "He should be coming back your way".

I waited, what seemed like an hour, and finally saw the water moving under the fallen oak tree. He was indeed coming my way! My heart was pounding, as I got my camera ready. (It seems rather funny that a grown woman could get so excited and nervous about the idea of seeing this little otter; but, I was. I could barely breath. )

"There he is! There he is!" I said to myself. I wanted to let Michael know that the otter was with me, but, I was afraid that if I yelled loud enough for Michael to hear, the otter would swim away and I didn't want to do anything to scare him away before I could get a good shot of him. Surprisingly, he was not afraid of me. He was swirling around in the water--creating quite a murky mess of things. I could not get a clear shot of him, as every time I got him focused in the lens, under water he would go. I followed him along the creek as he hunted for his dinner. He would occasionally stop and pose, just long enough for me to think that I might get a clean shot. (I'm not sure if it was the excitement of seeing him so close-up or if I was just to nervous about trying to get a good picture that caused my fingers to be so jumpy that every time I took a picture it was either horribly out of focus or the camera would malfunction.) I must have taken eight or nine pictures, but none that I felt were going to really do him justice.

I followed him down the creek (north) away from where Michael was. He disappeared under the roots of a large tree that was growing close to the bank of the creek and then reappeared. "Perhaps he has a little den under that tree" I thought. When he came out from under the tree roots, he paused in a shallow area of the creek, and there was the picture that I had been waiting for. The water was like a mirror and reflected in it were the bows of the trees that loomed above the creek and the blue sky.

Ah yes, I was blessed by our second sighting and believe that there is a strong possibility that this little otter actually lives somewhere in the Secret Garden--possibly in a den under the tall tree that is growing on the bank of the creek.

If we never see him again, that will be okay--but, I have a feeling that both Michael and I will still look into the creek each evening before the sun goes down with some (perhaps unspoken) hope that he will visit us again.

By the way, Michael has determined that "he" is a actually a "she" (based on her size) and has named her, "Mehemiah".

July 24, 2010

Two Very Unexpected Visitors

There are so many stories to be told since moving to our little apartment that I have found it difficult knowing where to start. Because, the events of this past Wednesday are still so unbelievable to me, I have decided to start with the most recent and then work my way back. But, before I begin, it is important to share a bit from the beginning.

When we first moved in, our Secret Garden was visited daily by dozens of wild turkeys and their almost countless chicks. Each mother turkey had between 6 and 12 little ones following her down the path that winds between our balcony and the creek. As the weeks passed, we noticed fewer and fewer families coming through; and the ones that did, had fewer and fewer little ones with them. In recent weeks, there have only been two females; one that may be part albino and one that is a typical female wild turkey in color. They each have only one little one remaining.

Every morning and every afternoon they appear in the Secret Garden. They usually walk down the path towards the creek and then roost for a time in the 100 year old oak tree that came crashing down about 2 months ago and now lies lifeless and dry across the creek (That's a story for another post). We always enjoy watching them as they stretch their wings and groom themselves as the sun starts to set behind the buildings, casting shadows and rays of light through the trees lining the creek.

Wednesday was different. As we were watching the turkeys, we noticed the albino mother suddenly stop her grooming. She stuck her neck out really, really far; peering intently down into the creek, and pointed her wings behind her in a most peculiar fashion. Michael noticed something moving in the creek directly below where the turkeys were sitting. It was a little larger than a cat and it was swimming around in a rather playful way. The balcony is approximately 50 feet from the creek and up on the second story of the building, so it was difficult to see exactly what type of creature was in the water.

Before I knew it, Michael was out the door and down the stairs with his camera in hand. I had already changed into a floor length sundress and sandals (upon arriving home that afternoon). I was not dressed for chasing a creature down the creek in hopes to get a picture; but, I wanted to be part of the adventure. So, I quickly pulled my long dress up between my legs; tied it at my waste; pulled on my knee high garden boots; grabbed my camera and followed after Michael. By the time I got down to the spot were we spied the creature, Michael was no where to be found.

I surmised that the creature had been startled, and had taken off down the creek with Michael fast on his tracks. I stayed where I was; hoping that Michael might scare him back down my way. I waited for what seemed like 10 minutes and then decided to go looking for Michael.

As I walked up the little hill from the creek, I saw Michael coming from the south; waving his camera in the air and yelling, "I got him, I got him!"

"What was he?" I cried.

"Just look", said Michael as he handed me the camera. As I looked at rather unfocused and blurry picture, I could see a little whiskery face looking up at me. It was a river otter! That's right. A river otter, in the creek of our Secret Garden.

Michael had snapped three pictures. He wasn't able to get very close and so the pictures were rather out of focus and blurry--almost reminded me of those pictures you see of the Loch Ness Monster; but, the fact that he got pictures at all is amazing.

If you look closely you can see his little whiskered face and one eye looking up at Michael as he snapped the shot.

After Michael took the above picture, the little otter got out of the water and ran across a sand bank; heading as fast as he could away from the man with the camera.

Ah, But the evening doesn't end there.

Michael and I were so excited by the experience, we went back to visit the very location where the river otter first appeared. As we were glancing down at the water in the creek, Michael noticed something else moving. He said, "Ah, perhaps that is what the otter was after."

As I looked down, I could hardly believe my eyes. Crawling among the green algae which coated many of the smooth rocks on the bottom of the creek, was what appeared to me to be a miniature lobster. It was not a miniature lobster, of course, but that is what it looked like. I had seen crayfish before, but all of them had been grey or brown in color. This one was about 5 or 6 inches long and lobster red. What an evening it was in our Secret Garden.

July 17, 2010

A New Theme for Dianna's Old Blog

As you can see, the name has changed and so will the content.

Michael and I have discovered a Secret Garden right in our backyard. Although it is nestled between a major thoroughfare and a busy freeway; by God's providence, our little apartment is at the very back of a large apartment complex and our balcony overlooks a county owned parcel of untouched wilderness. There are squirrels, birds of all sorts, wild turkeys, butterflies, bright red dragon flies, and, unfortunately even an occasional skunk. There is also a small creek that runs through it which is lined with old oak trees; huge eucalyptus trees; and, all different types of wild fruit trees and berry bushes.

We have had the most wonderful two months; more wonderful than I can ever remember having. I will be sharing some of our explorations and adventures in this blog, as well as, writing personal notes around shared experiences.

This is a huge change for me; but, one that I look forward to. My little brain is bursting already with several absolutely delightful stories to share.

Check back on occasion. The first post will be about the mysterious 30 foot tree with miniature blackberries growing right along side of our apartment.