Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'Yard' Category

Spring in the old backyard

Looks like we’re going to have sunny days and 70-80 degree daytime temperatures for the next week. This will be the longest period of warm sunny days I’ve seen since the rains started at the beginning of winter. Dare I hope that spring has FINALLY arrived? I know the wild creatures that live in my backyard certainly feel that way.

A pair of Anna’s hummingbirds are busy courting in the skies above my yard. Probably getting ready to raise their (her!) second nest full of youngsters this year. The female is sitting on a tiny twig in the top of our apple tree, as the male zooms straight up for about 150 feet, then drops straight back down in a power dive and zips sideways at a 90-degree angle just inches above the female and curves back up for another attempt at the same maneuver. He did this three times in as many minutes, never missing a beat. Wow. I think he likes her. The nest is somewhere in my middle redwood tree. It’s so well camouflaged I haven’t been able to spot it.

I saw the skunk last evening, making his (her?) usual twilight trip through my yard. (Through the hole under my fence on the right side, trop, trot, trot across the patio and then under the redwoods and through the hole under the left side fence.)

Next came the mama opossum. I think she uses the same fence hole to pass through my yard.

Then the gray cat from next door, the black cat from across the street, and the striped cat from I have no idea where. They came over to sniff my catnip patch and get drunk and NOT use my yard for a litter box and then stagger back home to sleep it off until tomorrow’s trip. Hey, the catnip patch has worked for four years, now, and Lois and I can garden without digging up cat poop! Try it, you’ll like it.

Looks like I’m going to need street signs to control the traffic, though.

Posted on Wednesday, April 26th, 2006
Under: Seasons, Spring, Yard | No Comments »

It’s raining snails and slugs

Hi Gary: So I know the Chinese have different animals that represent different years, could Californians make 2006 the year of the snail and slug? My method of snail and slug control is to first keep damp hiding places to a minimum and then hand pick. A little gross and slimy but it works, well I have picked each morning for a week, and I was feeling like there were no less each day (usually hand picking can work real well). So today I counted in the back yard (standard city lot in Dublin — no open space!) in 5 minutes, 42 snails and slugs. I am beginning to think that it is not raining water but raining snails and slugs … (Kim, Dublin, CA)

Posted on Friday, March 31st, 2006
Under: Snails & Slugs, Yard | 1 Comment »

My mole friend

I’ve been having this "thing" with a broad-footed mole that recently moved into my front yard. I spotted signs of my visitor a couple of weeks ago when I went out to get the mail after getting home from work. Right there in front of my mailbox, and spilling over onto the sidewalk, was a large mound of sandy soil where the mole had shoved it up out of the way after excavating its tunnel under my yard.

I like moles. They aerate the soil by tunneling around in it and creating air spaces. They also leave raised areas in your lawn from their half-submerged tunneling and that kind of irritates some people. Especially the groundskeepers at local golf courses.

But back to our story. I got one of the 5-gallon buckets from our little garden shed and a trowel and scooped the mole mound into the bucket. The sandy soil barely covered the bottom of the bucket.

That was two weeks ago. The first 5-gallon bucket is now full and I can hardly lift it, a second bucket is full, and a third is almost full; almost 15 gallons of dirt. I have this mental picture of a gigantic cavern that is forming beneath my house.

Today there is another mound of sandy soil in front of my mailbox.

I’m going to have to give this some thought.

Posted on Friday, February 10th, 2006
Under: Broad-footed mole, Wildlife, Yard | 3 Comments »

Is There Wildlife in Your Backyard Ecosystem?

Do you have wild creatures (birds, opossums, skunks, raccoons, wild turkeys, etc.) prowling around or living in your backyard? Sure you do. That’s why I’m writing this.

Please grab your cameras, take pictures of your wild visitors and send them to me. I’m writing a front page story about your wild neighbors for a Sunday early next year (not far away) and would like to use your photographs to illustrate it. Wouldn’t that be fun? It will also be more natural.

I know a lot of you are already taking these kinds of pictures because you often send them to me. So now we need to get serious about it. I’ll explain more about my plans, including deadlines and the publication date, as I figure them out.

Start shooting away now and post your photos in our Contra Costa Times Pets & Wildlife reader photoblog at You may post your photos anonymously. However, if you’d like us to consider using your shots in my story, please either register and login before submitting your photos or, if you do post anonymously, send me a separate e-mail ( to let me know which image you’ve submitted. If you don’t do e-mail, mail your photos to: Gary Bogue, c/o The Times, 2640 Shadelands Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94598.

Be sure and hold onto an original digital or film copy of any photos you submit. Thanks!

Posted on Tuesday, December 20th, 2005
Under: Animals, Ecosystem, Raccoons, wild birds, wild turkeys, Wildlife, Yard | 6 Comments »

A Fox Squirrel Moves Into the Neighborhood

After living in our formerly squirrel-free neighborhood for the last 10 years, a fox squirrel finally moved into our backyard about three months ago. He spent the first two months poking his nose into all the different backyards on our block, checking them out for nice trees to sleep in, non-aggressive dogs and cats, and good things to eat. Checking out the neighborhood, you might say. Since we all have wooden fences around our yards, the 2×4 fence tops provided easy pathways for those nimble feet to hop from yard, to yard, to yard, to yard, and back again.

At the end of the first two months, Squirrel finally picked out a yard to call his home. Our yard.

My wife, Lois, thinks it has something to do with the fact that she had grown a row of 14-foot tall sunflowers down the middle of her garden box. (A little bit taller and we could climb up and look for the giant!) I guess I couldn’t argue with that. Not after I looked out the window one morning, just in time to see Squirrel making a suicidal leap from the fence (a distance of about 5-feet) to the nearest giant sunflower blossom (16-inches in diameter!), so he could hang upside down from his back feet and munch fat, juicy sunflower seeds for an hour.

Now it’s winter. I cut down all the sunflowers since they were pretty much ravaged by Squirrel and the scrub jays. Squirrel now spies on the scrub jays to find out where they bury the peanuts my neighbor feeds them from a big blue bowl on her back deck. Then he digs them back up and buries "his" peanuts in a new spot. His spot. The scrub jays, of course, have also been spying on Squirrel, and dig their peanuts right back up and bury them again in another new spot. Their spot.

I going to have to wait and see how this all plays out. These peanuts may turn out to be the most-buried peanuts of all time. I’ll have to check and see if the Guinness Book of World Records has a "Most Buried Peanuts" category.

In the meantime, the scrub jays are sitting on top of the giant black metal ant on the picnic table on our back deck and glaring at me through the window. My cats, Tut and Newman, turn around and glare at me every time they look out the back window and see the squirrel hopping around the lawn. Nikki, our little green parrot, had an hysterical fit when she spotted Squirrel on the back deck railing the other day and then picked herself up off her cage bottom and glared at me when she finished.

The coming of Squirrel is obviously my fault. Go figure. Maybe I’ll get a can of peanuts and go sit out on the back deck in the rain and we can turn the finger pointing up another notch. On second thought, maybe I won’t. With my luck, Tut would probably run over and lock the back door so I can’t get back in and then sit in the window laughing and lashing his tail as he watches the water dripping off my beard.

You know, that gives me an idea.

Posted on Monday, December 19th, 2005
Under: Animals, fox squirrel, Wildlife, Yard | 1 Comment »

Got Raccoon Problems?

About 10 years ago I was getting so many questions about raccoons tearing up back lawns to find tasty earthworms to dine on, I put together a 6-page Raccoon Fact Sheet filled with tips to help people deal humanely with these raccoon encounters. After all, they are your wild neighbors.

If you are bumping heads with your raccoon neighbors, I’ll be happy to e-mail you a copy. Just e-mail me at and ask for a copy of Gary’s Raccoon Fact Sheet. It will also be helpful if you give me a brief description of your raccoon problem.

If you have your own humane and successful way of dealing with these beautiful creatures, please click on "comments" (below) and let people know. You never know what’s going to work with these clever animals and it’s best to have a lot of ideas in your bag of tricks.

Due to popular demand, I’m also working on a new "Human Fact Sheet" for the raccoons. (Just kidding … I think.)

Posted on Wednesday, November 30th, 2005
Under: Animals, Raccoons, Wildlife, Yard | 2 Comments »

A GOOD way to keep cats from pooping in your yard

This is for those who don’t read my daily newspaper column. It’s my answer in my Nov. 18 column to a reader who wanted to know a humane way to keep the neighborhood cats from urinating and defecating in his garden:

"What works for me, as I’ve said before, is the organic catnip patch I planted in a far corner of my garden. (Last spring when I was picking up new tomato plants at the nursery, I also grabbed six 4-inch pots of catnip.)

"Now, instead of using my garden as their favorite outhouse, the cats make a daily pilgrimage to the catnip patch. They sniff, roll, and chew until their brains get confused, then forget about my yard and weave their ways back home to poop and pee on their own yards.

"My system — Gary’s One & Only Diversion (GOOD) — works about 75 percent of the time, which I can live with until I figure out how to improve on it. There’s definitely one very noticeable immediate improvement: My wife and I haven’t dug up any cat poop while we’ve been gardening this year.

"Can anyone top or improve on my GOOD catnip scheme?"

Posted on Monday, November 28th, 2005
Under: Animals, Cats, Pets, Yard | 3 Comments »