The hummingbird, the fox, and the snake

We’ve had a few small wildlife events around here in the last few days. The first was the return of the hummingbirds, and the first time this year that one of them trapped itself in our garage.

hummer on a wire

This is the best shot I could get of the little bird. She (I’m pretty sure it’s a female because I can’t see any red on its throat.) was bumping up against the ceiling of the garage, as they always do when they fly in, and perched on one of the garage door opener wires for a rest. It’s right up against the ceiling.

I was not optimistic about doing anything for it, although we have rescued a few in the past. I finally decided to close the garage doors and turn on the overhead light. I put a step ladder under the light and climbed up with a towel. The hummingbird flew immediately to the light and I grabbed it as gently as I could. It was not tight enough, though, and the bird escaped. It came right back and I folded the towel around it and got it. I then opened the garage door and took her outside, where she flew away as soon as I opened up the towel.

The second event, or series of events, is our continuing story of the foxes. One, we think, makes our driveway a regular stop on its rounds. It comes by in the morning when Leah feeds the outdoor cats their breakfast, and it comes by in the evening when she gives the cats their supper. Sometimes it gets catfood, and sometimes it doesn’t. Zeke is usually on the front walk in the evening. When the fox appears, Zeke scrambles down to the gate and barks. Lately that seems to spook the fox so it leaves.

Leah is quite annoyed at the fox because we can’t leave catfood out, but, at the same time, she says she feels sorry for it. I think that’s because she worries about whether the fox is getting food. I have assured her that it’s a wild animal evolved to find natural sources of food, but she has her doubts.

On my morning dog walk Saturday, I found an example of the fox’s natural food. Just down the street from our house I saw a fox dive into the poison ivy at the edge of the woods. Zeke didn’t see it, fortunately. When we got to the point where it had been, I saw it watching us from a few feet away in the woods. I grabbed a quick shot with my phone.

fox in the woods

It’s very hard to see the fox, so I zoomed in some.

zoom fox in the woods

This is a bad shot, but it was the best I could do while holding the dogs’ leashes in one hand. The fox watched from here for a while, then, when it realized I was watching it back, it retreated deeper into the woods. When I looked down, I saw a dead chipmunk at the edge of the pavement. I think we scared the fox away from its kill, and it was reluctant to leave. The chipmunk body was gone when we came back, so I assume the fox returned and got it.

Along the way back, one of our neighbors stopped to warn me of a “rattly” snake in the road near her home. Her house is up the street from us, so not on our regular walk, but, obviously, I had to go up there to see the rattly snake. I saw the snake but I couldn’t get a picture. I wish I had been able to get some shots, because this was the first time I have seen crows harassing a snake. They were diving at it in the road, but not getting too close. The snake was in the process of slithering off the road into the weeds when I first caught sight of it.

I’m sure it wasn’t a rattlesnake; it was some kind of black snake. The crows flew away when we approached, so the snake got away.

Birthday and anniversary

The US government officially recognized me as old on Monday, my actual birthday. We had planned to eat huevos rancheros in celebration at Los Portales, our favorite Mexican restaurant, but Leah was having some intestinal issues, so we didn’t make it. But on Wednesday, our 10th anniversary, we decided to make it a joint celebration, my birthday and our anniversary.

Leah told our waitress, who knew we didn’t need a menu, that it was my birthday, which was a very pale lie indeed. So, since it was the day of my observed birthday, she had a margarita instead of iced tea.

As we expected from our celebration of Leah’s birthday back in March, the waitress brought out a sopapilla. Only this one was a super-sopa. Leah’s had a cinnamon-sprinkled, fried tortilla with honey, chocolate and whipped cream. Mine had all that plus a heaping helping of ice cream. Here it is with Leah insisting she would have none of it.

leah_and_sopaIt’s kind of blurred, which must be the phone’s fault, since I didn’t have a margarita. Here is the sopapilla, finished off but for one normal bite, mine, and one small bite, Leah’s.

sopa_10th

I couldn’t believe we ate the whole thing, but we did, and I’m glad.

Later on at the dentist’s office, Leah and I were talking about how it was our 10th anniversary, and I did some quick calculations and realized that we have actually known each other for 50 years. Of course, for the first five of those, she ran away every time she saw me.

Anyway, we both recovered from lunch and the dentist found no cavities, so, all in all, a pretty decent celebration.

 

Tar and mud

The waterproofing crew came up to our new house on Monday morning. I was thinking of doing it myself, but ultimately decided to let an experienced crew do it because they could complete the work quickly. And it was quick. They were done by mid-afternoon Monday.

The waterproofing consists of a sprayed-on, rubberized membrane. A dimpled plastic panel was adhered to the tacky membrane to provide a path for liquid water to drain down the side of the foundation walls. Here one of the crew is attaching the panels to the top of the sprayed area.

waterproofing

I used a little poetic license for the title of this post. The waterproofing looks like the tar that was rolled on for waterproofing in the past, but it’s really not the same.

A French drain was installed at the base of the foundation wall. It’s different from what I expected. It’s flat, with a rectangular cross section placed on the footing. It may not be strictly necessary, but I might add some standard perforated tubes in the excavated area beside the footing to help drain any water that accumulates there.

A bed of coarse gravel will be dumped in beside the foundation, and then the rest of the opening will be filled with dirt.

Tuesday morning neighbor John met with me and the power company engineer and we decided on where to put the trench for the electrical power supply. Earlier John had rented a trenching attachment for his skid-steer loader.

It didn’t take too long for him and his helper to get a good start.

trenching

 

They’re just about ready to bear over onto the nice stand of winter rye that Sylvester was prowling through in the Friday Felines post. That grass is now history.

The power company requires a minimum depth of two feet. That was mostly fairly easy to achieve, but there were a few large boulders that limited the depth. Fortunately they were in areas where we can fill around the trench to get our required depth.

The power company engineer was a little concerned about digging the trench too far in advance of when they could lay the power cable, but I assured him it was not supposed to rain, and if it did, the trench wouldn’t fill with mud.

I watched John work for a while and then left to get a few groceries. While I was at the grocery store, John texted me a video of heavy rain falling on the mountain. Just as I got back up to our new driveway, John was leaving. He told me that part of the trench had filled with mud and his skid-steer was stuck with about 20 more feet to trench.

stuck in the mud

 

It doesn’t look like it here, but John said he can’t get the loader out of the mud. The trencher looks and works like a huge chainsaw designed to cut earth.

We measured about a quarter of an inch of rain, with a little more later in the evening. We got a total of about a third of an inch, not much, but enough to make a pretty good mess of the trench.

I’m not sure how we’re going to handle the silted-in trench, or how John is going to be able to get his loader unstuck. I have a narrow transplanting shovel that will probably just about fit into the trench. If I do any of the shoveling, I’ll probably have to let Leah hose me off before I can even think about coming back inside the house.

Depending on how things go Wednesday morning, the electrician may be able to get the temporary power post up and get an inspection. If that happens, we may be able to get the power company to lay their line in the trench and get power to the construction site this week.

Foundation pour

The foundation crew put up forms for our poured foundation walls on Tuesday, May 12. Leah and I walked up to look Tuesday evening. Standing inside the basement-to-be, Leah thought the house looked small, but that’s normal. In my experience, a house under construction goes through stages when it looks too small or too large before it finally looks like exactly the size it is.

Late Wednesday afternoon, after the building inspector gave his OK, the concrete was poured. When I walked up to the lot around 2:30, the crew said the first concrete truck was expected around three. The pump truck was already there, idling in the middle of what will one day be our basement.

Three came and went, as did four. A little after four pm, the crew boss arrived and said the first concrete truck had overheated and had to stop at the base of the mountain, and then, after cooling for a while, overheated again about halfway up.

Every hour the pump truck was in transit or on site, even while idle, costed around $135.

It was nearly 5 pm before the first concrete truck finally arrived. The crew didn’t waste any time getting started.

foundation pour 1

In case anyone is not familiar with how these things work, the concrete truck (with the blue stripe), dumps its mix into a hopper (right behind the “TAYLOR-MADE’ logo on the pump truck). A pump then sends the concrete up the long boom and out the heavy flexible hose the worker is holding over the form.

Concrete has to be agitated in these 10-foot-deep forms to make sure there are no voids. The crew used a electric, flexible, vibrating rod powered by a generator. The motor is on the end to the right, and the business end is on the left.

foundation pour 2He dips it deep into the concrete and it does its thing.

foundation pour 3

I took some more documentary pictures, but I was ready to leave after about 45 more minutes. As long as I move, my back is fine, but if I stand around for any length of time, it starts to hurt. Standing for more than two hours was enough, so I told the crew boss I was going home. Besides, Leah had put beer in the freezer so we could have a really cold one, and I was ready for that.

Here’s a shot as I left. The boom operator has the boom controls hanging at his waist so he can stand where he can see what’s going on.

foundation pour 4Pump trucks are a life-saver for concrete pours. Without one, a concrete foundation like ours would be impractical for a typical homeowner.

The third of five trucks was waiting for me at the bottom of our driveway when I left. Leah and I were at home when we saw the last piece of equipment turn around at Wildlife Trail at around 6 pm.

The crew will come back Thursday (today) to remove the forms. Pretty soon after that, I hope, another crew will come to waterproof the foundation. Based on the estimate, the material alone would account for half the cost, and I’m not sure how easily I could get the right materials. So that’s one job I had intended to do, but won’t.

While I was waiting for the pour to start, an engineer from Georgia Power came by to talk about temporary power. I have to get someone to dig a trench for the underground service up to the temporary service post, and I have to get an electrician to get the inspection and provide some of the equipment. We’re setting the date for that around the end of the month, but I hope to get it done sooner.

Concurrent with that, I need to get a plumber to put in the drain pipe that goes below the basement slab and out to the septic system. That has to be done before the basement slab is poured, and the slab has to be poured before framing can start.

Framing is the biggest part of making a house under construction look like an actual house, so we’re looking forward to that.

 

 

Snakes on a road

Leah and I saw this snake last week when we took the dogs for a short evening walk.

ringneck

This is a blurred shot. It was past sunset so the light was bad, and all I had to take the shot was my phone. On top of that, this little snake was really moving. I didn’t recognize it. In fact, I’m not sure I have ever seen one before. I searched online for a black snake with a white ring around its neck and quickly found that it was – surprise! – a ringneck snake.

This link leads to an article about the ringneck snake at the Savannah River Ecology Lab website

According to the SREL site, ringneck snakes are 10 to 15 inches long. The one we saw was less than six inches, so it was almost certainly an immature example, or possibly a hatchling (see the image of a hatchling ringneck in a person’s hand at the SREL site). SREL says that the ringneck snake has one of the largest ranges of any North American snake. Its range spreads from Florida to Canada, across the US Southwest and up along the Pacific coast.

Wikipedia says, “Ring-necked snakes are believed to be fairly abundant throughout most of their range, though no scientific evaluation supports this hypothesis.” However, SREL cites a capture-mark-and-release study by Henry Fitch in 1975 that found densities greater than 700 to 1800 per hectare (2.47 acres) in Kansas. That’s a lot of snakes.

This small, shy snake seldom shows itself during the day, which probably explains why I had never seen one. But then a couple of days later I saw another one when I took the dogs on their morning walk. This one looked like it had been run over at the edge of the road, but when I nudged it with my foot, it raced off into the weeds.

I should have taken a picture before I nudged it, but I didn’t want to take a picture of a dead snake. Dead snakes are not uncommon on the roads around here. Just last week, in addition to the live ringneck snakes, I saw one large black snake and a large copperhead that had been run over. Both had apparently been sunning themselves in the road after a cool night. That was probably what the little ringneck was doing as well. Since they’re small, the ringnecks aren’t as good a target for our local drivers as larger other snakes.