Toad in the Hole

October 20, 2006

Birthday Presence

I got an early gift on Wednesday, when we went 'round the back end of Mt. Diablo to look for the tarantulas that are supposed to be running round in Mitchell Canyon. It took (even) longer to get there than we'd planned so we got only an hour, hour-and-a-half before the park closed at dusk -- and no spiders. (We pushed that "dusk" by half an hour as it was, but there's an exit they don't close.)

We'd just decided to take one more bend in the trail and then head back, when Joe whispered, "Coyote!" Right up there at the bend, sure enough. Hard to see, right? Go look at the large version. Here's the thing: I had the short lens on, expecting to take spider close-ups.


She obviously knew we were there -- I could feel the breeze on my back as I faced her -- but wasn't scared; in fact she kept on coming toward us when I carefully lowered my binocs and raised the camera. The camera's loud -- hilariously enough, Nikon programmed a very realistic, authoritative "click!" into it -- but that didn't bug her either. She wasn't staggering or acting sick, just going about her business, sniffing here and there, looking and listening into the trailside cover.


When she'd got as close to us as she wanted -- just a few yards! -- she detoured into the dry creekbed next to the trail.



And then came back up to the road,


at which point she spared us a backward glance.


Meanwhile, I'm snapping away like a maniac. Apparently she doesn't mind. Must be a movie star.

So on up the road, pause, look, sniff; stopped at some apparently (to us) random bit of verge and got very focused on something.

And then, pounce! Very foxlike move.


Emerged with something small and dark -- too compact to be a tarantula, anyway -- and dropped it with evident deliberation a couple of times, then ate it.


Then on up the road some more, neither hurrying nor drtouring as far as I coulod tell. It was time to turn around anyway, so we followed at about the same pace.


Yeah, I got Joe's sleeve there. These are raw; I figure I can play with them later, sharpen some, crop some; we have a sort of primitive photo-fixer that came with the camera and one of these days I'll get a working Photoshop.
She stopped at a brown mound on the road and teased it apart some, then ate bits of it. I thought it was a horse turd, but when we got to the spot I saw a smashed-up pine cone with a few nuts left. Coyotes eat pignoli!


She took a left at the junction and went up the trail to White Canyon. Or so I thought. When we got there and looked up the trail, we couldn't see her.

Then behind us, at the trail marker we'd just passed:


Having established that, she trotted at the same pace she'd been keeping all along up the side trail, still stopping and attending to Something every few yards. I noticed that when I stopped snapping and we stood perfectly still, she glanced over her shoulder at us more often.


'Bye, Coyote!


And good hunting to you.

Posted at October 20, 2006 09:11 PM


Ron: these are fabulous! Oh how lucky you were, and happy birthday to YOU.

Posted by: Pica at October 21, 2006 01:17 PM

Thank you, and yes, lucky. There we were, feeling discouraged and futile. It's nice to be taken as part of the scenery, ya know?

Posted by: Ron at October 21, 2006 11:58 PM

that's so excellent! and happy birthday!

Posted by: kathy a at October 22, 2006 01:12 AM

Oh, how beautiful! And thank you for sharing. I feel as though I've been to your party and had a slice of cake. Love that pine nut topping! (And who knew so many carnivorous types enjoyed those? I think I learned just this year from Chris Clarke's late lamented blog that bears make huge use of them, too. I never would have imagined!)

Anyway, happy birthday! I'm glad you were born.

Posted by: Sara at October 23, 2006 05:40 PM

One of the most beautiful things I ever saw was a coyote playing and racing with a tumbleweed; pure joy all around. (Out on the plains in Colorado.)

yrs, BDL

Posted by: bdaggerlee at October 24, 2006 03:13 AM

Oh and here's the morbid birthday song (in a minor key), it always makes me break into peals of laughter, but I'm extremely morbid. Delete it immediately, if you find it upsetting.

"Happy Birthday, O Happy Birthday
Pain and sorrow in the air;
people dying everywhere;
O Happy Birthday, O Happy Birthday."

Posted by: bdaggerlee at October 24, 2006 03:17 AM

"May the cities in your wake
Burn like candles on your cake..."

"One more thing you need to learn:
First you pillage, _then_ you burn..."

Upsetting? Hah. Time was, I could sing all the verses. I much prefer it over the standard version. Though Joe did give me the stink-eye when I sang it to his 98-year-old mother. (If she heard me, she didn't let on. She did that a lot, come to think of it.) Hey, I didn't sing the "Now you've aged another year/ Death is drawing ever near..."

Thanks, all. Yes, it was excellent. M<ade me pleased to have been born too.

Posted by: Ron at October 24, 2006 04:07 AM

Oh you know much more than I do about the song. Where is it from? What is it called? I had a friend call me up and sing it into my machine.


Posted by: bdaggerlee at October 24, 2006 08:10 PM

I absolutely love the morbid birthday song. Hilarious.

I wonder if there's an MP3 running around the net somewhere for those of us who have never heard it? I looked, but couldn't find one.

Posted by: Sara at October 24, 2006 10:07 PM

Wow. I love the pouncing picture. And, happy birthday.

Posted by: Veronica at October 25, 2006 02:00 AM

IThe song is widely rumored to be a product of the Society for Creative Anachronism; Google om "barbarian birthday song" for a pile of variations. It runs to the tune of the Volga Boatman song.

Best accompanied by slamming beer steins on tabletops, IMO.

Posted by: Ron at October 25, 2006 04:59 AM

The song is widely rumored to be a product of the Society for Creative Anachronism; Google on "barbarian birthday song" for a pile of variations. It runs to the tune of the Volga Boatman song.

Best accompanied by slamming beer steins on tabletops, IMO.

Posted by: Ron at October 25, 2006 05:10 AM

Thanks, Veronica. Hey, another Veronica!

I didn't know I'd got that shot until we downloaded the whole set; I was just snapping away. It was lovely to watch, too.

Posted by: Ron at October 25, 2006 02:09 PM

Ah! Thanks! Now it all makes sense. As a little B. Dagger, I played my pipey flute in an orchestra and I remember our orchestra chugging dismally through the Volga Boatman. Orchestra was a dismal experience for me, surpassed only by the horror of the next year: marching band. For an entire year I pretended to play the glockenspiel and was forced to learn how to march. The marching, the uniforms, the glockenspiel--all for some reason deeply deeply antithetical and horrifying to the little B. Dagger.

But it explains why I retained the tune to the Barbarian Birthday Dirge.

yrs, BDL

Posted by: bdaggerlee at October 25, 2006 04:09 PM