Category Archives: Neighborhood Cat Photos

One need not leave the patio…

…to enjoy a bit of the natural world.

This weekend I have spent my time doing the on-call thing for work.  Right now I feel drunk, although not from alcohol.  From lack of sleep, yes.

I’ve had perhaps two hours of rest since five in the morning on Friday.

Needless to say, it’s been a hell of a weekend.  And not in a good way.

Still, my want to take walks and snap photos suffers no lasting damage from such times, for it is with a great sense of gift that I can stand outside on my own patio and get a fix for my need.

Nature comes to me, you see.

Clance standing outside the patio fence (20081005_13300)

Clance[1].  For some time I thought I would never see his cross-eyed face again.  He disappeared for more than a year with but one or two minor visits in early 2007.  I hoped for the best and feared the worse: that he had been adopted and that he had died, respectively.

Then he suddenly reappeared maybe two months ago.  Now he comes running when he sees me on the patio and he purrs and meows as he speaks to me with trust and affection.  I’m thrilled to see he’s alright.

A male house sparrow (Passer domesticus) perched on the patio fence (20081005_13353)

A male house sparrow (Passer domesticus).  Whilst kneeling on the patio floor trying to snap photos of a lizard, I heard the tiniest bit of noise beside me, something much like a dry leaf rustling against an old log.

Slowly I turned and looked over my shoulder.  There hardly an arm’s length from me perched this little bird.  He clung to the fence and glanced about as though he’d lost something.

In truth, I put birdseed out every day.  The sparrows join the cardinals, the blue jays, the mourning doves, the rock doves, the Carolina wrens and a litany of other species as they each vie for their bit of the bounty.  My little sparrow friend probably wanted to make sure no threats lurked about before he dove to the ground for a bite to eat.

A friendly fly (a.k.a. government fly or large flesh fly; Sarcophaga aldrichi) standing atop the patio fence (20080516_05296)

A friendly fly (a.k.a. government fly or large flesh fly; Sarcophaga aldrichi)[2].  It sat atop the patio fence soaking up sunshine.  If I approached too closely, it scooted off in one direction or another, but it never flew away—at least not until it was ready to do so.

I enjoyed watching it, appreciating its behemoth size and dazzling contrast of colors.  And the fact that it was so tolerant of me made it even better.

A male green anole (Anolis carolinensis) challenging me from the tree with this throat fan fully displayed (20080613_06520)

A male green anole (Anolis carolinensis).  He spent a great deal of time challenging me as I stood and watched him climb down the tree rooted just outside the patio fence.  Having been confronted by my share of anoles, I thought nothing of this contest save that it made for a good photo opportunity.

What I didn’t know would be discovered later.  He defied me only because he meant to woo a lady of his kind who hid in the branches above him.  Minutes later I returned to the patio and discovered his display had so impressed her that she had succumbed to his ways.

Yes, the two of them stood on the side of the tree and consummated their meeting in a public display of affection that would so offend James Dobson and his bigoted ilk that they—the lizards—likely would have found a new constitutional amendment being passed to stop reptile procreation altogether due to its immorality.  But I found the exhibition mesmerizing and educating.

A rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia) looking away (20080202_01690)

A rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia).  Ancestor of all pigeons, this species, despite the unwarranted disgust by many humans, brings a profound beauty to its surroundings.  The iridescent feathers, the amber eyes, the tolerance for our ways and our places…  Well, I find them intriguing and beguiling.

A Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana) eating cat food outside the patio fence (20081102_14542)

A Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana).  Part of the cleaning crew, in fact, as you can see this one readily went to work on the cat food I had just put out for Clance.  After the cat had his fill, he walked away.  That’s when, much to my surprise, this opossum scampered around the corner, ambled up to the table so to speak, and began munching away.

Oh, and the marsupial knew I was there.  I knelt next to the fence only a yard/meter away, so every sound and movement I made set off alarm bells for this small juvenile (not as small as the baby, though).  But I know something about them: their eyesight is relatively poor, although they can hear and smell like a top predator.  Staying downwind of the little cutie and not making a lot of noise meant it only looked at me with suspicion if I moved too much or accidentally sounded my presence with some clumsy racket.

A male cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) perched atop a leaf (20080620_07043)

A male cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus).  My favorite insect in all the world, and a most gentle and placid leviathan if ever there was one.  The huge colony of these beasts that surrounds my home thrives only for a brief period before falling under the heels of time’s onward march.  But during that short life they captivate me to no end, and they give of their calm nature the companionship made possible only by two disparate lives sharing a clear understanding: we can be friends.

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Many would argue that domestic cats are not natural.  I beg to differ.  The wildcat who gave life to this species has been pushed to near extinction by humans.  What can fill that ecological niche if not the very children of the parents put to death by the march of our intelligent advancement.

That said, I don’t like the idea of outside cats, I don’t like seeing them outside fending for themselves and being exposed to all manner of illness and danger, yet the humane side of me—the part of me that knows what it means to be human—likes even less the idea of seeing them go hungry and without compassion.  I put lots of money into no-kill shelters each month in hopes that some of these lost souls will find a home; meanwhile, I have no intention of turning my back on them when I can afford to offer a meal, a bit of attention and friendship, and a kind soul to whom they can speak.

[2] Amazingly, this is not a macro shot.  I stood some distance from the fly and zoomed in to take the picture.

[3] The photo is bad, I know, but I took it in very poor lighting and with the camera on the wrong settings.  I was more intrigued and enthralled with the opossum than I was with making a piece of art.  So sue me.

You in danger, girl!

Warm evening air greeted me as I stepped outside last night.  These little jaunts to the patio represent the only means of escaping my on-call hell.  Being tied to a computer 15 hours out of each day leaves no room for much else.

Yet feeling robbed of walks at the lake during such times doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy nature.  Living at an urban nature refuge means nearly as much life can be seen roaming about outside my own door as can be seen were I to venture to the lake itself.

Last night was just such a moment, an instance when nature came to me.  Albeit under stressful circumstances, and I don’t mean for me.

al-Zill lounged comfortably just outside the fence.  His attention seemed focus upward, toward or into the bushes I thought, although my view was limited and he just as easily could have been looking up into the sky on the other side of the hedges.

I had seen him leaping into the photinia bushes from time to time, something I assumed meant he was chasing one of the many birds or insects or lizards that use the foliage for hunting, for nesting, for off-the-ground transportation, and for camouflage.  The stealthy black feline always returned to the ground in that clumsy way for which he’s known[1], and always with empty paws and jaws showing he failed to capture whatever he was chasing.

The moment I stepped out the bedroom door and spied him, he turned, saw me, and came running.  This is the usual course of things; to wit, he dashes to my side the moment he sees or hears me, rubbing endlessly against me in an effort to give as much affection as he receives.

After a few minutes of petting and rubbing, him rolling around and giving me head butts the whole time, we had moved close enough to the food and water for him to realize his belly needed filling, so off to dinner he went.

al-Zill grabbing a bite to eat from the food bowl on the patio (20080322_02781)

My attention no longer diverted by this joyfully needy and loving cat, I stood, took a sip from my beer, and turned toward the fence.

I immediately saw Psiwa lounging beneath the tree inside the protection of the photinias[2].

Psiwa lying beneath the tree and behind the photinias as he looks up into the bushes (20080322_02789)

He likewise seemed to be watching the bushes intently.  Too intently.

Psiwa, seen from behind, as he looks up into the photinia bushes (20080322_02782)

I felt this warranted a closer look, what with two cats within spitting distance of each other who both appeared enraptured by something, something hidden amongst green and red leaves and the maze of limbs that supported them.

So I scanned the verdant growth looking for…  Well, looking for whatever they were so interested in.

It didn’t take long for me to find it.

A juvenile eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) precariously hanging on within the cover of photinia bushes (20080322_02796)

Precariously slipping from branch to branch, sometimes stretched to her body’s limit trying to keep herself as high as possible, a juvenile female eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) scarcely bigger than my hand clung to life by a thread, a thread represented by whatever protection the shrubbery could provide.

With two cats already aware of her presence, that seemed little protection for such a defenseless creature.  Felines are patient and skilled hunters.  An immature and frightened squirrel stands little chance of escaping.

I then decided I should intervene.

I went back inside and exited through the front door, walked around to the outside of the patio, and located the poor thing.  Even as I approached, it scrambled a bit, a clumsy attempt to remain unseen and safe.

A close-up of a juvenile eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) as she perches within the cover of photinia bushes (20080322_02802)

Despite its small size and cute visage, I knew trying to grab it was a poor idea, yet nothing else sprang to mind.  If I held it in my protective arms, at least then I knew it would not fall victim to predation by domestic felines looking for the enjoyment provided by the pursuit and capture of small darting prey.

But I had no intention of trying to grab it.  There is a great deal of nature that can be touched, from plants to insects to reptiles to arachnids to crustaceans to every other kind of life imaginable.  One need only know what is safe to touch and what is better left untouched.

A young frightened rodent is nothing to be trifled with, especially one who likely has been trapped in a hopeless situation for quite some time.

Yet what chance did a single human have to intervene when two killers had already marked the target, and the target itself possessed none of the skills necessary to escape, not strength or speed or intellect?

I stood silently[3] as close to it as I could without posing an imminent threat, at least one greater than the cats, and I pondered what course of action I could take.

Thankfully, a timely diversion bigger than me came around the corner, one that could not be ignored.

Someone across the road was receiving a large delivery of plants from a landscaping company.  The truck and its two deliverymen rumbled about making all sorts of noise, the lot of them finally coming quite near where I stood at the edge of the concrete.

The cats retreated long enough for the squirrel to leap from its ligneous hideaway and scramble beneath a nearby parked car.  al-Zill saw it, though, and he followed quickly.

Withing striking distance of the poor thing, me flailing crazily as I tried to divert his attention, the truck rumbled to life one more time to reposition itself for unloading.  That brought it right to the squirrel’s position.

The cat ran back through the bushes fleeing the giant monster, and the little gray visitor ran eagerly beneath the metal giant, out from under the other side, and quickly disappeared up a tree that gave it easy access all the way to the lake (from tree to tree to tree).

Did it survive?  While under my watch, yes.  I can make no other claims.

— — — — — — — — — —

[1] Having grown confident al-Zill does suffer from some kind of neurological damage, he tends to be less graceful than most felines.  Climbing into the shrubs around the patio is relatively harmless in that regard since he can’t fall far and has difficulty getting very high due to the dense limbs and foliage.

[2] I’ve said before that al-Zill and Psiwa get along.  That’s generally true, although not always.  This can be blamed on al-Zill and his mental issue(s).  Sometimes he greets Psiwa like an old friend, sometimes he ignores him entirely as though he’s not there, and sometimes he challenges him similar to the way one might challenge a home invader.  These dichotomous positions remain unpredictable, sometimes occurring within minutes of each other.

[3] Some might have provided soothing words to the poor little lass hoping to calm her racing heart and let her know help had arrived.  Those words, although comforting to human ears, might have been heard very differently by the squirrel.  Domestic cats, for instance, when in distress, are actually frightened and agitated by the soft tones and cooing verbiage we associate with peaceful reassurances.  Most people never realize this, and most people equally never realize those heartfelt gestures mean little, if not the opposite, to species other than humans and dogs.  While each individual will react according to its own personality, most animals receive little if no benefit from such acts.

[title shamelessly borrowed from “Ghost”]

A petite lass

Much to my chagrin, I’ve been rather remiss in addressing the lack of photos I have online for dearest Henko.  I’ve seen here out and about quite a bit yet have not had my camera with me when I was outside and she was around.  Today offered me the chance to address that shortcoming in at least a small degree.

A close-up of Henko sitting outside (162_6273)

I noticed her loitering outside the patio fence and so thought she might be hungry.  With a bit of food in hand, I stepped out there and made an offering to this petite feline visitor.  She watched me with thankful yet dubious eyes as I put a small amount of kibble on her side of the fence.  Before I backed away to give her room, I snapped a few photos—something she was all too gracious enough to allow.

A full-body shot of Henko sitting outside (162_6272)

One disturbing thing I noticed is that, just as I saw when I first discovered her last October, she has discharge coming from both eyes.  This generally is not a good sign for a cat, especially when it lasts as long as it has with her.  You can see a close-up of what I mean in this photo.

Still, she otherwise appears healthy, her appetite is certainly intact, and she comes and goes at will sans any indication of progressing ailments.  It’s possible that she is sensitive to the cool temperatures or suffers from an upper respiratory infection that is not of the fatal or highly communicative type (which generally is indicated by this kind of ocular drainage).  Her attitude and demeanor reveal a relatively healthy cat—a diagnosis I am making based on limited observation and a great deal of knowledge about felines.  Nevertheless, I would love to capture her and have her treated by a vet if such a thing were possible.

Who is Psiwa?

I mentioned a new cat named Psiwa (pronounced “SEE wuh”).  Let me introduce you to this latest addition to the neighborhood feline brigade… at least as best I can.

First, the name.  Psiwa is an anagram of “a wisp.”  Basically, concatenate the two words (a wisp = awisp) and invert the entire structure (awisp = psiwa).  Then, give it a pronunciation (psiwa = psi·wa = SEE wuh [in my mind anyway]).

Second, why the name.  There are two major reasons I named this cat Psiwa: color and disposition.  Its color is a soft powdery grey that reminds me of a wisp of smoke.  Its disposition is such that, while not feral, certainly can be defined as quite skittish, and the cat is prone to run away if there’s too much motion, noise, or other disturbances—and it vanishes like a wisp of smoke.  So two references to “a wisp” was all I needed to come up with the name, but I wasn’t going to call it Wisp or Wispy or Wispmeister or any other such nonsense.  You know how I am with names.

Third, some photos.  As I explained above, this cat is flappable and flees at the drop of a hat.  That means I don’t have many photos of good quality.  What I do have is a bunch of pictures like this one.

Psiwa walking away from the patio at a brisk pace (154_5491)

And this one.

Psiwa again walking away from the patio at a brisk pace (158_5809)

You see, this feline will tolerate me outside only so long as I don’t move around too much, make too much noise, or other distractions around don’t cause a nervous situation.  If any of those things happen, Psiwa is outta here with nary a thought.  Like a wisp of smoke…

But I was lucky in the last few days to catch it here having a meal without any other activity taking place.  I could not move into a position to get good photos because the cat would immediately bolt, but I did capture some of adequate quality that will give you an idea of what Psiwa looks like.

Psiwa having a bite to eat (158_5807)

Did you notice the tipped ear?  Psiwa is spayed or neutered depending on gender.  I at least know that much, and I know the cat’s not feral.  That means it’s another stray, probably an abandoned pet.  I feel too many people dump their animals here at the lake thinking it’s better for them than dumping them on the side of the road.  Don’t get me started.  I hate seeing all these cats around here (and those I’ve mentioned and named are an extremely tiny fraction of the number actually living in this area).

Finally, this is the clearest shot I have of Psiwa.  In this instance, you can see the cat’s about to do precisely what it does best: run away, become a wisp, leave nothing but a memory in its wake.  Thankfully, I realized at the last minute what the feline was doing and that I had moved to much, so I stopped and backed away a bit, whispered a few soothing words, and waited.  It worked.  The cat came back and finished its meal before finally disappearing—like a wisp of smoke.

Psiwa about to flee (158_5805)