Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

The Cows are Back!

(Photo by Dawn Pisturino)

Yesterday was a perfect, God-filled Sunday!

All week, we’ve experienced frigid temperatures at night and cold, windy weather during the day. The water we leave out for the wildlife has been frozen solid every morning. The poor birds walk around on the ice, pecking at the solidified water.

Sunday morning was sunny, bright, and calm, although the air was still crisp and clear. I smiled to see the baby coyote lying down in the sunshine in the backyard, waiting for his breakfast. He looked perfectly content, soaking up the sun, while disgruntled quail and doves milled around him with ruffled feathers, trying to stay warm.

A couple of hours later, a bull and cow wandered into the front yard, looking for water. Luckily, my husband was home, and he filled up a tub of water for them and moved it over by the driveway. But then, they didn’t want to leave! They just stood there and looked at us when we tried to shoo them away. (My post, Free Range, explains the free range laws in Arizona.)

The coyote, who had left earlier, saw his territory invaded by these two great beasts and kept coming back to check things out. They weren’t scared of him, which surprised me, and he wasn’t scared of them.

The coyote and the cattle were after the same thing – WATER! – and both were keeping an eye on their territory and the available water supply. It was very interesting to watch, especially since they were so POLITE about it.

I really felt God’s presence here Sunday morning, and it reminded me of just how PRECIOUS WATER IS! The animals know it. More people need to get a grip and realize that we can live without WiFi, Facebook, and other modern inventions. BUT WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT WATER! We can’t live without the basic necessities of life.

(Cow peering at me from behind the oleander bush. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Dawn Pisturino

December 13, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Coyote Update

(Close up photo of the Baby coyote and wild birds. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

This morning, the baby coyote was lying down in the backyard, waiting for his breakfast. (This is an update to my post, Coyote Whisperer.) As soon as he saw me, he stood up and waited patiently while I put out his dry dog food. Actually, he was patient for about two seconds, then he began dancing around in anticipation of eating.

He looks so healthy and beautiful! His winter coat is shiny and full, he’s put on weight, and his fur has beautiful markings on it. He let me get up close enough to take pictures with my phone (camera clicks scare them), but what I really wanted to do was stroke his lush fur with my hands. I’m not foolish enough to attempt that, however! I really can’t even call him a baby anymore, and I don’t actually know if he’s a male or a female. (And there again, I’m not going to risk getting mauled by poking around.) We call all the coyotes “Bambi,” regardless of sex. That’s our signal to let them know we are going to feed them.

Not long after, his Mom and Dad showed up. They, also, look healthy and thriving, which makes me very happy.

(Mother coyote standing guard while Father coyote eats. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Coyotes are very sensitive to noise, and they’re always sniffing the air and looking out for predators who might harm them. They don’t like my neighbor’s dogs, who chase them back out into the open fields. They’re used to our dog, Max, who’s usually locked up in his kennel, and playfully tease him because they know he isn’t going to hurt them. Even if he chases them, they just run a short distance, stop, and turn around and look at him. Then they wait for us to call him back. It’s like a game to them. And when Max goes after the Baby, they chase each other around a bush until we call the dog back. It’s the cutest thing to watch. But the Baby isn’t afraid. He just wants his food.

(Max. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

And then there’s the birds!

(Hungry quail. They are very aggressive when they are hungry. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Well, that’s how our day starts out every morning!

Dawn Pisturino

December 7, 2021

Remember Pearl Harbor Today.

Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Reprise: Bigfoot!

(Still photo from Bigfoot film by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, October 1967)

Crack! The bullet zings past my ear, hitting an old oak tree.

I drop the salmon wiggling in my hands and run along the bank of the Mokelumne River, propelling my long, hairy arms for speed. Behind me, the hunters move carefully through the dense underbrush, tracking my movements.

Sharp green thorns snag on my hair and tear at my flesh as I struggle through the blackberry briars and wild grapevines. I hike deeper into the wilderness on two strong legs, climbing skillfully around granite boulders barring my way. In the distance, the jagged outline of Deadwood Peak rises above the trees. If I can only get there, I will be safe.

Rounding a bend I see her, tearing meat from a rabbit carcass with big, sharp teeth. Mama! Her shaggy brown head turns in my direction. With a low growl, she opens her long, hairy arms as if to embrace me.

And then she smells it, the distinct odor of musky sweat. The hunters are near!

We run, ignoring the stones piercing our feet, causing us to stumble. Behind us, the humans call back and forth, “Bigfoot!”

Together, we melt into the shade of a thick stand of pines, hoping to slow down and catch our breath. But our feet become tangled in nets concealed by pine needles, and suddenly, we are swinging up, up into the air, and dangling from the limbs of a sturdy pine tree.

Mama struggles inside her net, growling with rage. I struggle, too, yelping helplessly as the net swings back and forth above the hard ground.

“We’ve got them now,” says a bearded hunter to his companions. “Bigfoot! That TV show, Monster Search, will pay us big bucks for these babies.”

“We’ll be famous,” cries a husky hunter with red hair. “Scientists won’t laugh at us anymore. Finally! Proof that Bigfoot exists!”

“How are we going to get them back to San Francisco?” asks an old man with spectacles. “I mean, we weren’t really expecting to find anything.”

The bearded hunter pulls out his camera. “I’m taking plenty of pictures, just in case something goes wrong. They can’t call it a hoax this time!”

While the camera clicks and the three men argue over the best way to get us back to the city, I turn my head from view and gnaw on the net’s thick webbing with my teeth. Pretty soon I’ve made a small opening, large enough to stick my fingers through. I wiggle them at Mama, and she understands what to do.

The red-haired hunter chuckles as he pokes me in the back with a long stick. I give him a warning growl, but he keeps it up. My powerful jaws chew faster on the netting.

“We need some of that fur,” says the old man with spectacles. “We can send it to a lab for analysis.”

“Good idea!” says the red-haired hunter. “Then, if they get away, we’ll still have proof.”

The three men stand under the nets, looking up at our shaggy brown bodies hanging in the air. Suddenly the nets give way, and Mama and I find ourselves lying on top of the three men on the ground.

We howl victory cries and scramble to our feet. The men, tangled in the nets, shout curses at us as we run away.

The Miwok Indians tell stories about us — great hairy beasts roaming these desolate mountains. They fear us and protect our sacred habitat on Deadwood Peak. We are going there now, secure in the knowledge that we cannot be followed. Men from the city will continue to hunt us. But, with help from the Miwoks, they will never find us. And we will never let them capture us alive.

Dawn Pisturino

©2014-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Turkey Mish Mash

“In 1863, a year filled with pivotal historical events — the Emancipation Proclamation, the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and the Gettysburg Address — Abraham Lincoln issued what has become known as the first annual Thanksgiving Proclamation.”

~

The Three Amigos by C.L. Evans – Showcased in the top 100 photos of 2014 of the North American Nature Photography Association. I love this photo!
from Pleated-Jeans
Such beautiful plumage!
Beautiful . . .

~

“Thankful” – sung by the Rise Up Children’s Choir. (This song was originally sung by Josh Groban.)

HAVE A BLESSED THANKSGIVING!

Dawn Pisturino

November 24, 2021

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Coyote Whisperer

(Injured coyote. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

ALL PHOTOS BY DAWN PISTURINO.

My first experience with coyotes was two eyes glowing in the dark, watching me from the sagebrush. People told me lurid tales of coyotes snatching little children, eating family pets, and circling around people who were out hiking in the desert. So, naturally, I developed a fear of them when we moved to Arizona from California in 1987.

Over the years, coyotes have roamed freely on our five acres of desert land, especially when we started putting out food and water for the birds. Some days, it felt like Grand Central Station, with coyotes coming and going. I never felt comfortable with this, but I also didn’t want to fence our land off all the way around. We keep the land cleared around our house, but otherwise, we leave the land in its natural state. We like watching the birds, rabbits, and other critters. We maintain our land as a wildlife sanctuary.

In 2017, an older coyote began hanging around, and I would go out and talk to him and leave dry dog food out for him. He was clearly tired and worn out and became a regular visitor. I worried about the other wildlife, but he never tried to harm a rabbit or a bird or anything else. In fact, on Christmas Eve, I saw him lying down in the back yard, like a dog, enjoying the sunshine, with birds and rabbits milling around him, and never bothered any of them. I remembered that Bible verse (Isaiah 11:6) about the wolf dwelling with the lamb. It was a beautiful thing to observe in real life and a wonderful Christmas gift. I was truly amazed.

In the summer of 2018, we experienced a severe drought in Northern Arizona. Even in Flagstaff, where I was working at the time, pine trees turned brown, the normally green meadows looked brown and dry, and wildfires threatened the whole area. For the first time, the campgrounds prohibited campfires — something long overdue. Around Williams, there seemed to be a constant wreath of smoke as the U.S. Forestry Service conducted scheduled burns.

The coyotes looked horrible! They were skin and bones and struggling to survive. My husband and I agreed to put dry dog food out for them whenever they showed up. The number visiting had already shrunk over the years, and we wanted them to live.

One day, the old coyote was carrying something black in his mouth, and I chased him around the yard, trying to figure out what it was. I was praying it wasn’t one of our wildlife. It turned out to be an old, dried up watermelon rind. That’s how hungry these coyotes were!

He started showing up around 5 pm every day, and that became our routine for dinner. One afternoon, I was sitting on the front porch waiting for him to show up. A truck driving down the road suddenly stopped, and I heard a gunshot. I figured the driver had killed a rattlesnake, but a chill ran through me when I thought about the coyote. I prayed it wasn’t him! The driver smiled and waved at me as he drove by as if he had just done me a big favor. The coyote never showed up for dinner, but I also didn’t see anything lying in the road.

The next day, my husband and I were walking down in the wash and kept seeing strange circular markings in the sand. I thought maybe kids were playing there. Then I found strange markings in our yard. I couldn’t tell if they were big-ass snake trails or if the dog had been running around with his leash on. But it really bothered me. And that night, the dogs kept barking.

At 5:30 the next morning, my husband woke me up and told me there was an injured coyote in our yard. I ran outside, and there he was — my coyote! He was lying in the dirt with a big gash in his right shoulder. I got as close as I could so I could look at the wound, but he lifted his head and bared his teeth at me. So I snuck up from behind and looked, and yes, it was a very deep gash. He had been shot, and even though the wound looked clean, it was very deep. My poor coyote was dying.

It was very hot outside, so I put food and water next to him. As the sun got higher and brighter, he moved to another spot. I moved the food and water with him. He raised his head and looked at me with such a look of gratitude in his eyes, I will never forget it. If we didn’t bond before, we certainly did at that moment.

My husband told me, “He’s going to end up under the front porch. Just watch.”

I didn’t think so because he kept moving farther away from the house and into the bushes, where it was cooler. As I watched him, I figured out that the strange markings in the yard were caused by the coyote dragging his right front leg. Later, I found him lying under the car — and then, I found him under the front porch! My husband was right.

Photo by Dawn Pisturino.

The next morning, my husband found the coyote’s dead body under his truck. I cried my eyes out. And I was so angry at that driver for shooting him! There was absolutely no reason to shoot him. I still cry when I think about it. And I figured out that the circular markings in the wash were caused by the coyote thrashing around in a circular motion in the sand because he was in so much pain. I found the same markings under my husband’s truck.

At the same time, I felt honored and grateful that this poor creature – that was so injured and in so much pain – had made his way to our house for help. He knew he would be taken care of here.

Since then, we have other coyotes who come for breakfast and dinner:

(Coyote family. The baby coyote is on the left, looking up at the camera. With Mom and Dad. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Welcoming new baby coyotes into our life gives me hope that the local population will survive.

Dawn Pisturino

November 16, 2021

Copyright 2018-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Remembering the California Camp Fire 2018

Huffington Post Photo

Around 6:30 a.m. on November 8, 2018, the deadliest fire in California history broke out near Pulga, Butte County, California after a Pacific Gas & Electric high tension power line fell to the ground. Strong winds spread the fire to Concow, Paradise, Magalia, Chico, and Centerville.

Thousands of people, pets, and livestock were forced to evacuate. Towns not touched by the fire were overwhelmed with evacuees. Community organizers set up shelters and tent cities. Representatives from insurance companies and FEMA erected stations to help people affected by the fire.

By the time the fire was extinguished three weeks later, 153,336 acres and over 18,800 structures had been destroyed. At least 86 people perished.

Pacific Gas & Electric took responsibility for the fire and immediately began the cleanup process. But the costs of the damage forced PG&E to file for bankruptcy and cleanup efforts were delayed.

The cleanup has been estimated to take two or three years. Over 1,500 people were hired to remove debris. They must be certified in Hazmat cleanup due to concerns about asbestos. PG&E moved forward with its tree removal program to help prevent future wildfires.

A major hazard after the fire was the contamination of the water supplies. Benzene, a known carcinogenic, was released into the water when water pipes melted. People were forced to drink bottled water or install huge water tanks and have water delivered by truck. This hit surviving businesses particularly hard.

Many people who lost their homes and jobs moved away to start fresh someplace else. Six months after the fire, only 1,500 residents had returned to Paradise out of a population of 27,000. Businesses supplying basic goods re-opened with limited hours. Internet, telephone, and electricity services were restored.

More than 1,000 animals were rescued and taken to shelters, an overwhelming number. Six months later, all but 200 had been placed with new or recovered families.

On August 6, 2019, the Butte County Public Health Department issued a press release indicating that many locations in the Camp Fire burn area remain under the do-not-drink water advisory. Water quality is monitored by the California State Water Resources Control Board.

Agencies which have cooperated with response and recovery include: the California Department of Fire, California Department of Transportation, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Highway Patrol, California Office of Emergency Services, National Weather Service, California Conservation Corps, Butte County, and the City of Chico, California.

Dawn Pisturino

September 10, 2019

Copyright 2019-2020 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact author for sources.

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A Butterfly Birthday

monarch-danaus-plexippus

 

Amy leaned over and smelled the sweet, honey-like fragrance of the tiny white flowers on a leafy green bush. It was spring — her most favorite time of year — and the big backyard was alive with blooming flowers, buzzing bees, and orange-and-black butterflies playing among the wild dandelions growing in the grass.

The butterflies were called monarchs, and Amy looked forward to their arrival every spring.

As she peered deeper into the bush, Amy spied a small green object hanging from a slender brown twig. She reached into the bush and broke off the little twig. She held the object gently in her hand, admiring the delicate green color. Near the top was a hard ridge tinted with yellow that seemed to sparkle like gold in the warm spring sunlight.

Amy had found a butterfly chrysalis. Some people call them cocoons. They are also called pupas.

Amy had learned a lot about butterflies from her teacher at school. She knew that female butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of plant leaves. After a few days small caterpillars, called larvae, eat their way out of the eggs. They finish eating the eggshells — their very first meal! After that, they attach themselves to a leaf and eat and eat and eat until they become too big for their skin. They shed their old skin, a process called molting, and then gobble it up to get important nutrients. Mmm — delicious!

Caterpillars continue to eat and grow and shed their skin until they have done this four times. Now, they are about 2 inches long. But they still have a long way to go before they turn into beautiful butterflies.

The caterpillars take long walks in search of the perfect place to rest. When they find it, they weave a sticky, silky attachment called a silk button. This allows the caterpillars to hang upside down and begin a process called metamorphosis.

For the last time, the caterpillars shed their skin and emerge as a small, oval object called a pupa, chrysalis, or cocoon. This is the third stage in the butterfly life cycle.

Amy realized what a precious treasure she held in her hand. She gathered a handful of grass and leaves and covered the bottom of a large glass jar. She carefully laid the little green cocoon to rest in the soft little nest. Then she punched air holes in the lid with a nail and screwed it on top of the jar.

She placed the jar on a table next to her bed, where the warm spring sunshine would shine through the bedroom window and warm the little green cocoon.

Every day, she looked at the little cocoon in the jar, and waited. Amy knew that the caterpillar’s body inside the chrysalis would dissolve into a liquid and the cells of the adult butterfly begin to grow. The little cocoon became more and more transparent as the immature cells developed into a full-fledged butterfly. Pretty soon, she could see the orange-and-black wings of an adult monarch inside the chrysalis.

One morning, Amy woke up and glanced at the big glass jar next to her bed. But something was different. The little cocoon was broken and empty. Sitting next to it was a brand new orange-and-black butterfly with white markings on its wings. It was the most beautiful monarch butterfly she had ever seen.

The butterfly sat on a dry leaf, slowly moving its wings up and down. Amy watched in fascination, amazed by the miracle of nature she had witnessed in the big glass jar.

But the glass jar was no place to keep such a delicate and fragile creature. She took the jar outside, unscrewed the lid, and watched the beautiful butterfly flutter away.

Dawn Pisturino

Spring 2008

Copyright 2008-2020 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Contact author for sources

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Butterfly Travels

monarch butterfly

Cymbals crash. Drums roll. In Pacific Grove, California, hundreds of school children, sporting orange-and-black butterfly wings, participate in the annual Butterfly Parade.

The parade is held every October to celebrate the arrival of thousands of monarch butterflies to the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. The monarchs spend the winter here, clustered onto Monterey pines and eucalyptus trees. They enjoy the moderate temperatures and misty fogs of the California coast. In February, when temperatures rise, the monarchs return home again.

Why do monarchs leave home in autumn? How do they know where to go? And how do they find their way back home again in spring?

When temperatures drop in the eastern part of the United States, monarch butterflies travel south, to the warmer climates of Florida and Mexico. Monarchs living in the West migrate to the coast of California. The butterflies need warm temperatures in order to fly. Otherwise, they will die.

Monarchs travel together in large groups for long distances. There can be as many as 1,000 butterflies in a group.

During the day, they can fly 12 miles an hour, up to 100 miles a day. Even though their wingspan is only 3 1/2 inches wide, monarchs can soar up, up into the air, as high as 2,000 feet. At night, tiny claws on their feet help them to cluster together in tree branches. They sleep until morning then start their travels all over again.

Scientists estimate that 100,000 monarch butterflies migrate every year. Some travel 4,000 miles to reach a nature reserve in the mountains of Mexico. In Santa Cruz, California, a monarch flag is hung when the first orange-and-black clusters appear. Six months later, the flag is taken down. Pacific Grove, California calls itself “Butterfly Town, USA.” Tourists flock to the city every year to get a glimpse of their colorful visitors.

Every year, volunteers from the Monarch Project tag thousands of monarchs in order to track how fast and how far the butterflies can fly. The tags are number coded and attached to the hind wings of the butterflies. When someone finds a monarch wearing a tag, the number code, date, and location are recorded.

Monarch Watch and Journey North recruit volunteers to record when and where the first monarch butterflies are spotted every year in autumn and spring.

When spring comes, the monarchs begin the long journey home. Along the way, they mate and lay eggs on milkweed plants. Butterflies that hatch in spring and early summer live two to six weeks. Butterflies born in late summer live eight to nine months because they are the ones that will migrate to warmer climates when autumn comes.

Scientists are still studying how monarch butterflies migrate to distant places and find their way home again. Are they sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field? Are they influenced by the angle of the sun’s rays? Do they follow geographical landmarks such as lakes and rivers? Does some genetic code in their bodies prompt them to return to the same location generation after generation?

Nobody knows. But people who love butterflies welcome the delicate orange-and-black monarchs to their towns every autumn and spring.

Dawn Pisturino

Copyright 2013-2015 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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