Monkeys in Quarantine

It almost seems that it has always been this way. Nearly three months and it’s not over yet. Not by a long shot, even though there are signs, little signs, that things are inching toward a new normal. Whatever that means. Like all of you, Kongo has endured the isolation in his own simian way.  His cruise up the Douro River in Portugal was cancelled, otherwise today you would be reading one of his posts from Lisbon or Porto or some other cool place far away. Bom Dia! Luckily he is isolated with Mrs. Kongo and a monkey couldn’t wish for a better companion through these times. Still …


Kongo has reconnected with nature in his backyard. He marks time by the passing phases of the moon and the creep of shadows across the patio. Each evening he measures the tilt of the earth by noting where the sun sets on the hill behind his back fence as it inches north toward the summer solstice on June 20. Then it will begin inching south toward the winter solstice on December 21. Maybe this COVID will be gone by then. Maybe.


So he’s spent hundreds of hours working in the backyard. A BIG NEW PERGOLA has gone up over the barbecue island (Kongo now call this his Portugal pergola since that what he spent his cruise refund on), the spa deck has been refinished, star jasmine is now creeping across a side fence next to the spa, five new bird of paradise are on the back hill, another five more leucadendron are in the ground, two hebe plants replaced some leggy sweat peas, and three new Pride of Madera are flourishing.


Watching spring come has been so much fun this year. In the early morning, about sixish, Kongo grabs his coffee and tours his little world to see what has changed. The red Yucca shot up red spikes from nothing and now humming birds feast on its flowers. The acanthus is blooming finally, dozens of new blossoms adorn the pomegranate tree, the yuzu is blooming, and the agapanthus, which always open in May, are right on time again.

Blooming Acanthus
Pride of Madera
Agapanthus Opening
The Amaryllis always blooms on Mother’s Day
Madagascar Maternity Plant Blooming
New Pomegranates in the Making
Hummer in the Salvia

Of course, life in Kongo’s little urban jungle is not quite as idyllic as he might make it seem. There has been some drama. Well, plenty of drama from a monkey’s perspective. There was the evening when Kongo’s favorite scrub jay attacked a snake and flew it over the fence into the neighbor’s yard and away from the bird corner the monkey made under the citrus trees. Kongo promptly went to Home Depot, bought a bird feeder and filled it with delicious peanut ball suet and hung it under the strawberry tree as a reward for keeping the yard safe.

Fearless California Scrub Jay

On the hill behind the back fence is a large patch of mesquite shrub where a covey of California quail reside. Each morning and evening mom and dad quail come over the back fence and visit Kongo’s bird corner and help themselves to some freshly chopped sunflower seeds. Kongo has made this a highlight of his day and marks his first cup of coffee in the morning and first evening cocktail with the arrival of these two quail. Soon the monkey hopes they will have about a dozen or so baby quail to come along as well. To keep things interesting, Kongo has downloaded quail songs from the internet and he plays them on the new speakers he’s mounted on the BIG NEW PERGOLA. Believe it or not, once the monkey starts playing the quail call, the real quail come scurrying out from their shady nest area and call back. The will perch on the back fence and call back and forth with the monkey. It’s fun and it keeps the California state bird on top of their game.



But things get complicated. Also living in the scrub on the back hill are three thieves. A scurrilous squirrel squad stalks the bird food. These rascal rodents are shameless. If they just took a little, Kongo wouldn’t mind. The problem is that when they get into Bird Corner they eat everything. They’ve grown fat and sassy on Kongo’s bird seed and he isn’t going to stand for it any more.

Squirrel Lookout

Kongo has a vintage spring-powered Red Ryder BB gun he inherited from his father-in-law that is at least 80 years old. Maybe older. It still works although after all these years the spring is a lot weaker than it once was and this weapon wouldn’t kill a cricket at 10 feet. It does a good job, however, in scaring squirrels. So when Kongo feeds the birds in the morning and evening he rides shotgun over the backyard so the birds can eat their fill. After an hour or so, Kongo abandons the effort and the squirrels get leftovers. It’s to the point now that when Kongo spies the bird bait bandits sneaking up, he just has to raise his arm and the squirrels scatter. Cocking the BB gun will also drive them away. The birds, on the other hand, are blissfully unaware. Like I said, there’s drama here.


New birds visit every day and the monkey is thinking about starting a journal to document the avian visitors. There have been Cooper’s hawks (now these guys can scatter birds in a heartbeat!), the ubiquitous house wrens (shown earlier in this post), the scrub jays (did you know they mate for life?), perky little oak tits, and recently a black headed grosbeak has made an appearance as well as the ash-throated flycatcher.

Black Headed Grosbeak
Ash-throated Flycatcher

It’s just another day in quarantine or safe at home or whatever they call it now.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Have fun.





8 thoughts on “Monkeys in Quarantine

  1. That is one BIG pergola! Great job – you built it, right? I’m guessing the monkey isn’t on the cute little squirrel picnic table bandwagon… Just love those quail! Your gardens make me quite envious. Do you special order those exotic plants or can you get them locally?

    1. Hi Eileen. “Built” is a interesting word. Kongo “built” it in a fashion, as in supervising, cajoling, providing water and Gatorade for the work crew, designing it. The two posts that hold everything up are actually steel beams sunk in concrete. They weigh several hundred pounds. So yeah, he ‘built’ it…sort of. All of the plants can be found locally. Just about anything grows in Southern California. The quail are my favorite too.

  2. OMG…Dad would have loved those quail….they are so pudgy fat.The florals and bird pics are great…so colorful.And the backyard looks fantastic…you’ve spent your time well during your quarantine.