Click photo to enlarge
This beautiful bobcat is a frequent visitor in the Willow Springs area of the Panoche Valley in southern San Benito County.

DEAR JOAN: For the past couple of summers, our yard and our neighbors' yard have been plagued by lots of tiny annoying black flies that like to fly into our faces. We take care of our properties, which cover a total of 3 acres, and there are no dead animals or vegetation that account for them. Can you give us some advice on how to rid ourselves of these pests?

Paul J.

Saratoga

DEAR PAUL: I'd have to see the fly to be certain -- correction, my entomologist friend would have to see the fly to be certain -- but I'm guessing you are being plagued by March flies, shore flies, drain flies or fungus gnats. I'm not sure it matters in the long run what sort of fly it is; all of these flies are attracted not to dead animals but to wet areas where vegetation is decaying and fungi is growing.

You may not think you have either of those things, but if you have a compost pile that's a little too damp, if your lawn is being over-watered, if your potted plants a little too moist, you have the conditions that these sorts of flies thrive on.

To get rid of them is easier said than done. Pesticides and insecticides do more harm to the environment than to the flies. The best tactic is remove what's attracting them. Get rid of free-standing water and repair any plumbing or irrigation leaks. That includes checking for drips at your faucets. If the flies seem thick around potted plants, it may be time to repot and make sure you don't have water accumulating at the bottom of the pot. I'd never, ever recommend getting rid of mulch, but rake through it to help dry up wet spots and avoid excessive use of fertilizers such as manure, blood meal and other organic materials.

Clean out drains, pull mulch away from the house and consider cutting way back on your landscape irrigation, especially on lawns and areas with organic mulches.

DEAR JOAN: We hope you can help us identify this magnificent cat that frequently visits our property located in the Willow Springs area of the Panoche Valley in southern San Benito County.

We this it is possibly a lynx. What do you think?

Ken and Sherry H.

San Martin

DEAR KEN AND SHERRY: Your magnificent cat is a bobcat (Lynx rufus.) He's gorgeous.

Readers can see Ken and Sherry's photos by going to www.Pinterest.com/gardenjoan.

Black-and-White l

There is no accounting for taste, but volunteers at the Hayward Animal Shelter tell me these days all of the black, white and black-and-white cats, kittens, dogs, puppies, bunnies and you name it, are having trouble finding homes.

Other colors and color combinations just seem more popular, so to help those deserving pets with the least popular coloring find their forever homes, the shelter is showcasing them at a special "Black-and-White Fur-ball" event 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 13 at the shelter, 16 Barnes Court, Hayward.

As if getting a new companion isn't enough reward, the shelter is sweetening the deal by giving away 30 free spay/neuter vouchers to Hayward residents, limit two per household, and the adoption fees have been reduced to $20 for any black, white, or black-and-white pets.

So lets give these pets new homes. The life you save may be your own.

Let's talk

Don't forget our live chat at 1 p.m. Thursday about pet safety from sudden dog attacks: www.mercurynews.com/pets-animals/ci_21708245/live-chat-preventing-dog-attacks-oct-11-at.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.