Saturday, May 20, 2017

Living With Wildlife

Ever since my family moved to this little 2 1/2 acre plot of land, I've amused myself by watching the local wildlife.  It's very interesting to see which creatures come and go.  Some of them, like the deer that very rarely find their way here, are a surprise and an honor.  Others, like the dangerous snapping turtles that make a spring pilgrimage diagonally across the center of the property in exactly the same place every year, are not so welcome.

There has always been a surfeit of opossums and raccoons until the past year or so.  My neighbors tell me that they've been trapping and releasing them elsewhere.  That's fine by me--both of those creatures cause problems.  Possums dig up the ground.  Raccoons are potentially destructive to property (like wrecking trashcans) and they can carry rabies.  Even though some have been moved away, possums and coons will always find their way here.  I'm nor worried about that.

I like the squirrels.  There were none here for many years but when we started allowing the yard to go wild, the squirrels came back full force.  They are a joy to watch.  And they can occasionally be startling--have you ever seen an Eastern Fox Squirrel?  They're rare enough but they come here every so often.  Saw one the other day:  big, ugly thing about twice the size of the gray squirrels.  Red.  With a white head.  Kinda creepy when you compare them to their cute compatriots.

We can't forget the bunnies!  This place has lots and lots of bunnies.  Whenever the grass gets a bit long, the bunnies become fearless and will come right up to the house to chomp on the best bits of greenery.  Bunnies are nice--fat, fluffy, inoffensive.

Then there are the foxes.  I like those; they're shy and pretty.  Coyotes--them I openly despise (especially after what happened to my cats).  My mother always swore she saw a badger or something like one but I never have.  I know there are beavers nearby, too, but I haven't seen them here either, and my pond is probably too small for them to be bothered with.

And then there are the birds.  I can't begin to name them all.  There are so many, many birds of all shapes and sizes--from tiny little hummingbirds to large egrets and herons.  Just yesterday I had the pure pleasure of watching a bright yellow pine warbler feeding on the bright red blossoms of the crybaby tree outside my dining room window.  It was truly as pretty as a picture.  I've also seen herons feeding on snakes near the pond--not so pretty but surely necessary.  Buzzards also abound around here although, thankfully, not in my yard.  Many people dislike them; I kinda admire the fact that they are nature's unabashed garbage service. 

There are also birds of prey.  I see the hawks wheeling over head often.  Eagles are more occasional but I see them, too.  And I've also sometimes seen the swoop of an owl after dark.  I understand that they also have jobs to do in this world but after my guinea fowl and two cats were carried off by birds of prey, I have come to like them less because they've broken my heart just a bit.

Yes, there are also lots of not-so-attractive critters here like insects and reptiles.  Bugs can be tiresome or, like the wolf spider I accidentally disturbed the other day, a bit threatening.  Reptiles.....well, of course, I want to avoid snakes (I'm still not over finding a water moccasin in my bedroom and probably never will be) but I like watching chameleons (properly called anoles) and skinks (plestiodons).  And I love the little tree frogs that tend to cluster round the windows of the house at night--they love to catch the bugs that are attracted by light, and they sing a chirping song.  The great big bullfrogs in the pond make an interesting bass back chorus to add to the tune. 

There are fish in the pond, too, but I have no idea what.  Did you know that fish can "spontaneously" appear in a manmade pond where no fish have been before?  Well, it's not spontaneous really.  Water birds will accidentally carry fish eggs on their feet from pond to pond; thus fish species can actually travel from one body of water to another.  Kinda interesting.

What I've learned is that the more species an area supports, the healthier its ecosystem is likely to be.  That's why I tend to smile on all the creatures that shelter here--each one of them is, to me, a little bit of healing for a needy planet. 

I'm sitting at my desk this Saturday morning, looking out at the rain.  And I'm thinking what a treasure it is to be able to observe the natural world on a daily basis.  Much of my yard is now wild, and I'm the only human here.  I like to let the wild things have as much of this little space as I can, even when they dig up the little garden I've been trying to seed. 

Sometimes we can protect the earth by just leaving it alone and letting critters do what they do.

Life is good.

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