Sunday, October 21, 2007

Into the Wilds

We are fortunate enough to live near a town that is home to a Big Ten university and so have access to all the benefits that come with that. We happen to live in a subdivision out in the country, just a couple of miles from a national forest and a large man-made lake.

As you might imagine, such a habitat lends itself to a closer relationship with nature. Today I thought I would share some stories of our dear neighbors. Oh dear, that is a pun, isn’t it? Well, of course we have deer. Many deer. Deer who are not at all shy about coming right up to the house and looking in the windows.

Over the course of the years, we have even had a herd of cattle in our yard. After I called the sheriff, I got to watch him moo-ve them back to where they belonged. Wild Turkeys, Blue Herons, Canadian Geese and a Bald Eagle have also been observed. Last winter a Northern Harrier stopped by our deck for a bit, and Turkey Vultures live in the abandoned barn behind our property. We also have the usual assortment of smaller birds who frequent my bird feeders: Cardinals, Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Nuthatches, Gold Finches, House Finches, Field Sparrows, Mockingbirds, Red Bellied Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, as well as our summer visitors, Hummingbirds.

Tadpoles are so much fun to watch

For some odd reason, American Tree Frogs love to live on our upper level deck and invariably one will fall out when the patio umbrella is opened. Cushions must be checked to ensure that no frogs are squished upon sitting. For the past several years I have had a water garden in a pot on the deck and the frogs make use of that to raise their young. Tadpoles are another fun addition to the ‘family’. This past summer I even found a beautiful snake on my deck. I took its picture, though the snake proved to be rather camera shy and immediately left. An email to my county’s Extension Agent helped to identify this new visitor: an Eastern Milk Snake. They are non-venomous and are considered to be an endangered species. It was simply beautiful.

The frogs are having a secret meeting

Eastern Milk Snake - Hey! That lump in your belly better not be one of my frogs!

Though we have never seen any, the evidence of their presence can be sniffed out. That’s right. Skunks. I leave them alone, and I hope they leave me alone. Raccoons are also regular nocturnal visitors in the winter. Unfortunately, they have found the bird feeders and will empty them in a single feeding. I also learned that a ‘squirrel-proof’ bird feeder is not a ‘raccoon-proof’ feeder. The only solutions are to either take the feeders in at night, or to only fill the feeder to a minimum level each day to avoid excess loss. Squirrels also visit in the winter to feed from the feeders. We have named one “Stumpy” because of his missing tail. While squirrels generally use their tails as hanging devices and a counterweight, Stumpy seems to have adapted to his loss.

Stumpy has stopped by for lunch

The eerie howl of Coyotes can sometimes be heard late at night, but they are rarely seen. The one I did see a few years ago was a mangy looking thing, so I will count it as a blessing that we rarely see them. We have many other neighbors, but I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to our neighborhood.

No comments: