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Wildlife in the Garden

As the daffodil leaves push up and buds start puffing out on trees and shrubs, ground hogs and chipmunks are waking from their winter sleep and making sporadic appearances. In two more months, our perennial herd of deer will be birthing fawns, cottontails will multiply, and the flying squirrels will have moved out of our shed and into the telephone cable connector cover. The latter will be unceremoniously dumped out in what has become an annual ritual, when my phone service dies completely.

Last year, three Red Tail Hawk chicks sat in their tree-top nest a mile away for what seemed like months; then spent every summer day soaring above our house, calling out incessantly to one another, enraptured by the joy of flight. A Northern Harrier has moved in and favors a roosting tree opposite my home office window. Sometimes he’s hunting, sometimes just snoozing.

Over the winter I heard, for the first time, one of my neighbor’s many foxes “bark,” as it hunted in our wetland. After all these years living in the same place, it’s great to know that there are still new things to discover.

Our east-facing 75-foot-and-taller trees receive strong morning sun. In early spring, Turkey Vultures favor them for roosting and warming their wings. On a foggy April morning, it’s not unusual to see ten spooky shapes hunched up in a single leafless tree.

The calls of Screech Owls, the Dracula-like whoosh of the Great Horned Owl’s wings, together with Pileated Woodpecker and Yellow-Shafted Flicker cries conspire to create the illusion that a dinosaur might appear at any moment.

Just before daybreak one morning, I watched a bat laboriously wedge itself under one of the cedar shingles on the rose arbor, ignoring our carefully placed bat house nearby. I guess it couldn’t read.

Slithering ribbon and garter snakes in the flowerbeds don’t bother us; copperheads in the woodpile require caution. We know they are there, but it’s always a shock to disturb one.

This year the three male “driveway turkeys” have been displaced by twelve females. Later in the season, there will be chicks and the circus show of 20-30 heavyweight turkeys launching themselves from our plateau into the oak and hickory trees to roost for the night.

The usual songbirds at the feeder, opossum, raccoons, skunks, butterflies, dragonflies and frogs near the fountain, several kinds of bees, wasps, and beetles, salamanders, and an occasional hummingbird or black bear round out our garden guests.

While some of these critters can put a damper on our gardening efforts from time to time, we view them all as part of the great web of life on Earth. They enrich our lives immeasurably.

To read more about wildlife in the garden, join the folks over at Gardening Gone Wild .


Gloria said...

Wow! Sounds like you have a great wildlife garden. Glad to hear you have adopted a mostly live and let live attitude.
Do you find early morning and dusk the best time to sit and just observe?
Feeling a bit of envy as an urban gardener black bear are not likely to show up,but I did see a coyote once.
This is the first I have seen your blog,found it at Gardening Gone Wild. I am finding several new blogs to look into with this month's topic.
Perennials is a great special interest magazine,is there a native plant or wildlife gardening equivalent?

Lois J. de Vries said...

Nature's Garden is a nice general-interest magazine that focuses on birds, butterflies, native plants, and gardening in concert with Nature (see There is no one best time for observing, but the animals do have their schedules. For example, dawn and dusk are best for turkey-watching at our place.


Nan Ondra said...

My goodness, you certainly do have a wildlife-rich habitat, Lois. I especially enjoyed your comment about the favored nesting place of your flying squirrels; I'm sure you don't find it all that amusing, though. Thanks for taking part in the GGW Design Workshop again this month!