Wildlife

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Wildlife

“Living in the country brings you closer to Nature,” might be a cliché but it’s true. The “nature” that I’m talking about today is the abundant wildlife that greets us every spring, particularly this year.

Naomi would disagree and say, “It’s only because you’re home so much this year that you see it.”

In any case, I’ve “had it up to here” with wildlife.

Except for the birds. It was a delight for us to see a robin mum make her nest so close to our house in an adjoining pine tree. We can look at her from above, from our bedroom window, while she sits patiently on her two pale blue eggs. One very windy day, we were worried that she, and her nest, would be blown off, the branch where she was ensconced was bouncing around so much. “The tragedy of the Natural World,” I thought, sure that she, and her future family, wouldn’t make it.

But she did; her nest, as Naomi remarked, wasn’t only placed on the branch but was woven around it. Remarkable. When she has to leave the nest for a short time, the male robin sits on an adjoining tree seemingly to guard the nest. Do they have a natural predator that they need to protect themselves from?

I enjoy watching the birds feed from our bird feeder. The black-capped chickadees are here year-round. They’re so small and cute; how do they make it through freezing cold winters? The boughs of the trees are covered with snow, there’s no ground cover visible. How do they feed themselves (our feeder is not always full all winter long)? Black-capped chickadees are known in the scientific world as a good example as to how infidelity rules in the bird kingdom. Those guy birds are mating with every available girl bird around. The latter are never “taken”.

When the blue jays come around to feed, naturally all the other birds skedaddle. The red-winged black birds enjoy feeding off of the sunflower seeds as well. These birds will “attack” a human whenever he or she gets even remotely close to their nest, which I believe is located somewhere on the ground in the nearby fields. They fly close to your head making all kinds of intimidating sounds and generally go nuts until you walk further away.

I’m not that fond of that squirrel feeding off of the sunflower seeds, however. Why am I so mean to him/her? He (she) seems to live alone. When I rush out of the house to scare him off the feeder, the squirrel makes a flying jump to the ground from way up high. That’s quite a feat and I am impressed. Then he runs onto the nearest tree and stops, and fearfully stares at me. Maybe he thinks that I can’t see him, but it’s spring, stupid. There are no leaves. I continue moving forward; he runs up the tree and makes another flying jump into another tree. Even more impressive. What I don’t like about the squirrel is that he can sit in the feeder for a long time and inhibit all the birds from landing and themselves enjoying a snack. He’s a pig.

Recently, we’ve seen a chipmunk running around the lawn, feeding, I suppose. Just this morning, I spied one standing on his hind legs and frozen in place, sure that this manoeuver was succeeding. How could I see him? He thought. I’m not moving! “I see you,” I said as I approached. Still he didn’t budge. Naomi laughed and we continued to the studio. When I looked back he was gone.

We used to see a lot more deer than we see now. Ironically, at that time we owned a dog who used to love chasing deer. He would break through many a screen when he saw one, which was sometimes quite far away from the house. He name was Rocket and when he bounded out after the deer, he did speed like a rocket, his paws barely touching the ground. How he loved the chase! He’d come back, his tongue down to the ground, find a quiet spot beneath the studio porch and lie there for quite a while with his tongue still flopping around until he cooled off. A neighbour of mine, who has been around in these parts a lot longer than I have, also remarked that there are a lot less deer than there used to be.

It’s not from overhunting, I think, because there are not so many hunters as there used to be as well. Are the deer being taken out by the coyotes that live around here? Well, we don’t even hear the coyotes howling like we used to.

The other day we did spy three young deer walking together as they approached the house. This used to be a common sight but I frantically called Naomi over simply because a sighting is so rare nowadays.

Speaking of apparently having no natural predators, catching sight of a wild turkey is pretty common these days. We’re not quite sure why Naomi finds them so cute but there you go… These large animals usually go in small packs and live here all year round. They seem to be doing pretty well for themselves, though should a wolf pack come to these parts they’d be toast!

An unusual “guest” this year was a little bunny rabbit. He seemed tame as he came right up to me to feed on the (organic) carrot I had for him. I’ve been sad ever since he disappeared about a week ago. Where are you, little bunny?

In the spring, we have two kinds of unwanted visitors to the house: ladybugs and ants. I could put down ant traps but I’m not into killing animals if I don’t have to (the mice are a different story…). Still, they are a nuisance. These are not real ladybugs who you’re happy to see eating the “bad” bugs on your tomato plant but a relative, living in the ceiling and coming down from their winter home to enjoy strolling on the window each spring and autumn, crawling up and down, always moving. I vacuum up these critters and let them out outside, or open the window, take off the screen and invite them outside. But they’re relentless and then… they stop coming down and it’s over. But from early April to early May, they’re yucky!

The ants hitting the dining room in the spring really “bug” me. They’re relentless, too, obviously quite hungry (it might be too early outside to get all the food that they need for their nest). I can be obsessive, and very irritating to Naomi, as I constantly grab a broom and dustpan to catch the ants and send them outside, where they probably dust themselves off and immediately resolve to come back in. I hate seeing them scurrying around on our dining room table.

I wonder if we’ll see these guys in our new home and whether I will continue to be patient with them or eventually buy ant poison.

At night, we love hearing the haunting cry of the owl and the equally haunting howl of the coyotes. I like watching the hawks circle high above our heads during the summer months. They’re looking for mice, right? Are they successful? I wonder. I’ve never see one dive down for one. They’re always circling and circling on the air currents.

Crows live here all year round, naturally. What do they live on, these carnivores, during the freezing winter months? It’s hard to love a crow like a small chickadee but you do have to admire their hardiness and survival instincts as well.

Every spring and fall we get plenty of ducks landing on our pond. I will tolerate them for a short stay but I don’t like it when for whatever reason they decide that they like our pond a lot and hunker down for a long sojourn. They tend to sit on our dock, sunbathing, and crap a lot on it.

Speaking of wildlife, our pond is stocked with bass and they seem to be doing very well, thank you. When the pond water clears in late spring, you can see ‘em, small fry and very large bass swimming about. They are supposed to keep the pond clean but ironically their presence has scared off Naomi from swimming in what is a very nice summer swimming pool. Err, Naomi, these guys are terrified of you, they swim away when you get in!

We are in the middle of a severe black fly season. I had to cut short my work outside this morning due to being swarmed by these predators. In early spring they seem to be checking you out, not really landing, just swarming. In a week or so they realize that you’re either tasty or necessary for procreation. I found some citronella oil today and that seemed to ward them off a bit, but as soon as some of the oil had burned off, these blackflies managed to find that one spot where I wasn’t protected and went in for the kill – they put their tiny snout right into your skin and draw blood while biting.

Well, that’s about it regarding the wildlife. There was that bear that scared the devil out of Naomi last year while she was walking down our street with a friend. That’s a rare sighting for sure. There must be other animals around that I’ve not mentioned. To them, sincere apologies.

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