Late last fall, my family and I moved to a different neighborhood. Almost overnight I lost the knowledge of my natural surroundings that simply accrues and is taken for granted when one lives in the same place for many years.
For instance, a certain bold and industrious robin had annually constructed a nest in a matter of hours on a ledge immediately above our kitchen patio door. From a perch above the kitchen sink, family members could readily observe the nesting project, followed by the tireless egg-sitting and ultimately, the hatching, feeding, growing and launching of a fresh batch of birds.
The squirrel population also seemed particularly active in our yard, and there were pigeons, wood ducks and owls often occupying the large silver maple trees out front.
Countless (okay, you can count them, but who really wants to know?) days of sub-zero temperatures in Winter 2014 brought most obvious outdoor activity by living things to a grinding halt, so it wasn’t until recent weeks that we’ve begun discovering the habits of the critters in our new spot on the west side of town.
Short spurts of observation have made me glad my kids are as old as they now are, because the action here is definitely at least PG-13.
Last weekend, my husband positively chortled as he watched two male bunnies fight for dominant position with a female. The chase went on and on, with those males proving to be incredibly persistent.
“This is just like ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins,'” he joked, never taking his eyes off the frisky lagomorphs.
Then, my 13-year-old son excitedly reported spotting two birds engaged in the age-old act that perpetuates species of most kinds.
And earlier this week (though I was alone at the time so have no witnesses to vouch for me), frantic movement on a lilac bush only 20 feet from the window where I stood caught my eye.
There, a male squirrel had cornered a female on the very tip of a lilac branch–and she (unfortunately for him) was not appreciating the attention. Still, he was not about to give up easily, and the game continued, with the male purposefully driving at his hoped-for mate while she snapped back at him and turned rapidly to deter his advances while the slender branch bowed and swayed beneath their weight.
Though I was tempted to watch until the branch broke or the act was consummated, obligations and deadlines forced me to abandon my lookout, so the ending of that particular tango remains unknown to me.
In addition, a few other varieties of birds have appeared in our yard; three of us noticed a male/female pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks three days ago, and we’ve also been visited by a downy woodpecker and a showy blue jay.
And it turns out there is another robin (unless we’ve been followed across town?) that habitually starts its family where we live–here, the nest is beneath our patio overhang, and the bird is extremely focused and decidedly unexcitable, barely stirring when a nearby door is opened or people stand, talking, directly beneath it.
Perhaps it’s an unusually lusty May, possibly due to the particularly hard winter, or maybe we’re just noticing all this activity in our immediate natural environment because it’s our first spring here.
Either way, it’s clearly not just a young man’s fancy that lightly turns to thoughts of love in the spring, as Alfred Lord Tennyson poetically reminded us.
Who needs a drive-in? We’re taking a walk on the wild side in our very own back yard.