by Kate Dernocoeur, guest blogger
Sometimes I wonder why it ever seems necessary to me to travel beyond my own home. All I have to do is look out the big slider doors to witness endless rounds of fascinating wild creatures, right in my own back yard. The designs of nature as offered by these various animals never fail to impress me.
For fifteen years, the small meadow outside the windows contains exceptional views of deer, turkeys, raccoons, even a coyote once. Occasionally we encounter the scent of skunks. That’s the closest we’ve come to one so far (which works for me). The 1200 gallon fish pond sometimes has upwards of thirty frogs, and it’s not uncommon to see one of the handful of exquisitely-patterned water snakes nearby. To see a snake swim, now there’s an unusual experience! Don’t ask about the tragic day when a great blue heron demolished my koi family, population 17. Until then (and again since) seeing the fish laze through the water is always a pleasure.
The bird feeders attract all manner of winged critters. I’m a burgeoning birder, but even I knew that the large prehistoric-looking thing out there this spring was unusual. Yes: it was a pileated woodpecker. At first it busily circumnavigated the trunk of the crabapple tree by the deck. Then it moved over to the feeder. It was so! I remember the first time I heard its call, I asked my elderly neighbor if there were monkeys in Michigan. That’s what it sounded like! But she set me straight—and also told me how rare and unusual it is to see a pileated woodpecker. She was right; it was at least ten years until this one showed up for our viewing pleasure.
We also hear, but rarely see, barred owls here. Imagine our joy last spring when a pair of them hung around the bird feeder, pouncing on voles and such. They were nearby for a couple of days, on the feeders, the roof of the house, the nearby trees. How special! And they are back this year. From the sound of it, there are juveniles in the woods with them. There was an outright chorus of “who cooks for you?” calls out there earlier today.
When the wildlife is quiet, the yard sculptures are there for us to enjoy. Some of it fuels my sense for whimsy, but some of it can be considered true art. The praying mantis greets guests whether it’s surrounded by the flowers in its bed, or whether it’s covered with snow. Similarly, Red Foal greets everyone who stops by. One of the Art Prize monkeys hangs from a branch near the Peace Pole in back. All of these art pieces lend character to the place, and are appreciated for that daily.
It’s not necessary, then, to yield to wanderlust to have a full cup of nature. Whether your yard has such abundance or not, time spent in a park or hiking trail can yield the same joy and appreciation for the phenomenal designs ready for you to enjoy, all compliments of Mother Nature. It’s there in plain view. Enjoy!
Kate Dernocoeur is, above all, a lover of the outdoors and the wild things in it. When a black bear was recently wandering through the area, she was wishing it would cross her meadow. No such luck.