My cat, Goofy, alerted me to something in the backyard the other day. He was sitting on the pantry floor, staring out the window that overlooks the backyard. He did not want to jump up into the window, so that told me that there was something out there, that was causing him some concerns. He does not like large birds, so I thought that there perhaps was a hawk perched atop one of the Shepherds hooks from which hanging flower baskets are suspended, or even on the fence separating my backyard from my neighbor’s property. I carefully peered out the window, looking in the general direction of where a bird of prey might be perched. Upon seeing nothing, I looked down at Goofy, and could tell by where he was trying to look, that whatever was out there, was on the ground. I once again carefully peeked out the window, this time letting my gaze fall toward the surface of the lawn. When I first detected what Goofy had seen, my first thought was, “what a huge squirrel”, as all I could see from my vantage point at the window, was the head of a creature, staring up at the flower baskets and bird feeders. As I slowly leaned forward to obtain a better glimpse of the critter in the back yard, I was taken aback somewhat, by discovering that it was not a giant squirrel, but a giant woodchuck!
Living within the boundaries of the city of Buffalo New York, has not precluded my property of being a visiting spot for a number of animals that would normally be associated with country living. Having grown up in the wilds and fields of the country, I was used to seeing a wide assortment of critters on a regular basis. Even when my wife and I lived in the suburban area of Lancaster New York, the back yard at our apartment building had its share of furred and winged visitors. When we moved into our home in the city, I never expected that so much wildlife would still be visiting not only my back yard, but the postage stamp sized front yard of my home as well. Over the years, we have had quite an array of visitors – some during the daylight hours, and some at night. The night visitors always stir the greatest curiosity with the noise they create outside, as you cannot detect what is creating the noise until you spot them in the beam of a flashlight, or when they trigger a security light to turn on, by passing through the infrared detection beam of the light. I managed to take the boy out of the country, but could not prevent the country from following the boy into the city!
Aside from the giant woodchuck in the back yard, which I think was trying to discover a safe route to my neighbor’s lettuce patch, we have seen rabbits, skunks, possums and some time ago, a family of raccoons. Those are just the furred critters that have graced our back yard. Among the winged visitors, there have been mallard ducks, Red tail hawks, Sharp shinned hawks, and Coopers hawks. All the raptors have been attracted by the small birds that congregate at the bird feeders or on the ground beneath the feeders. On more than one occasion, we have found the feathers of doves scattered about, a sure sign that one of the hawks made a meal of one of the ground feeding doves that we had fattened up! Unfortunately, our back yard has also been home to one of the more common city dwellers that nobody likes to see scampering about looking for a free meal – rats! I hope that throughout the years, some of the hawks that have visited our back yard, have made a meal out of one or more of the rats in addition to the doves that they have managed to catch.
Our tiny front yard, has been trod upon by wild turkeys – well, at least one wild turkey, as well as one of the largest Whitetail deer that I have ever seen. I was in the front yard racking leaves one fall day, when this monster buck sauntered past in the street, casually crossing the sidewalk to check out nearly every lawn. My presence did nothing to deter him from his stroll, or his investigation of what might be edible from any of the flower beds that were in front of every house. Even when I slowly made my way into my house to get a camera, my movement only caused him to glance in my direction, with no appearance of fear or apprehension. By the time I got back outside with a camera, the buck had disappeared. There also used to be a family of raccoons, perhaps the same group that were in my back yard, that would spread out through the neighborhood at night, searching for food. At dawn, they would all come together again as a group, and disappear into the storm drain at the intersection near my house. They used to be common visitors, until more and more kids started showing up in the neighborhood, thereby increasing the noise level several decibels throughout the course of the day. When we started having more instances of people being out in the area during the evening, the raccoons disappeared for good.
Yes indeed, the wildlife in my back yard has amused and amazed me over the years. With so much vehicular and foot traffic nearby, I would never have thought that any animal would want to hang around long enough to be detected. I still have not seen evidence of any bears, coyotes or mountain lions back there, but if some day one of those super-sized critters visits, I’m sure my watch-cat, Goofy, will alert me to their presence. Until that day, I’ll just keep a lookout for those visitors who might be looking to make a meal out of my tiny garden.