Tag Archives: backyard animals

Pothole Bathing

pothole bathrobin bathWe have two areas in our yard where birds in the neighborhood can get freshened up on a dusty day. In front, there is a large stone birdbath. In the rear, we have a small pond with a very shallow stream of water running over a ledge. Many birds land by the pond and walk over to the ledge for a quick rinse. By far, however, the all-time favorite bathing spot is the pothole in the street in front of our house. Every time it rains and water collects in the hole, a variety of birds come – some solo, some in small groups – to bathe. Maybe the hole is the perfect depth and width to attract them, or maybe they just like muddy rainwater, whatever the reason, it attracts more visitors than the birdbath and the pond.grackle bath

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Winter Warmth, Bunny Style

Something was gnawing the lattice under the deck.

Something was gnawing the lattice under the deck.

We don’t have a lot of closet space in our home, so I keep my off-season clothes packed in totes in the basement. Once the leaves begin falling off the trees and the air gets cooler, I start to think about “rotating” my clothes — packing the summer shorts and tees away in totes and unpacking my winter sweats, sweaters and corduroys. Usually, I’m pretty lazy about preparing for winter and wait until it gets really chilly. Then, when I can’t stand the cold any longer, I have no choice but to seek out something warmer from the basement bins. Our backyard bunny, however, is not as slow as I am regarding cold weather preparations. He seemed to plan for his winter shelter very early this past fall.

In September, while the weather was still quite pleasant, I started to hear gnawing noises outside. Immediately, I blamed mice. We’ve had mice chewing the inside of our walls before, so I assumed we had a repeat visitor. This time the gnawing seemed louder and, eventually, I realized that the chewing sounds were not inside the house, but outside. I spooked around the backyard for a few days, listening and looking. Finally, my eye caught a slight movement and I found the source of the gnawing sounds. A creature was chewing at the latticework underneath our deck. For a split second, I glimpsed an eye and a nose before the animal hid. Was it a skunk? a rat? a woodchuck? a squirrel? It was definitely not a mouse, but we couldn’t tell for sure who was doing the chewing.

bunny under deck

The gnawer was a bunny.

I kept my eye on the spot. The hole grew bigger and bigger each day until there was a fairly large hole all the way across an entire panel of the lattice. Something had just made a “door” to enter beneath our deck. Several days later, my son ran inside to announce that the chewer was now in residence. It was a rabbit, looking very comfortable in his new, under-deck hideaway. He had prepared a perfectly warm spot for winter shelter, before the snow even arrived. We aren’t sure why, but the bunny didn’t stay there all winter. In fact, after a month or so, we didn’t see the bunny inside his hideout anymore.

bunny nest

A cozy, warm nest for a bunny rabbit.

A few weeks ago, we discovered where the bunny had relocated to. He was still in our backyard and he still had a perfectly warm spot for shelter. He was nestled down in a mound of pine needles, facing the sun, underneath a pine tree. This bunny rabbit sure seems to know how to stay warm and cozy in the winter.

A Backyard Chipmunk Surprise

Look who popped up unexpectedly this morning

Surprise. It’s a chipmunk.

My eyes were not deceiving me; there really was a chipmunk in our backyard this morning. While this discovery is probably not an oddity to most of you, it is to me! I have never, ever, in my whole lifetime, seen a chipmunk in my backyard or anywhere near my community.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a fascination with chipmunks. I always thought chipmunks were the cutest things. I would sit in my bedroom at my white, child-size desk and draw pictures of two animals: owls and chipmunks. Unless you count the time I had my photo taken with Chip and Dale at Disney World, there were only a few opportunities for me to see chipmunks in person: on camping trips, hiking in the woods, or when visiting someone who lived in a wooded area.

Fast forward to this morning — I glanced out my back window and, voilà, a chipmunk. If my husband had been home, I would have thought it was a prank; I could imagine him laughing as he secretly placed a plastic chipmunk where he knew I would see it. (The joking is a family thing; my son likes to trick me by pointing upward and yelling out “snowy owl, snowy owl.”)

Only time will tell if today’s striped surprise will be a one-time visitor, like the white parakeet who visited our backyard. Maybe a chipmunk family will permanently locate here. Regardless, I was delighted by this morning’s backyard chipmunk surprise.

Signs of Spring

Rabbit in backyard

This rabbit was a recent visitor to our backyard.

Pair of mallards

A mallard couple stopped by for a quick swim.

Growing daffodils

The daffodils will soon be ready to bloom.

Blooming crocus

The crocus has already started blooming.

Signs of spring are bursting forth here in New Jersey. The daffodils are poking through the soil, the crocuses have begun to flower and some of the backyard visitors I haven’t seen all winter are venturing out.

This past week, a brown rabbit has been hanging around our house. He seems too tame for survival in the suburbs. I hope he quickly learns some street-smarts. Fortunately, our backyard offers hiding places for bunnies needing a hurried retreat.

A pair of mallards recently landed in our pond. They enjoyed a quick swim and then returned to their springtime task of scouting out a proper egg-laying site. I wonder if they will ultimately choose an unusual location, like the ducks who nested in a Home Depot garden department. The blackbirds also have nest-building in mind; I spotted one dangling a long piece of dried grass/straw from its beak.

Insects are starting to fly around too. A tiny winged creature was sitting on my mailbox. My husband was surprised to see a butterfly. The ants and the bees will most likely be the next to make their spring entrance.

For some reason, spring can make me feel melancholy. I suppose it’s because change is in the air and sometimes change can be difficult to cope with (or is it the onslaught of allergy symptoms?). The joyous nature of spring, however, is undeniable. It’s a time of new beginnings, fresh starts and second chances. Gardens are prepared. Newborn animals take first steps. Plants that were shriveled and frost-bitten become green and vibrant again. All of what spring represents seems to culminate in the celebration of Easter.

Now that the daffodils and crocuses are appearing, along with the wildlife who’ve been in hiding all winter, I look forward to observing more signs of spring — blooming yellow forsythias, tiny buds on branches, chirping baby birds and more.

Unexpected Wildlife

Welcome to Nature in the Burbs. Most of the time when I see wildlife in my neighborhood, it’s something I’ve seen before, like a blue heron or a snapping turtle. The other day, however, my husband was in our backyard taking photos of something that I had never seen before…

Hummingbird Moth

…it was a Hummingbird Moth.  It looks like a moth or a weird kind of bumble bee, but it flies like a hummingbird. There were several of these moths enjoying our butterfly bush. Normally, I’m not an insect kinda gal, but this was pretty cool. Here are some details from Wikipedia.

Have you ever seen one? Let us know. Click Comment.