Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play…well, no antelope…just deer.
Situated in a rural area where this Mama’s empty nest home is, the opening line of that old song rings true except, of course, for the antelope part.
Frequently, our home plot of ground appears to be a wildlife refuge. Glancing out our windows, we aren’t surprised to find a wild critter or several moseying through our yard and we have had to take extra measures to keep them out of our garden which they think is a free lunch.
Naturally, we have the usual creatures traversing through. Rabbits galore and one very brave fellow who often came right up onto our front porch several times one fall. I suspect he was enticed by the pumpkins displayed as fall décor by our front door.
Since we lost our calico kitty a few years ago, field mice have been found nesting in our fire ring when it was stored under our deck for winter, in our outside air conditioning condenser, and even in our clothes dryer vent. That problem was soon remedied!
Nighttime brings racoons and opossums around the neighborhood, not to mention the odious skunks, who we often smell before we see. Huge fat groundhogs wander around during the day.
White-tailed deer regularly romp and stomp their way through our yard. A flock of wild turkeys strut around while toms flaunt their stuff with wide wingspans trying to impress the hens.
One evening a few years ago while relaxing on the front porch swing and chatting by phone with a friend, I was surprised (and frightened!) to see a black bear poke his head around the corner of our garage. I was thankful that he was startled by a neighbor’s lawn tractor noise and turned around and lumbered out of here.
On another occasion, as Papa and I drove just down the road from our house, we were shocked to see a bobcat cross in front of us.
It’s true we never know what may cross our path out here in the country. Even though we don’t have a pond near us, geese have waddled through our yard and once we even found a turtle on our driveway.
Sometimes, the wild critters leave us a “present” like the one we found at the foot of our deck steps one morning, which we think was bear scat.
A myriad of beautiful birds gather at our bird feeder and suet cake holder: cardinals. tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee, white-throated sparrow, house finch, song sparrow, American goldfinch, cat bird, black-eyed junko, mourning doves, and a red-bellied woodpecker who frequents the suet.
Of course, those bully birds – blue jays – also appear and attempt to chase away the smaller birds. And then there are the pesky crows who seem to think our place is their hangout spot.
Often, we notice a hawk soaring overhead or sitting patiently, waiting for a chance to swoop down on its prey from one of the trees bordering our acreage and dividing it from the farmer’s field behind us.
On occasion, we’ve found evidence of predator violence on our property. We suspected a young wild turkey met
fowl foul play in the jaws of some wild meat-eating creature. All that remained were feathers and “remnants.” I’m sparing you the gory photos I took and only showing you the “G-rated” ones.
Just the other day, Papa called to me to come quickly to the kitchen windows. We were both surprised to see a beautiful creature we’ve never seen in our backyard before – a red fox.
He wandered through the grass coming closer and closer to our house, stopped within just 10 feet or so, then turned around and hurried back towards the brushy area behind our property and continued into our neighbor’s yard. Regretfully, I wasn’t quick enough to grab my camera or cell phone to capture a photo of Mr. or Ms. Fox.
As I write this, my morning visitor has arrived. I’m often situated at our home office desktop computer early in the morning, checking email, writing/reading blog posts, editing photos. And for the last couple of weeks, a female cardinal has come to visit me.
She flies onto our front porch, perches on one of the outdoor chairs in front of our office window, and peers in. We don’t believe she can see her reflection in the glass because the window screen probably prevents that, but something entices her there.
She arrives every day, looks all around, and then seems to peek in at me sitting here at the desk watching her.
And every morning, I whisper to her: “Good morning, Mrs. Cardinal. Did you come to visit me again today?” She cocks her head as if she hears me and then flies away.
Unfortunately, if I arise from the desk chair or move in any way, she’s frightened off in a hurry. So, I’ve been trying to take her photo as best I can (not easy through blinds and screen) without getting closer to the window. The photo at the beginning of this post is the best I’ve been able to get so far.
Sometimes the Mister comes along. You can see his bright red color in the photo below. He never perches on the chair though – that seems to be the spot for the Missus – but he does rest on the porch railing.
Perhaps they are building a nest somewhere in our front yard, but I haven’t noticed one yet.
Wherever their nest is, I completely understand their urge to provide a safe home and protect their young ones. One day though, their nest will be empty, and the fledglings will have flown away.
I too know how that feels as I perch here in our rural home akin to a wildlife refuge, but I wouldn’t want my empty nest to be anywhere else.
“Living in a rural setting exposes you to so many marvelous things – the natural world and the particular texture of small-town life, and the exhilarating experience of open space.” ~ Susan Orlean