Saturday, June 7, 2008

Neighbors

Back in 2002, when we first moved into our new place, we were curious about our neighbors. We didn't really have many "wild" ones, and I don't exactly mean the Dan Ackroyd character John Belushi encountered in "Neighbors." (Personal trivia: that was the first "R" rated movie I ever saw in a theater). No, I mean the wildlife that would be sharing our four acres.

A relatively-recent shot of our place, though some
recent landscaping isn't represented.


The aerial photo, which is facing due west, shows the overall features: open lawn, wooded areas, a pond. When we first toured the house the majority was lawn. If I were a golfer it would probably would have been pretty fun. Alas, or fortunately, neither of us hits the links, and we don't like a lot of lawn. Ever since we moved in everything in the "back half" (would that have been the "back nine?"), or western half, has been allowed to grow. It's developing into a grassy, shrubby area with way too many invasive plants, like Autumn Olive, Japanese Knotweed, Garlic Mustard, Rosa mulitflora, Crown Vetch, and probably more that I'm afraid to identify right now.

Our benign neglect has brought in some wonderful residents, too many to display here, so here are a couple from the past week.

A Green Frog, clearly a male based on the size of the tympanum and the
bright yellow throat, quietly hanging out among the cattails.


At first the half-acre pond was fairly open, only a few cattails grew in one corner of the pond and only Crown Vetch adorned the banks. The only residents were six or seven Koi and a mess 0' catfish. In the intervening years the cattails have expanded quite a bit and we've been planting a few native plants and shrubs around the pond: Cardinal Flower, Blue Flag, Marsh Marigold, Buttonbush, and Swamp Azalea now adorn the edges, hopefully attracting hummingbirds, butterflies, and other insects.

A Twelve-spotted Skimmer (yes, I counted) sits
and waits on an old cattail stalk.


Green Darners, Widow Skimmers, bluets, and other odonates like to perch on the new vegetation, and several amphibians are now resident in our backyard. We mostly hear them at night, the piercing calls of Spring Peepers starting in mid-March, the "jug-o-rum" of the bullfrogs (apparently the Parrotheads of the bunch), the drawn-out trilling American Toads, the loose banjo string twang of the Green Frog, and the quick, Red-bellied Woodpecker-like trill of the Gray Treefrog. In the evenings we say they serenade us to sleep, during bleary-eyed mornings we complain the miserable creatures kept us up all night.

We uncovered this young toad while sorting through a pile of
rocks. We leave piles here-and-there hoping to provide shelter
for them; it's heartening to know we're sometimes successful
.

The new house we added in the middle of the pond, and by "middle" I mean off to one side where it was shallow enough to wade out and mount it, was meant for waterfowl (Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser) or a small owl (screech-owl, saw-whet). I had small hopes for ducks and near non-existent expectations for an owl. After all was said and done we figured we'd be lucky if wasps found it appealing. We were confident squirrels couldn't take it over.

Not whom we expected, but the tenet sits on
her stoop and keeps an eye on her questionable
neighbors. What's that, we're the questionable ones?


As Reina and I explored late spring around our "loop" we noticed what looked like a head sticking out, so I snapped a few pictures (bins were left on the kitchen counter). We assumed it was a Tree Swallow since we saw them checking out the box earlier in the spring, but then they disappeared. Only recently have we seen a couple foraging around the pond quite a bit this season, more than in past years, but it wasn't until we looked on the computer that we saw it wasn't just a head. The bird was perched in the entrance hole. Apparently it is a bit large for what they require, but clearly it's suiting their needs. We're ecstatic someone saw the box fit for their needs.

Stay tuned for an introduction to our next-door neighbors, a couple we never saw coming!
--

4 comments:

mon@rch said...

Wonderful neighborhood and great neighbors that you have!

noflickster said...

mon@rch - thanks! We realize we live in an amazing community, and we're excited to meet more of our neighbors (though I got a bit close to some Bald-faced hornets last summer).

It takes all kinds!
-Mike

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Didn't you post pictures of you and your daughter checking out that wood duck box this winter? How fun to have tree swallows in it! What a mansion for them!

noflickster said...

ZenBirdfeeder - my daughter did have a blast "checking" the box when she could reach it, thanks to the ice and snow. We've been enjoying the Tree Swallows, watching them from the dock, listening carefully for the excitement of the chicks when a parent returns with food. We've sporadically monitored the chickadees and House Wrens in the more accessible boxes.
-Mike

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