The Occupy Backyard movement has begun. Our yard is full of creatures availing themselves of food and shelter. It is encouraging to see how some small effort on our part draws such an enthusiastic response from nature.
A garter snake has taken up residence in the vegetable garden. Practically every afternoon I find the creature sunning itself on the straw. It warily slithers away as I go about my work. The idea of planting marigolds to deter groundhogs seems to have worked well so far. Spinach and arugula are burgeoning in the middle of the garden without interference. I went ahead and planted more marigolds around the far end where hopefully beans and squash will soon sprout.
Summer birds do not need feeders as badly as winter visitors, so I was tempted to forgo the expense of seed. However, I cannot resist the entertainment value. Black-capped chickadees, American goldfinches, mourning doves and northern cardinals visit steadily through the day. So do common grackles. They were so common where I grew up I would hardly pay attention, but Danny enthuses daily about their splendid iridescence. New perspectives alert the senses. Blue jays, red-winged blackbirds and house finches also frequently appear.
The goldfinch talks with his mouth full, and beautifully. “Cheery me!” he says.
The red squirrel is the undisputed boss of the garden. Even the larger grey squirrels seem disconcerted, although they will endure a brash scold while grazing scattered seeds from the deck. Earlier this week we put out a hummingbird feeder and oriole feeder on a high pole. Within hours the red squirrel had trashed the oriole feeder. For some reason the other has not attracted attention so hopefully hummers will take the opportunity.
The other day amidst a quarrelsome mayhem of grackles, finches and squirrels at the feeder, I looked down to see a rabbit grazing peacefully in the nearby chasm between deck and fence. Occasionally beyond the back fence, white-tailed deer drift by like ghosts.
One morning while sitting on the back deck I was startled and delighted to hear a scarlet tanager singing in the pine plantation. These songbirds are threatened by habitat fragmentation. They require large tracts of mature forest for nesting habitat. So late in the spring, this bird must have a nest nearby. It is a gift to have them in our city. I would love to put out oranges to attract them, but undoubtedly the squirrels would be too much of a nuisance.
The garden attracts a world of other creatures too quiet to notice. One of the greatest benefits of planting a garden is that it requires steady dedication. Those quiet times instill a greater awareness of things small and innocuous, the workers and foragers, all players in the great game.
Look around. What creatures do you see? Tell me. Do not give up fascination with things wondrous and commonplace.