May 9, 2007

The Beauty of Nature in My Own Backyard

Living with a wetland behind my house has its advantages. It has its disadvantages too, like a cellar that floods when it rains for days on end, an often funky "swamp stink" during the hottest days of summer, and a lot of mud on the banks and thus on your feet when you stray too far from the back lawn. There is, however, a tremendous amount of wildlife that lives just a stone's throw from my back door.

Every spring and summer wild mallards set up their household back there. They always come up to the barn to visit my domestic ducks, sauntering cockily around the pens, stealing the odd tidbits from my birds, and generally causing a great ruckus when my own ducks go territorially berserk.

Two weeks ago I discovered a female groundhog has been digging a burrow and a nest back there. She's simply adorable to watch: ambling about stuffing bits of grasses and leaves for bedding material into her chubby cheeks, shifting them about with her front paws to make room for a few more pieces of grass, stopping here and there for this and that. And always stopping every couple of steps to adjust her treasures with those little feet. One afternoon we spent a good half hour calmly watching each other with tremendous interest before we both went about our own business once again.

There's a great blue heron that flies overhead several times a day, but never lands close enough for me to get a good, long look at it. The wetland extends for quite a ways and as the beautiful bird seems to live more towards the other end of it, I never get to see it land. I do, however, love the way herons carry their long, graceful legs straight out behind them while they're flying, feet held daintily together.

I also love the sound of the hundreds of peepers out there come nightfall, chirping away in their attempts to find a mate. The rhythm of their calls is a wonderful way to be lulled to sleep. I only wish the deer who use the wetland nightly for a watering hole would stop eating my hemlocks. Tasty as they might be, my trees now look like crap no matter what angle you view them from. But all in all, everything else out there is as close to perfection as you could want.

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