In the spring, we are overrun with toads. They swim, and sometimes drown, in the pool. The hop across the road, like jumping rocks, in my headlights. They invade the dog area and the garage. Small climbing frogs appear on the walls of my garden. One night at dinner we had one land on the middle of table. He must have been on the ceiling fan. We both jumped and then I carried him out to the flower bed where I set him free.
Ducks swim in the pool and a blue heron steals goldfish from the horses' water trough. The other night, the grandkids wanted to swim after dinner, in the dark, with the pool lights on. Brett took them out to the pool and they were back inside within five minutes. There was a huge toad swimming in the pool and on the deck, a big hairy tarantula. That was enough to send them scurrying back into the house.
We hear coyotes almost every night and it isn't uncommon to see one trotting down the roads of our community. When they catch something, the howling has a distinctive high pitch that sends shivers down your spine -- and gets all the dogs barking. Deer are a less common encounter but we do occasionally see them on the ridge road. Rabbits and squirrels, both tree and ground styles, scurry and scamper across the road, through the gardens and over our boulders. The ground squirrels like to sit up on the boulders, with their paws in the air, chirping loudly to each other.
There are big cats, as well. Mountain lions call our wilderness home. They are reclusive, their presence shown by paw prints more than sight. Occasionally, one of our neighbors will see the tail of one disappearing into the brush while out on a ride. I'd rather see a tail than a snarling face. Tracks are even better. Bobcats are also common. They are the size of a fox and it takes a minute to differentiate between the two. I most commonly see them streaking across the road in front of my car. They throw a quick look over their shoulder at me and then disappear. I go through the mental checklist: bushy tail = fox, no tail = bobcat. Pointy ears = fox, round ears = bobcat. Reddish fur = fox, monotone cheetah print = bobcat.
The critters that do the most damage are raccoons. They steal eggs, kill chickens, eat the cat food if we forget to close the window into the feed room, and make a mess knocking buckets over and unscrewing containers. Possums and skunks are around but not commonly seen.
And then there are the snakes. We have big, orange-yellow diamondback rattlesnakes. Their bodies are thick like rope and their heads shaped like an arrowhead. The are nocturnal, hunting at night, and shy. This is good as I am, myself, quite
This morning, I walked out the front door and came upon a ribbon snake on the patio. I jumped backward and squeeked, and then the snake gracefully slid his long, pencil thin, black with a white striped body into the garden. We saw him in the same place about a week ago so he must be living in my flower bed and the lavender garden. He was beautiful and elegant, but I was relieved when he left the patio.
And lastly, we have all the flying creatures. Bats, of course, who eat the scorpions and weird insects. They are messy, but useful, and endlessly fascinating. I'm not good with bird identification but we have a huge variety from small house wrens to blue birds and phoebes, tiny gnat catchers and huge black crows. Swallows and sparrows. Coopers hawks, red-tailed hawks, and turkey vultures. Owls. Hummingbirds and humming bees. Hornets.
I wouldn't trade our wildlife for city life, or even suburbia life. The close encounters keep my heart beating and my adrenaline rushing. I feel alive.