HALLIE EPHRON: We live ten feet from neighbors on either side, two blocks from a Burger King and a 7-11, and an easy walk to the subway into Boston. Not exactly country living. And yet when I'm in my backyard I feel like it's a secret garden.
Out bird bath attracts sparrows, juncoes, cardinals, blue jays, mourning doves, and last spring when I went out to to fill it I found this--a single blue egg. When I checked again, later that morning, there were only pieces of broken shell. Before I could get back out with my camera, even those had mysteriously vanished.
We had much excitement later when a red-tailed hawk tried to build a nest in a tall nearby pine tree. Spectacular cartwheeling, choreographed to fierce catcalls from the hawk, ensued as it was set upon by blue jays who'd have none of it. Then, as I was drafting this post, I heard a hawk scream again. This time it was a sharp shinned hawk (smaller with a beautiful black and white banded fan tail) fighting for turf with 4 crows on my other across-the-street neighbor's front lawn.
We had lots of excitement this spring when, for days at precisely dusk, we'd hear a mournful bird call coming from somewhere in the front of the house. My husband kept going out with a flashlight, trying to suss it out.
Then we found it. An owl was sitting in a hole about 20 feet up in a maple tree across the street. Our neighbors' little boys have a bedroom that's about 15 feet from that tree and just opposite the hole. They'd had it spotted for weeks but their parents didn't believe them. They named it Mikey. I snapped this photo of him. Or her.
At about 30 minutes before dusk every day, that bird appeared from inside that tree, rising up like a hand puppet. He'd just sit there, blinking out at the world. Twenty minutes later, whoosh. Off he'd go for his night of hunting, we presumed.
My husband got out the bird book and identified it as a screech owl, though its call isn't at all screechy.
For weeks we went out every day to see that bird. We invited friends over to see the bird. People from all over town flocked over to see it, too. We called it the Mikey Show.
Then, one day back in June, Mikey was gone. Just gone. Two weeks ago we thought we heard his call again. Went out, and there up in the tall maple tree in our yard were a pair of baby raccoons. Cute as could be. It's been years since we've had raccoons -- not since a rabies epidemic about 10 year ago wiped out all our locals.
So while I was glad to see them back, I'm even happier that they've since disappeared. Baby raccoons are darling; grown ones not so much.
Besides, we want Mikey to take up residence next spring in that tree. The welcome mat is out and we're waiting...
Has your summer been visited by welcome and unwelcome critters?