Grit Blogs > One Foot in the City

Sampling Urban Wildlife

Canada geeseThis morning I opened the garage door and stepped out on a thin layer of snow to fetch the paper.  It was cold at 14 degrees and a gray day as we are socked in by clouds.  I stood quietly for a minute as small snowflakes fell on my head.  I could hear the Canada geese warming up their honkers as they assembled for the morning food run.  A grackle screeched from a nearby tree.  “Ah,” I thought, “a little moment of nature before coffee.”

Urban wildlife was a subject of discussion with my holiday guests this last week, so I thought it interesting that I had two birds identified in the first minute of the day.  Just a few days ago, family members decided they needed exercise, so I shared some of my walking paths with them.  My son, an avid hunter and fisherman, commented on the abundance of bird and animal life.  He also indicated that he didn’t normally see wildlife in his home city neighborhood.

Unfortunately, too often urban wildlife is not seen as it is camouflaged by people hurling through their lives.  Web MD “Health News” reports adults are spending 25% less time in nature this year than in 1987 and the time is declining by 1% yearly.  Research reported by the New York Times indicates Americans take fewer steps daily than any other country in the study – walking only half as much as the next country in the study.  Average distance walked?  Less than a mile.Mouse to watch 

While the backyards of our homes do not supply walking distances needed to maintain our needed exercise, they can certainly be a good place to start to observe wildlife.  Watching and feeding birds is a good way to get started and can provide hours of nature education.  Birdwatching can also be the stimulus needed for a bit of gardening or landscaping as one provides a better habitat for food and protection.  With habitat comes wildlife.

In my own neighborhood, I have found that if I spend more time specifically looking for wildlife, I find others are doing the same and are willing to share.  A neighbor half a street down has become a friend “over the fence.” She has the tree that the Mississippi Kites nest in and was able to help me identify the birds that glide the skies.  Another neighbor I came to know on one of my walking trails shared the location of an owls’ nest in a nearby hundred year elm.  Raccoons, rabbits and possums are the subjects of conversations all along my street. 

Just a day ago the family went to a science museum with my grandson.  As we loaded into the car, someone said, “Oh, look, there’s a rabbit in the bushes,” and we all stopped to watch.  “No, there are two rabbits,” my grandson observed, “and a bird.” We waited and watched for five minutes and that led to a discussion of “urban” wildlife.

Even if you live in the largest city, there is wildlife.  It just takes a bit of slowing down and looking for it.  We need to look no further than our own backyard.         

nebraska dave
1/5/2013 2:16:07 AM

Joan, yes we do need to observe nature more. I don't have a problem with that as I work my big garden the wildlife is all around me. I find myself actually talking to them. They are seem curious at first but after a time just turn a cold shoulder and walk away. The wild turkeys are the most entertaining to watch. They rule the garden as fences can't keep them out. In fact they roost on top of my six foot high fence. They haven't really bothered much of the garden and probably help with pest control. I learned that the groundhog will not eat anything covered with squash or pumpkin leaves so next year the corn patch will be inter planted with squash. Squirrels are just the carefree rascals of the neighborhood and are quite entertaining to watch. The only deer I saw last spring was very young and unconcerned that I would invade his territory. I haven't seen any raccoon but I suspect both raccoon and opossum are lurking in the woods somewhere. Sprinkle in a few gartner snakes and a complete garden community lives life in almost harmony. That's kind of the way it's supposed to work, isn't it? Have a great nature observation day.