This 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.
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.