We live in the middle of an old-growth hardwood forest, zone 6a, in the lower Connecticut River valley region of Connecticut. Spotting and hearing wildlife is a common occurrence.
This past winter we observed a fisher circling around our snow-covered land as it followed the scent of some prey.
We often awaken during late winter nights to sounds of great horned owls conversing across tree tops and a favorite spring/summer evening activity is listening to Bard and great horned owls creating a hooting, hollering ruckus in nearby woods.
White-tailed deer, chipmunks, squirrels, possum, raccoons, skunks (thankfully, not many), silver and red fox, moles and voles/mice, snakes of the garter, ring-necked, brown and Eastern ribbon types, and multiple birds and butterflies are common sights. But recently I’ve had two new wildlife sightings in the gardens right behind the house.
A common box turtle has decided a quiet corner of a perennial bed is a cool place to hang. We saw many box turtles when we began clearing our property years ago but, once the clearing involved heavy equipment, these sightings stopped. I love turtles and hated the fact that we stomped our heavy human footprint on their landscape. Until this one moved into the garden, I had not come across a box turtle in the 14 years since we cleared the land for our house. I’m thrilled that this one has been a regular visitor this spring. A little research revealed my Eastern box turtle neighbor is mature, since it is 5-6 inches long, and eats insects, worm and slugs (yes!), berries, plant material and even carrion. Not sure of its gender but I’ll watch for eggs in that part of the garden.
The other new visitor is this Black Rat Snake. I’m not a snake lover. In fact, I cringe whenever I see snakes on television or in movies and I hate being surprised by the many small snakes living within the stone walls on our property. But I’m first and foremost a gardener, so I accept snakes’ beneficial presence. My holy-crap reaction to the sight of this 4-foot long – maybe longer – snake led to a quick look at my Field Guide to New England reference book by the National Audubon Society. I originally thought our new neighbor was a Black Racer but they tend to move away from humans quite quickly and our newest neighbor just stays put. A Google search led me to think this is a rat snake which feeds on small rodents – voles, mice, chipmunks. We have plenty of these which is the only reason I’m not insisting my husband chase this snake from its current feeding area. I first spotted it resting atop a yet-to-be-connected drainage pipe right next to the foundation of our house and adjacent to the main walkway to and from the fenced back yard. The surrounding shady planting bed is full of hosta, which will now wait until next spring to be thinned and transplanted!
Just taking the photos and doing research about this snake gives me the heebie-jeebies … those who know me well understand what a huge step it is for me to tolerate this snake right next to the busiest warm-weather walkway on our property. But if it earns its keep by reducing the chipmunk and mice population, and it doesn’t make any fast moves to surprise me, I suppose it can hang around a while.
I’ll live with my heebie-jeebies.