Back Yard Nature in Syracuse
5/11/2008 12:37:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
woodchuckThere's nothing like seeing a wild animal in real life. Nature shows are great, and the footage available is impressive (see the Planet Earth series for example). However, I prefer the rarer "close encounters" with animals off the screen.

This spring, I've have the luck of being in the right place at the right time, right outside my front door. Several weeks ago, just after midnight, I ran out to my car to get something. As I stepped out the door, I noticed a deer out of the corner of my eye, slowly walking towards the road. At the same time I heard a car coming up the street (don't worry, this story has a happy ending...) Instead of the car barreling down the street and reducing the deer population by one, it saw the deer and slowed down. The deer froze in my front yard. The driver made a few noises like he was calling his cat, and the deer nonchalantly walked away from the car - and right towards me. I stood motionless, thinking "I can't believe how big this animal really is." The deer passed right on the other side of the bush in front of me - stopping when it caught my scent. I was less than five feet away. Time slowed to a stand still, and my heart was racing. I was eye to eye with a glorious looking doe. After one hour 15 seconds - the jig was up. The deer saw me and did its best imitation of a cartoon character, spinning its legs in place before barreling out of there.

A week or so after that while locking up, I noticed another doe walking up from the side of my house. I stepped out and watched one deer after another come around the side of the house and head for the woods across the street. Six does passed by - this time at a stones throw. Funny thing was each one stopped - and looked both ways(!) - before crossing the road. The big mommas and the little babies all knew to check both ways before venturing over the blacktop. Pretty incredible to see adaptation in action.

The last little encounter might not be much to write home about, but it was still a wonderful break in my day. Around dusk, I headed out side and heard a little commotion on the side of the house. I saw a plump little brown body scurry under the garage. I waited and watched as a beady little head popped up out of the hole - a woodchuck. He and I entered a staring contest of sorts. He trying to figure out if I were there to do him harm, and myself thinking "I can't believe that that little bugger lives under my garage!"

All of these little glimpses of nature have stuck with me. They made me feel alive.

Appreciating the scope and diversity of the animal life on this planet is important. I'll be sure that my children have access to nature videos, books, and the like. However, just as importantly, I'll take them out in the yard, and show them how wonderful our local "critters" are.

[photo via Wikipedia]
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