Just the back yard!? Nah, I want the front and side yards landscaped in natives too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Yesterday's Walk: Wildlife Encounters

Yesterday, I went for a 2 mile walk that turned into a 3-4 mile walk. I live in a fairly country setting, but the road is a bit too busy for me--and a bit narrow for walking. I was surprised at all the wildlife I encountered that day.

It began when I heard an odd croaking caw, behind me that I assumed was a crow--when I turned to look I spotted, to my surprise, a blue heron flying along the stream which flows below a steep bank on the opposite side of the road. I love blue herons and have spotted several in the past week, but none near here and so close. When I turned he seemed to quickly shut up and just flew silently ahead of me.

That would have been enough to make my day, but there is more. Aside from a songbird or two along the way, in a water filled ditch along the shoulder (of another road) I spotted salamander larvae! At first glance I thought they might be tadpoles, but upon further examination I was thrilled to realize that they were baby salamanders! ~smile~

I took pictures with my cell phone, not the best pictures, but at least you can make them out. I'm estimating there must have been at least 50...about 30 can be seen in the picture (I counted the other day).

On my way back home, back on the somewhat busy road on which I live, the stream was now below me on my left. I can glimpse it through the trees. At one point I heard what sounded like someone wading through the water. I looked back and down, and through the trees I thought at first I saw two people wading through the stream-- until they darted out of the water and up the bank did I see them clearly--two deer!

It was an amazing walk! There is a variety of wildlife within a mile or so of my property, and likely on my property. The more improvements I make to our land the more we will see close up!

And to prove my point, upon returning home, I walked my paths and spotted several birds...but, what caught my attention was what I at first assumed was a monarch butterfly in the grass sunning itself. I was able to get several pictures each one closer than the one before. It seemed to me that it must have been exhausted because it didn't fly off as I approached. After getting some pretty good shots (with my cell phone), the sun started shining more brightly and that was just the boost it needed to take off and get away from this towering being getting ever closer to it.

Thinking of posting here that I spotted my first monarch butterfly gave me a nagging feeling that I may have misidentified it--so I searched the web for "Monarch look alike" and found that I was right--it was the viceroy.

Monarch larvae eat milkweed plants which gives them a bitter taste to any bird that wants to make a meal of it. The unpleasant taste of these orange and black butterflies leaves quite an impression on the bird; it will avoid eating them again in the future. The viceroy does not have that same bitter taste, but benefits from looking like the monarch--it is less likely to become a meal to a bird that has had previously tasted a monarch.

Anyway, it was a good walk and a great day for spotting local wildlife. And it is encouraging to think that the more habitat we provide the more we can view up close in our own yard.

Where I spotted the deer:

Back in my own yard:

1 comment:

David Posner said...

Here it is three years later, and I was looking back at old posts tagged "monarch" to see when they normally show up around here. That is when I noticed that he photos I posted of a monarch are actually of a viceroy, the monarch mimic.