The Wild Kingdom in My Yard

Spring and summer are my absolute favorite seasons at my house. Deciduous trees bud, then bloom and make a canopy for all sorts of birds. Sometimes we hear them before we see them. The Towhee’s song has been described as a one-second song that sounds like “drink-your-tea.” I often listen to them scritch-scratching under my lemon balm bushes as they look for tasty beetles, caterpillars, spiders, or snails.

Baby juncos in their nest (PC: Macy Malleck)

This year a pair of juncos nested in a flowerbox attached to my guestroom window. They sneakily made their nest, and I didn’t know it was there. One night, I was outside late, watering and putting little red and yellow wind spinners in the window boxes. I pressed one in too close to the nest and out flew mama junco, right towards my head! She surprised me. I grabbed the flashlight and peeked in where the silver thyme and lemon verbena were planted. No nest. Then, I shined the flashlight between the flowerbox and the coconut husk planter, and down in the corner sat a nest with three small eggs. Before we knew it, the eggs had hatched, and little birds emerged with large dark eyes and yellow beaks. Every time anyone walked past that nest, the adult pair would fly out and make a big commotion to drive us away. One morning late in June, when I took my dogs out, no birds flew out at me. I peeked in, and the baby birds were gone, just like that.

Barred owl in locust tree (PC: Mark Malleck)

We regularly get barred owls too. They are big birds with large dark eyes, grey-and-brown speckled feathers, and a yellow hooked beak. They started showing up last year, at all hours of the day. They’d perch in the tall trees and watch us silently. Sometimes there’d be an adult and three juveniles calling back and forth across the treetops. The call of the adult barred owls has been described as saying, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?” But when we listen, we often hear them calling out in extended high-pitched screeches. They “talk” to each other, as it were.

One morning in late spring, I was in my room getting ready to serve as an online host for my church. I fired up my computer and got out my headphones. And when I went to shut my bedroom window to shut out the sounds from outside, I could hear a terrible commotion.

 A murder of crows had landed in the locust trees across from my bedroom. They often flew in in groups and “caw-caw-cawed” to each other, devising their devious plans. They are intelligent and work together and make a lot of noise while doing it.

Baby bunny in its nest (PC: Mark Malleck)

By the screams of the mama rabbit down below, I already knew what was taking place. The crows had observed where the mama rabbit had made her nest, and they were raiding it, stealing her babies to feed their own.

I told Mark what was happening, and while we know there are no “good guys” and no “bad guys” in the animal kingdom, we secretly root for the bunnies. He grabbed an airsoft gun and went out the door to scare away the crows.

He came in a couple of minutes later and said, “You’ll never believe what happened out there.”

Sure enough, when he went out, a crow was stealing a baby bunny. The mama rabbit was screaming at the crow. Just then, in swooped a barred owl, who stole the baby bunny from the crow, midair, and flew away with its fresh catch.

I know all these creatures have to eat and care for their young. But do they have to do it in my yard?

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