As charming as the cute rabbits appeared at first, and the magnificent deer as well, how can one not be enchanted by the sight of a pair of wild mallards paddling about in the pool? The brilliantly feathered male and his drab mate would take a leisurely turn in the pool and then retire to the shade of a nearby oak tree. After a while one or two of their friends came to visit – go for a swim and then join the couple in the shade. Then more friends came. This went on for a few weeks until one day I noticed duck poo on the top step of the pool. Lots of it. They got their check-out notice to vacate when I placed an upended outdoor chair on
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the top step. Otherwise they were perfect guests. Quiet, undemanding, ate nothing and kept to themselves. I sort of miss them.
While encounters with the rabbits and mallards took place outside, I was totally mystified about the chirping sounds coming from the fireplace chimney one year in late April. My only thought was that some poor bird must have somehow got caught in the chimney and, hopefully, it would find its way back up and out. The peeping was intermittent so at times I thought it had escaped. But the next day, after clearing the dinner dishes from the table, I alerted my young daughter that I was going to try and rescue the poor bird before it died in the chimney. I could no longer bear the peeping. It was like a cry for help. I cautioned her to keep still as I would open the flue and let the bird into the house. I instructed her not to chase it around as it would be quite frightened, and when it calmed down I would try to coax it out the door. She dutifully took her place at the far end of the living room. I got up under the flue and began to lift it open when, suddenly, we heard a long, low growl – like that of a very large dog. I froze with my hand still holding the flue open just a crack for a few seconds when there issued another long, low growl. I let go of the flue and stood up. The chirping stopped. There were no more growls. Stunned out of my senses I stupidly pondered how and why a dog came to be trapped in the chimney when my daughter’s little voice said – “Mom, I don’t think it’s a bird”, and I didn’t think it was any kind of domesticated animal either.
The next day I called Animal Wildlife Control, those wonderful people who are dedicated to rescuing endangered animals, and who once came to remove a hornet’s nest and, at
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another time untangled a rather large black snake badly caught up in deer netting. I was told it was a mama raccoon with her young. They couldn’t send anyone to remove them until Monday but if left alone they would be gone by Memorial Day weekend. And indeed they were gone by then, but not before she moved them all to the other chimney in the family-room. Raccoons are in the bear genus and I shudder to think of what a crazed mama raccoon would have done to us and the house had I somehow managed to open the flue wide enough for all of them to fall through. Occasionally, one thumps about on the roof in the early morning hours. It still sets my heart fluttering whenever I hear it.
So the rabbits have mostly gone due to overdevelopment and I don’t bother the lone one that comes around. The deer are sure to follow as they continually lose habitat, but whenever I see one I still marvel at their beauty. Get some raccoon-proof grills for the chimneys. The snakes will run away from you, first. There are no more foxes, or turtles, or partridges or even those blood-curdling insects. The dogs, too, have gone but the cats are still around. But if you put out some seed or a birdbath, many beautiful birds will visit and the air will be filled with birdsong – and you will become a birdwatcher.