Saturday was a great critter day here on the riverbank. The parade of visitors began while Myladylove and I were having breakfast on the dooryard deck and I glanced up from my omelet to see a lump poised at the edge of a walkway block. A clod of dirt? Goose droppings? The gob looked vaguely familiar, almost turtle-like…though not in a place where you'd expect to find a turtle.
|"…a little snapper the size of an Oreo cookie…"|
I got up to investigate. The lump was indeed a turtle, a little snapper about the size of an Oreo cookie. What was a recently hatched snapping turtle doing here? The walkway is adjacent to the side-yard deck which opens off the cottage's front door. (Actually side door, since the true front of the cottage faces the river. There's also a narrow deck across this front end, which we call our front deck, and it also has a door, but that's referred to as our sliding door. I know this is confusing, but it makes perfect—if loopy—sense to us.)
Anyway, the miniature snapping turtle was a dozen feet above the river and several yards removed from the water—with a steep intervening bank so cluttered with stones and various chunks of concrete rubble that even the biggest snapper could never clamber up. Which meant the young turtle was on the way down—having likely been born somewhere nearby. This was also evidenced by the bits of grass clippings you see plastered onto its shell.
|Scolding blue jay.|
I meant to give it an assist over this rocky gauntlet…but got distracted when Moon-the-Dog took off to greet a neighbor. When I got back from retrieving my pooch, the pint-sized snapper had disappeared. I gave my now cold omelet to the dog and took a walk around the yard.
A breakfasting robin watched me with a wary eye, a nuthatch defied gravity and kept up a series of nasal inquiries, while a proprietary blue jay scolded me for trespass from the box elder.
Twenty yards from the deck I found a small common water snake, mutely patterned in shades of brown and tan. If I'd have been down in the state's southeastern hill country, I might have momentarily mistaken this harmless water snake for a poisonous copperhead—though only for an instant since water snakes lack the copperhead's triangular head, vertical pupils, and general overall appearance. I did notice this snake's eyes were clouded, slightly bluish, indicating it was in the process of moulting, or shedding its skin.
|"…a small common water snake."|
Myladylove and I spent much of the day working around the yard—planting seeds, transplanting various ground covers, edging beds, and whacking a few weeds, generally trying to keep the onslaught of jungle-like greenery and growth from taking over the place. About noon a pair of geese and their half-dozen bobbing goslings came drifting downstream, borne speedily along by the still-full-river's swift current. I barely had time to grab the camera, point, and make a single quick snap.
The day's undoubted highlight came in midafternoon, as we sat on the deck resting and sipping glasses of iced tea. Again, Moon, always on the alert, spotted something and took off—across the yard and up the driveway hill. Myladylove and I went after her, yelling, threatening, figuring she was fixated on a stray a cat or dog—or another of the neighbors she so likes to visit. Instead, to our amazement—and possibly Moon's, too—it turned out to be a deer in my neighbor Edgar's yard. The whitetail, only slightly spooked by Moon, quickly trotted twenty yards away. I got the dog headed off and herded back into our yard. Myladylove took over, the whitetail came cautiously back to where it had been originally—and I darted for the for the camera.
|"…a pair of geese and their half--dozen bobbing goslings."|
Returning, camera now in hand, I was astonished to find the deer in our yard. Myladylove said it had trotted past her and Moon, passing no more than twenty-five feet away. The whitetail was now standing at the edge of the bank near the hostas, looking at the water then up towards the road, as if trying to decide whether to cross over to the island (in the pix, you can just see the gleam of the channel and the island fifty feet beyond) or go back up the drive to choose another direction. In the end, that's what it did—again passing only a few yards away from Myladylove, Moon, and me.
The deer was obviously used to people, fairly tame, and likely came from the park that's across the river. I expect it had crossed at one of the riffles downstream, where the water is shallower, and didn't quite like the deeper look of things along this stretch. In the end, the whitetail headed up the road, toward the dead end and turnaround—and I lost track. I hope it made it home safely. Though deer are common hereabouts, since moving here seven years ago, this is the first one I've seen in yard.