Monday, May 23, 2011


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.

Breakfasting robin.
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. 

Nasal nuthatch.
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.


Gail said...

Great post - amazing pictures, as always. :-) And deer? They frequent ouir yard. I love when they visit. For some reason their presence is a natural message to me/us- that we are all connected. Ya know? I love your world. I do.

Grizz………… said...


Saturday was just of of those days when the photos came to me. The deer was neat. I see deer often on the island across from the cottage, which is only a distance of 50-60 feet. But I've never seen one in the yard.

You are exactly right in that we are all connected. Even those city dwellers who hate the woods and fields and nature are, whether they know or not, connected. Nature is a patchwork quilt that sustains life; without nature, mankind and all his fancy technologies, cease to exist.

Hope you had a lovely weekend….

Anonymous said...

Your home sounds like a wonderful haven. I like the company you keep :)

Scott said...

I wish I were so lucky to have seen only one deer in my yard in seven years; more typically, I see seven deer in my yard every day (to be honest, it's usually five). I can't grow anything unless I put it behind a fence, so be grateful that you have only seen this one deer once!

Grizz………… said...


It is a haven, for us and the critters who also call the place home. And a wonderful place to live if you're willing to deal with the river's moods and an old stone house badly in need of more repairs than necessary cash. Some days here are quite the adventure; and most are a real blessing.

Grizz………… said...


Yup, I know you're right. And doubtless if I had a plot of land big enough to plant a worthwhile garden that was completely or mostly shaded—which I would certainly do—I'd be seeing a regular plague of munching whitetails. Nope, I'm content to have a briefly visiting deer in the yard just often enough for it to be a neat novelty, and otherwise view them on the island and in all the fields and borderlands a quarter-mile up the road.

Kay said...

What a great day for great yard critters! Seeing a newly hatched turtle was a special start to the day.As always, love your words and photos.

Grizz………… said...


That's one of the real joys of living here, the way every day is a new adventure and you just never know what you'll see next. There's probably not a day passes that I couldn't sit on the deck, or walk around the yard, and not see something interesting to photograph and write about. I'm glad you liked the pix and piece. Thank you for your nice comments.

P.S. That's a beautiful hummingbird shot in your recent post. What a breathtaking bird!