Early Evening on the Screen Porch

Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

7:00 p.m.
One of the books that (some of) our Baboons read for a recent Baboon Book Club (BBC) gathering was A Slender Thread by Diane Ackerman.

In it she told some of her experiences helping to staff a volunteer crisis hotline for humans, juxtaposed with her observations of the squirrel population in her yard and their crises. I am not, as she was, gathering material for National Geographic, but reading her work has changed me in this way: I’m allowing myself to sit for more than a few minutes to watch the wildlife just outside our back yard screen porch.

Last night was outstanding.

Our big yard must be heaven for the critters. Lined with hedges and a terraced “rock wall” (the chipmunk highway), it has plenty of trees for the squirrels, flowers for the bees and butterflies, and berries for the birds. The huge once-majestic box elder tree has lost all its major limbs now, and the last two are still sitting where they landed beneath it – these now provide another hiding place for the animals.

Box Elder and Sons

We have several resident cottontails that we see regularly for silflay (the morning/evening meal in the meadow, as told in Richard Adams’ Watership Down.


I’ve dubbed them Flopsy, Mopsy, and Mombunny, though of course I can’t tell the younger ones apart. I am watching them closely tonight, because earlier a hawk of some kind (Northern Harrier?) swooped toward a chipmunk who was hanging out by the herb garden.

Hawk 2a

There are now three robins hunting for stuff through the grass – no wait, four – no… five robins. A squirrel just shot across the lawn with a huge green (unhusked) walnut clamped in its jaws. Flopsy scampers around the fallen tree sections, with Mopsy close on his heels. Careful, Flopsy – that hole is where the beehive is, I think. Mombunny is now over by the rock wall on her hind legs, now nibbling on a wild rose twig, now heading for the back 40 – lippity lippity, not very fast.

It’s quieter – just two bunnies left feasting on the clover, Flopsy washing his face like a cat would. He only hops off when Mopsy gets too close, and then they’re racing around again.

Really getting dark now – if their ears didn’t twitch, I’d never see them in the grass. I leave them finally – all I can make out is two darker spots in the dark green of the “way back” lawn/meadow, where they’re probably contemplating how to get back into the veggie garden just beyond.

And that story is for another day

What has been the most critter friendly place you’ve lived?

62 thoughts on “Early Evening on the Screen Porch”

  1. That would be right here on Crystal Bay. We have deer, coyote, racoons, rabbits, chipmunks, Canada geese, loons, mallards, and tons of bald eagles. One fall a few years ago, l looked out the window and, to my amazement, there were over a dozen bald eagles circling the bay while they dive-bombed for fish. This sight was mesmerizing.

    Very nice piece, Barbara!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely writing, Barb.

    The wildlife do love my overgrown and neglected yard.

    The wooded slope on the north side of W 7th in my neighborhood is home to all kinds of wildlife. Coming home from work late at night a couple of weeks ago I saw a doe and her twin fawns making their way through the woods while the cars zipped by on the adjacent street.

    We’ve had hawks in the backyard (you can always tell by the sudden silence), but for me, the best bird-watching for me is when I spot a hummingbird sitting perfectly still in the forsythia next to the hummysuckle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In MY backyard – rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits rabbits.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Good morning. The place where we lived in Clarks Grove had a fairly large collection of wild life for a home in a town surrounded with farmland almost completely devoted to corn and soybeans. I never saw a deer there although one of my neighbors saw one. There were many kinds of birds, bunnies, squirrels, and more rare, but I’m sure they were there, chipmunks, raccoons, opossums, and skunks. I miss seeing morning doves which I saw there and don’t see where we live in Minneapolis.


  4. Nice job, Barb. Your screened-in porch is a wonderful vantage point from which to observe the critters in your yard.

    From 1986 to 1992 we lived in Inver Grove Heights. Our house was at the end of a dead end street on a two and one-half acre lot that sloped gently down to a park below our property. Except for the front lawn, the entire property was left natural. We had five mature apple trees, lots of wildflowers, several kinds of wild berries. Right outside the kitchen window was a giant old oak tree. The property lines to our two neighbors were large spruce trees on one side and smaller oaks on the other. It was a haven for wild critters.

    Deer, fox, chipmunks galore, raccoons, pheasants, red tailed hawks, rabbits and all kinds of birds. (I spent a fortune on various kinds of bird seed.)

    One morning, standing at the kitchen sink, I looked out the window to find myself face to face with a horse! He had meandered up from our neighbor to the the north who had three horses in a five acre grassy paddock. Up close and personal, horses are BIG, and I have had no experience dealing with horses. I tried, unsuccessfully, to coax him out of my flower bed. What do you say to a horse? Here horsey, horsey? I had to go get the neighbor. Over the years there I got to know her quite well, because that horse knew about our apple trees.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Morning all. Lovely piece, BiR.

    I have always lived in urbania with wild maurauding dogs, so my home wildlife sightings are rare. The most exotic thing I’ve seen in my current neighborhood are raccoons and wild turkeys… although never in my own yard.


  6. As many of you know, I live across Minnehaha Creek from VS – and apparently just enough closer to it, that I get the benefit of its relative wilderness in the city for seeing critters. Our increasingly blind basset hound provides no deterrent for fauna – he moves to slowly, I think, and mostly doesn’t see the squirrels or bunnies until they are right in front of him (so long as they are in the field of vision for the one relatively “good” eye). We have had hawks (mostly Coopers Hawk I think, also used to see a kestral in the neighborhood from time to time), bunnies, squirrels and chipmunks (read: food for the hawks), raccoons, a fox (mostly seen as a red-orange streak running through someone else’s yard), and sometimes ducks (though mostly they stick closer to the creek). Butterflies and dragonflies are frequent visitors as well.

    When everything was flooded earlier this summer, there were a number of egrets hanging out by the creek – Daughter and I started naming them (starting with Babe Ruth – the one who hung out in the baseball diamond behind her school). I am glad the flooding has receded, but I miss the egrets.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The first house I bought had a pond in the backyard in the swamp on the side of it adjacent to a golf course. The ducks and geese were plentiful. A horse lived across the pond and my dog roam free making friends with lots of the neighbors for me. my favorite wildlife was the women that I would bring home. Ahhh a different time. I do miss those ducks….
    Today I live on a woodsy lot overlooking the river valley. Turkey’s deer coons and woodland critters know right where the electric fence ends and the bedtime of my 3 dogs
    I have hummingbirds for another couple month ws and goldfinches that are gold right now . They lose the yellow in the winter but still like the thistle we put out
    Bunnies live here but steer clear of dog territory. Vinny and Nala wait in a prepared crouch for the squirrel to look the other way. Every month or two bunny brings me a trophy. He’s so proud. The cats stay up night mousing leave their trophies outside the door where I had better be the first one up or hear a shriek when one of my girls meets Mother Nature on the carpet.
    Great post BiR enjoy your new discovery of taking time with the animals
    Remind me of clyde

    Liked by 1 person

  8. An amazing wild life display that we saw in Clarks Grove was groups of pelicans flying in formation. They were more frequently seen near Albert Lea. We did see them once in a while in the sky over Clarks Grove,


    1. Were they grey or white, Jim? Some years ago I saw a large group of white pelicans off of Highway 61. Hundreds of them, on a small lake. They stayed there for several days before they resumed their migratory path to wherever.


      1. I think the pelican seen in MN is mostly white, with a little black. I never saw them in MN, but my sense is that a bird that is common in the Dakotas has spread eastward and is common in west and west-central MN. Gorgeous to watch them soaring in spirals together in flocks.


  9. We have large colonies of white pelicans who nest and hatch near Lake Audubon in the central part of the state. They look like big boats as they land and take off from the prairie potholes along I-94. Our back yard is very small, but it is lined with bushes and trees and provides nice habitat for birds. We have a bevy of scold wrens, nuthatches, yellow warblers, warbling vireos, finches, mourning coves, collared eurasian doves, and jays, along with the usual robin and black bird. We have crows all over town, and turkey vultures that soar overhead. There is an occasional Swainson’s Hawk, Sharp Shinned Hawk, and kestrel who have made nice meals of the birds at our feeders. Sometimes we have owls. Furry visitors are limited to a couple of bunnies in the front yard, squirrels, and neighbor cats. Husband once saw a weasel slinking out of the garage.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Rise and Shine Baboons (afternoon it is noted)!

    Nice Barb. Thanks for the post.

    2 places. Right here where I am now and on a lake near Grand Rapids, MN. Both are splendid for critter watching.


  11. Lovely piece, BiR. You are so fortunate to live in a place with such varied views of wildlife. My parents used to live on Lake Minnetonka–the home my sister now owns–and watching wildlife was a particular fascination. That resulted in strange stories: the tragedy of Chippie (a chipmunk who paid the ultimate price for my mother’s charity toward him), the baby crow my mother taught to fly, the reluctant wood duck baby that my father saved from sure death, and many others.

    Watching wildlife was our joy at the Cornucopia cabin overlooking Bark Bay. We bought the place after discovering that foxes lived in the quarry in front of the cabin, but they were just the first of many wildlife guests. In addition to foxes, we were visited by a coyote and a wolf. Porcupines settled in under my gazebo. Deer constantly moved through the property, including does with twin or even triplet fawns. I loved seeing deer crossing the property at sunset because the low sun would light up their ears and make them glow like molten metal. We had one lynx walk through. I had to fight a weasel over ownership of a grouse I shot and foolishly put on a wood pile where the weasel lived. I won that fight, but the weasel was strong and so ferocious I ended up fleeing to the cabin for safety.

    Watching critters was sometimes more fun because we could observe our dogs watching them. My first English setter, Spook, used to point chipmunks in the birdfeeders. Spook used to growl protectively when deer walked on “his” turf, but he later got tolerant of them. My guess was that once he’d seen bears on our land, he decided deer weren’t so bad after all. He hated bears, just hated them.

    Bears were the most comical but troublesome visitors. We used to put corn cobs out for squirrels to enjoy, but then bears moved in and hogged the corn. I have a treasured photo of a cub hanging on a pipe birdfeeder in front of the cabin like a drunk swinging from a lampost. What wonderful memories!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. The house my family moved into when I was about five had woods in the backyard and the St. Croix river across the road. We had the occasional snapping turtle wander up from the river, many kinds of snakes, tree toads, occasional deer visits. The most plentiful critters were the birds, though. I especially loved the orioles, and was a little scared of the jays.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I was a kid of about eight I heard a terrible row one morning. Our cat–a tough old tomcat named Timmy who ran free–was being taunted by a jay. Timmy couldn’t quite reach the jay where it perched on a trellis, and Timmy kept yowling curses at the bird. The bird then would give it back to the cat, imitating his ugly threats with a pitch-perfect ear, like a recording. Timmy was mad enough to explode.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The house in Stubbekøbing where I grew up was right across the street from a large park. Summer evenings we’d often get a visit from a mama hedgehog with her babies. We’d set a saucer full of milk out for them, and they would drink their fill. Then they wander back across the street to the park where they apparently lived. Awfully cute small critters.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Pelican’s have a real problem with that double chin thing. Fish pouch? I don’t know. Some plastic surgeon somewhere could tune into corrective surgery for them!

      It is kind of comical in person (or in my case, through the binoculars).

      We are off to the State Fair for Human Critter watching.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Well, since I lived in the country until age 16, I’ve seen a few creatures. When we lived near Lake Elmo, I would see salamanders, frogs, snapping turtles, and things like that. Oh yeah, and skunks! There was probably more, but I don’t remember then now.

    Then when we moved further north, I saw lots of deer, especially in the winter. Bears. Moose. Grouse. Loons. Seagulls. Great Blue Herons. Ducks. I saw a wolf only once, but heard them sometimes. Giant Pileated Woodpecker. Those were the highlights, but one of my favorites was when I saw a Luna moth.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Why am I running off at the mouth today, posting and posting? I’m on a new drug program that has brought blessed (albeit temporary) relief from the worst arthritis pain and stiffness. Now that my fingers suddenly have some flexibility it is too bad I don’t have more to say, but I’m delighting in my liberation. Fingers are so cool when they can bend!

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I am expecting increased sightings in my yard of an elusive creature who is being released into the wild today by the ND Department of Human Services. Today is husband’s last day of work, and, as is typical, he is working late to finish all his paper work. He says he’ll be home by 6:30. Knowing him, I am don’t think he will be home until 8:00.

    Liked by 2 people

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