From My Front Porch

The female snapping turtles are still out and about looking for suitable places to lay their eggs.

This always brings back a very fondly held memory. When we were very new residents of Millbrook, we invited old friends to come for a visit at this time of year. During that visit, a snapping turtle came to check out spots near our front porch. We all watched in amazement, but one of our visitors was clearly enthralled. She sat, leaning over the side railing, watching for probably a good two hours as the turtle explored, dug, rested and dug some more. That old friend died this May and I dedicate this column to the memory of Phyllis Garden.

When I was a child I learned my love of birdwatching from my parents. Bird feeders and birdhouses were an important part of our backyard–and watching the users an essential activity. But during the spring migration there were special spots in the woods nearby. My mother and a close neighbour would set off, binoculars around their necks, to one of these spots; and I took to joining them, proudly wearing my own binoculars. Sometimes though we would come home disappointed having seen nothing of interest only to find our own yard alive with migrating birds. That lesson has been driven home many times in my life: stay where you are and very often wildlife will make their way to you.

And what better place than my front porch! The number of sights and sounds I am privileged to experience right from the comfort of my front porch makes me very pleased. Both last year and this year a pair of Baltimore Orioles made the happy choice to nest in a tree in my neighbours’ yard but quite visible from my front porch. It was fascinating watching the female build the nest. The care she took to secure it firmly to several small but strong branches. The craft she employed weaving it and lining it. And now both male and female are busy feeding the young, it is engrossing watching them return to the nest, never in a straight line because that would alert predators to the nest’s presence, to feed the babies and keep the nest clean.

Both this year and last a pair of Red-eyed Vireos selected the same tree to build their nest in. If I hadn’t been able to watch from my front porch I would never have located the nest. It is very small for the size of bird (but then again so is the orioles’) and cleverly camouflaged with strips of bark on the outside. The female just like the oriole took special care to weave a strong ring that attached the nest well between two small branches.

Birds I’m not particularly happy to see from my front porch include a pair of starlings that have found a hole in my large Sugar Maple. In this hole they have raised a brood. Starlings are non-native and sadly they often out-compete other hole-nesting birds. Several years ago I was saddened to see them take over the hole that a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers had excavated. Nonetheless, starlings are comical birds to watch as they squabble amongst themselves.

I could go on and on about other things I see from my front porch. Butterflies, squirrels, chipmunks and many others can be observed. And this doesn’t even begin to cover the trees and plants that I happily admire from my viewpoint. The comings and goings of human life on the street is another piece of the drama I can see everyday. But that topic won’t be covered!

It is a privilege to have a world of wonder to be experienced from right here on my front porch. Robert and I know our good fortune. And having people like dear Phyllis to share it with simply adds to the pleasure. I am always advocating for people to get out and enjoy nature; but so often you can do just that from your window or front porch. Wherever you are able to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, do take advantage. Get out! And enjoy!

GET OUT! by Glen Spurrell

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