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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Farm Biodiversity, Part 2

Cherie Langlois
Hobby Farms Contributing Editor

Photos by Cherie Langlois

This opossum caught me by surprise when I opened the lid to our cat food bin!

During the years this farm has been our home, my family and I have discovered our five acres of woods, garden and pasture provide temporary or permanent sanctuary for a diverse collection of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and arthropods (insects and the like). 

In fact, it was the promise of living closer to wild animals—despite challenges posed by poultry-eating predators and garden-decimating pests—that in large part lured us to the country in the first place. 

Now, every day I venture outdoors, or oftentimes merely look out of a window, brings the gift of a wildlife sighting. 

How lucky can a nature-loving girl get?
Take this morning: As I fed the horses, my doggie duo suddenly shot off in hot pursuit of two black-tailed deer wading across the far end of our pasture.  Worried they would hurt the deer—or vice versa, I shouted at Pippin and Daisy to stop, but they ignored me to continue their merry chase. 

It turns out I needn’t have worried. Before my dogs came anywhere near them, the does bounded effortlessly through the tall grass and sailed over the fence. 

A chickadee at our birdfeeder in winter.
Other native mammals we’ve seen use our farm as their homestead, buffet restaurant, motel, pit stop, and/or watering hole include Roosevelt elk, coyote, red fox, raccoon, opossum, snowshoe hare, Douglas squirrel, pocket gopher and little brown bat.

More plentiful, less secretive and easier to observe than mammals, birds fill our world with beauty and song, devour pesty insects (and yes, sometimes our crops), and probably rank as my favorite wild farm denizens/visitors. 

An avid birdwatcher since my teens, I’ve always maintained that if you love watching and identifying our avian friends, and have a pair of binoculars and a field guide handy, you’ll never be bored, no matter where you are.
Here on our farm, brilliant rufous hummingbirds zip cheerily around the honeysuckle and violet-green swallows swoop dizzily over the pasture; raspy-voiced Stellar’s jays flaunt their electric-blue feathers at the feeder; chickadees and kinglets, nuthatches and song sparrows, flickers and sapsuckers bring our petite woodlot alive with sound and bustling activity. 

Not long ago, a shrill cry from high above made me look up from my weeding. In awe, I counted one, two, three, four bald eagles spinning slow circles against the azure sky. 

As for reptiles and amphibians (we have no lake, pond or stream, so no fish), we encounter far fewer of these cryptic creatures: The occasional turquoise-striped garter snake hunting slugs in my garden, a brilliant tree frog pretending to be invisible on an apple or rhododendron leaf, sometimes a little rough-skinned newt plodding across our road (and saved from certain death in the nick of time). 

But we know they’re around—especially the frogs, who burst into ear-ringing song each year to let us know spring has arrived.

I’ll leave arthropods and plants for next time. 

~  Cherie

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Farm Biodiversity, Part 2

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Reader Comments
Wow, that opossum was a surprise!
Tammy, Livingston, TX
Posted: 11/21/2010 5:58:42 PM
Appreciate your articals and I too enjoy the great outdoors! To look at all of the diversity that God has made and not acknowledge that someone greater than me has created all of this is sad! What a beautiful world we live in!!! Keep writing!!!
debra, gosport, IN
Posted: 10/27/2010 2:14:14 AM
Heidi, Orlando, FL
Posted: 8/14/2010 8:12:10 AM
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