Animal Moments

Neighborhood Critters

May 2, 2007

My almost daily walk takes me through a well-to-do neighborhood that borders on my own (more modest) one. Among the trees and expansive and expensively-kept yards I am always on the lookout for “urban” wildlife (meaning the common birds and small mammals that thrive there). Today I had three animal moments in close succession.

I had just been eyeing a plaster rabbit in a garden I passed, thinking it really was much larger than life, not realistic. A moment later, a real eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvagus floridanus) crossed my path and slipped into the thick foliage of a perennial garden. I took a few steps, stopped, and looked to my right. There she was, holding completely still and therefore knowing she was invisible. I got to examine her for a quiet moment and was struck by how big and prosperous she looked. Those bright eyes. That lustrous fur. The plaster rabbit was no exaggeration at all. And this had to be a female, since in the leporids, as in few mammals, the females are larger than the males. Miss Bunny was obviously feeding well on the costly plantings in this favored neighborhood.

As I continued walking I suddenly noticed a black squirrel (the melanistic variety of Sciurus carolinensis is common around here) perched in the crotch of a well-grown ash (?) tree and nibbling happily on what looked like a chunk of Pepperidge Farm cookie. The squirrel noticed me and froze, clasping the cookie. Would he have to interrupt his treat and climb to greater safety? I said to him, “Don’t worry, fella. I don’t want any of your cookie,” and kept walking. I am confident that the little guy went right back to his snack when the danger was passed.

There was a third moment on my walk when a male cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), who made a noisy call from above as I walked along, flew down and landed in a flowering tree—they are oh so pretty this time of the year—near the sidewalk. I silently applauded the good taste of the orangey-red bird, who chose a white rather than a pinkish-purple flowering tree for his perch.

I feel much more at home in that neighborhood when I see these bits of wild life sharing its wealth.