seven-spotted ladybug beetle
At first glance the yard appears to be just like any number of suburban lots: not particularly large, with a manicured grass lawn, some trees, and some flower beds. It has the advantage of being adjacent to an undeveloped area and a large lake (not visible from the house), but it takes more to welcome the fauna. Julia has added the requisite features to entice wildlife: food and water. At times she's had a salt lick for the deer, and frequently puts out leftovers, as well as maintaining bird feeders and a bird bath.
The viewing situation is ideal. There are large glass doors and windows all across the back of the house. The back fence is just a low chain link barrier, and the undergrowth in the immediate vicinity behind the yard is kept mowed, so the view extends out to a little clearing in the woods. Breakfast is a special experience when one might glimpse early morning wild visitors through the window while enjoying the savory repast. It is also not unusual to spot creatures while sitting in the living or dining rooms. Watching wildlife from the comfort of a nice house is a pleasure not to be ignored.
The most noticeable and frequent visitors are birds. From the tiny hummingbirds to crows and roadrunners, they are visible during almost any time of the day. Doves, cardinals, blue jays, finches, warblers, nuthatches, mockingbirds, wrens, grosbeaks and woodpeckers can be seen from any of the back-facing windows. I was once sitting in the covered patio outside the kitchen when I heard a scratching on the roof overhead. Assuming that a crow or jay was up there, I went out in the lawn to take a look. It was rather startling to see a roadrunner calmly searching for insects in the tree debris up on the roof, acting much like a barnyard chicken. The hummingbird feeders hung under the same patio roof will lure the tiny birds to within a few feet of a person sitting still, and seed scattered near the back windows assures close-up views of cardinals.
Of course, the animals that most impress us are the megafauna. I'm not talking about animals as big as the famous Pleistocene mammoths and ground sloths, but rather speaking in relative terms here. Think "bigger than a breadbox." We commonly see squirrels and rabbits, and sometimes even raccoons. Opossums are likely to be encountered when we take the dog out to do her business at night. But the best sightings are the deer and coyotes that occasionally appear just beyond the fence. Mostly in the early morning, these moments have a magical quality, with the animals appearing suddenly out of the surrounding brush and then vanishing just like actors who are done with their scene.
eastern yellowbelly racer
There is nothing quite as successful at reminding us of the much bigger world we inhabit than to glimpse a bit of it from the cozy comfort of a typical suburban home.