Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Neighbors

We have some strange neighbors around our house. Some of them like to steal the pears and apples from our small backyard orchard. Others are pretty slow at getting around. There's one neighbor that we normally see only after dark. Some are noisy, and others hardly make a sound. Several of the neighbors like to fly, while some love climbing trees. Others are perfectly content to stay on the ground. Some of the neighbors ensure that our garden produces every year, while others help themselves to the harvest without being invited. Some can be a real pain, especially if you make them mad. Another one likes to hang out around our carport and enclosed porch. One of the neighbors even decided to move in and build a house in one of our ferns!

Now I'm sure you've all figured out by now that I didn't decide to write a blog post talking all about our human neighbors, all of whom are fine folks that we are fortunate to live near. No, this post is all about our neighbors from the animal kingdom. For some reason, the past several days have been great ones for wildlife watching around our house. Thanks to modern technology, and the ever-present iPhone, I now have a camera handy and accessible when the opportunity arises to take a picture of one of the neighbors. At the same time, I'll go ahead and apologize if some of the pictures in this post are not of the very best quality. Most of the pictures were taken while I was outside doing something else, and often they were situations where I had to snap a picture quickly or not at all. With that being said, allow me to introduce some of the neighbors.

The Pear Thieves
Doe Under the Pear Tree
 These neighbors are fond of pears, but also green beans, tomatoes, sweet potato vines, and almost anything else that I attempted to grow in the garden this year. The only things that they left me were my peppers, and they even nibbled on the tops of those! Ever since we moved in to our house, we have seen deer fairly frequently. Sometimes we will see them at night in the headlights as we're pulling into the driveway. This time of year however, the old pear and apple trees in the back yard tend to draw them out during daylight hours. They also conducted regular nocturnal raids on our garden this year. In years past we've had a little bit of damage from deer, but this year they wiped the garden out. If anyone has any effective methods for keeping deer out of a garden, I would love to hear them!

The Pollinators
Bumble Bee on Zinnia
This next neighbor is always a welcome sight in the garden. Bumble bees and honey bees are a fairly common sight around our house, and since the garden has past its prime now they have moved from the garden to my wife's flower beds. I'm always happy to see healthy populations of pollinators, even though I do have a healthy respect for their stings. Most of the time, however, we tend to get along pretty well. I try not to disturb them, and they stay busy moving from one bloom to another. 

The Slow Poke
Eastern Box Turtle
This neighbor tends to be fairly slow getting around. Even though he sometimes likes to sample the cantaloupe in the garden, he's a fairly easygoing neighbor. He's also the state reptile of North Carolina, and the only land turtle we have in our state. This eastern box turtle, (or one of his relatives) is a fairly infrequent visitor to our yard. Yesterday was the first time I've seen him this year, but chances are he could have been around when I wasn't there to see him. A quick bit of research showed me that box turtles are extremely long lived reptiles, and this makes me wonder if this is the same turtle I sometimes saw around our house (my grandparents' house then) when I was a young boy. Either way, I don't mind sacrificing the occasional bite from the garden if it'll help keep this slow moving neighbor around.

The Short-Lived Neighbor
Luna Moth
This next neighbor was photographed just by chance. As a young boy, I used to say that I wanted to be an entomologist when I grew up. I wound up an agriculture teacher instead, but somewhere deep down that fascination with bugs stayed with me. Maybe that's why I get such a thrill out of fly fishing for trout? All those stream insects to identify and match! Anyway, back to the subject at hand, I still enjoy seeing and identifying insects, even when they're not potential trout food. I can remember when I was young seeing a luna moth at my other grandparents' house one night, and being thrilled at seeing an insect that I had never seen before. I've only seen a few of these in the years since, possibly because the adults only live about a week and are mainly nocturnal. I was working in the yard yesterday when I just happened to spot this one on one of our pecan trees. They're big, impressive moths and I had to stop and take a picture. Somewhere inside, that little five year old entomologist was smiling from ear to ear!

The Nighttime Noisemakers
Katydid on Hosta
For some reason, I've been seeing a fair number of these nocturnal neighbors during the day. However, every night I go to bed hearing their serenades outside the window. This must be a good year for katydids, because they do seem to be everywhere. These are another insect that reminds me of childhood, spending the night at my grandparents' house and sleeping with the windows open. Without fail, the katydids always provided a concert after the sun went down.

The Home Builder

This next neighbor is a next door neighbor, in this case living right next to our door. I'm not 100% confident on my bird identification, but as near as I can tell this nest belongs to a house sparrow. She is camera shy and doesn't want to hang around long enough to get a picture, but I did very carefully take a picture of the nest and eggs today. She always flies off the nest but only to the nearest perch, a crepe myrtle just a few feet away from our carport. It will be fun watching her and seeing her raise her babies. 

The Short Tempered Neighbors
Wasps on the Nest
These neighbors are the kind of neighbor most people avoid. They tend to build along the underside of our front porch roof, in the carport, and on the window sills. Every summer there are several wasp nests around our house, and as much as I try to have a live and let live attitude when it comes to the neighbors, these usually wind up getting evicted when they get too close to home. The only problem is it seems like when I get rid of a nest, a new one takes its place rather quickly. Evidently our house must be prime real estate for wasps!

The Camera Shy Neighbors
There are several more neighbors that didn't want to have their picture made for this blog post. We have an American toad that hangs out around our driveway at night. There is a five-lined skink that sometimes sneaks into our screen porch, and tends to give my wife a surprise from time to time. The yard is home to several gray squirrels, who love our pecan trees, and the last few days it seems the back yard is where the local crows are holding their morning meeting. With the exception of the damaged garden, I enjoy having all these neighbors around. For the most part, we all get along fairly well. 

- Joseph


  1. I love these blogs you are quite a talented writer keep it up

  2. This post gave me a chuckle! Some of those neighbors are more demonstrative than others, aren't they?

    1. They sure are! I enjoy them all, even the garden eaters.

  3. These strange neighbors are lucky to have human neighbors as understanding as you folks!

    1. It can be hard to be understanding with the neighbors at times, but I do enjoy their company.

  4. Enjoyed reading this Joseph. I know living in your grandparents house brings many memories of the many hours you spent there. These neighbor creatures are probably from the same generations that were there in those summer days long ago.

    1. I often wonder, especially about that box turtle. I can remember one hanging around here when I was young and I know they can live a long time. It's fun to think that it may be the same turtle, even if it isn't.


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