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My outdoor friends

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I’ve mentioned before that I live on a ten-acre lot in a semi-rural setting. The neighbors across the street raise miniature horses, the ones behind me raise cows. I enjoy sitting outside in the early evenings to watch the ponies and listen to the frogs and crickets rejoice as the hot summer days begin to cool. I keep a hummingbird feeder near my patio, and I get a kick out of watching the feisty hummers and the downy woodpeckers who love to steal the nectar. (The downy in the photo above was annoyed with me because I wanted to clean and refill the feeder. He was waiting impatiently when I brought it back out, much to the irritation of the hummingbirds who do their best to scare him away).

The downy woodpeckers, several larger woodpeckers, and mockingbirds eat the suet from a feeder hanging from a white ash tree at the end of the patio, from which also dangles a bird feeder that attracts several varieties of birds, and a thistle feeder that draws goldfinches and house finches. We have a lot of mockingbirds; the babies hop around our patio making shrill demands for food. We used to have a few bird houses in which bluebirds and sparrows raised several generations of offspring, but the tornado that hit our house in ’05 destroyed them all and we haven’t gotten around to replacing them yet.

Our patio has briefly entertained raccoons and opossums, box turtles and the occasional snake, and I always have to stop whatever I’m doing and watch them. There’s just something fascinating to me about watching wildlife.

After dinner yesterday, I looked out my kitchen window and saw a fat skunk waddling across the back of the property. This isn’t new for us; last year, I saw one skunk so often I even named it “Pepe.” It grew so comfortable with us that it wandered across the patio as I sat outside a couple of times. I can’t say I was as comfortable with Pepe. Every time s/he came that close to me, I froze and was afraid to move a muscle until it moved back out into the yard and pasture. So when I saw the skunk through the window yesterday, I merely smiled and said, “Why, hello, Pepe.” And then I noticed the two cute little balls of fur toddling behind it. This Pepe is a mommy. I grabbed my camera but they ducked into a drainage pipe before I could get a clear photo. I’ll try again if they show up this evening, though my husband is hoping they’ll move on.

As day fades into evening, two huge owls glide overhead to perch in the trees close to the patio.  I think they’re barred owls, but it’s always dusk when they show up, so I have a hard time seeing details. They fly absolutely silently, so it’s always a bit startling when they swoop down in front of us in search of whatever prey they’re finding in our yard and pasture. They don’t seem to be at all wary of us as we sit in our wrought iron rockers and watch them. The sheer size of them is impressive, and I love seeing them silhouetted against the night sky. I snapped a photo last night, but I wasn’t using a tripod, so the image is a bit blurred.

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I love taking day trips or vacations to lakes and mountains where I can watch the wildlife. Birds and deer and chipmunks in the woods, turtles and otters and beavers in the water — even snakes, as long as they’re a safe distance away. On long, cross-country drives, I’ve glimpsed elk and black bears and eagles, among many other species. I entertain myself on the rather boring drive from here to Memphis by counting the hawks I spot during the two and a half hour drive  (my record is 61). My dream vacation is an Alaska cruise so I can see the wildlife and especially whales!

I’m content to have only two full-time pets, our cat, Izzie and the turtle, Elizabeth, but God has filled the world with animal friends for me to enjoy. What are your favorite animals to watch?

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Award-winning, best-selling author of women's romance fiction.

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