When wildlife is invited into the garden the gardener must be prepared for anything. Of course, not lions or tigers, but possibly bears (below). The cycle of life that we promote is likely to attract beasts of all sorts, large or small, welcomed or not. Some will arrive for the water, shelter, or berries, and others to prey on the ones that are eating the fruits. Thankfully, many that we prefer not to confront face to face visit at night, and are quickly spooked by other visitors so that the gardener is forever unaware of their presence.
Thus (and this should be considered a blessing), I am aware that skunks regularly visit the garden, but I have never seen one besides the unfortunate fellow who wandered into a trap set by a clueless exterminator who was hired (unsuccessfully) to clear squirrels out of our attic. Deer practically stampede though the garden, and preventative measures are required to prevent them from devouring many of the plants. Of course, squirrels and a variety of birds are ever present, and a few days ago I spotted a bear. Occasionally, I see chipmunks that scamper about cautiously to avoid the attention of hawks that circle endlessly overhead, but most commonly I see snakes.
Yesterday, there were two snake sightings, of two different snakes. My wife heard the commotion of squawking birds in the front garden, and when she investigated she found a black snake climbing into the fringetree (above), attempting to rob a bird’s nest of its young. The birds were frantically pecking at the snake, and my wife tried to help by swatting at it with a broom while keeping a safe distance. When this proved futile, she grabbed an old basketball to hurl at the snake, who was hardly bothered by all this. My wife fled the scene before witnessing the end result, so we don’t know if the birds were successful in fending off this invader, but a few hours later when I went to fetch the broom that was stuck in the tree, all seemed well.
The second sighting was in the koi pond in the rear garden (above), and this snake has obviously taken permanent residence in the boulders that surround the pond. Until a few years ago I called this pond a swimming pond, but then the number of koi swelled to a hundred or more, and with frequent snake sightings I decided to enjoy the pond from the outside. I’m not petrified by snakes, but it’s probably best for both of us if we avoid surprise encounters.
The snakes, I assume, feed on any smaller things they can catch, and from frogs to field mice (and chipmunks) there’s something moving through the garden around every corner. I wonder about the snake in the pond. When koi and goldfish were kept in the smaller ponds I’d occasionally spot a garter snake clutching a small fish, attempting to drag it onto dry land. By the time I happened upon this scene it was usually too late for the fish, and the snake fled in terror.
Now, there are no fish in the smaller ponds, but not because of the snakes. A heron nearly cleaned fish out of a few of the ponds before survivors were transferred into the newly constructed koi pond. In this deeper pond herons have a much more difficult task since they are not able to stand on the bottom to fish (not that they’ve stopped trying, but I’m guessing with little success). I’ve not been able to tell if the resident snake has had success in capturing fish in this larger pond, but if the koi are too difficult to snare there are dozens and maybe hundreds of frogs. This is the second year the snake has been in the pond, so I suppose he’s satisfied with the food supply.
In any case, the gardener is aware of the goings on of birds, butterflies, and bees (above and below), and these are the delightful side of the wildlife that visits our gardens. The presence of bears and snakes alerts us to another side that is less pleasant.