No lions and tigers, but …..


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.

Another photo of the bear in the neighborhood.
Another photo of the bear in the neighborhood – submitted to Fauquier Now

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.Black snake in fringetree

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.Yellow flag iris and variegated cattail

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.Snake in koi pond

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.Bumblebee and caryopteris

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.Panicle hydrangea and butterfly

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Absolutely spectacular shots, all. My dear God that bear looked big! Is seeing them that close the norm?

    1. Dave says:

      Until a few days ago I had not seen a bear in the wild since I was a kid camping in the Smokies. So no, and I hope this does not become the norm.

  2. tom says:

    that second snake is a harmless common water snake. it is undoubtedly doing you a favor with your ever swelling fish population, though i doubt it is making a dent…your frogs on the other hand are the ones truly at risk!

    1. Dave says:

      We’ve seen a couple copperheads through the years, but otherwise none of the snakes are anything to worry about, except it can be starling to come upon one suddenly. If every frog that comes out of the five ponds survived the planet would be covered with them, so I’m not too concerned when the snakes grab a few.

  3. Kathleen Webber says:

    Bears have twice decapitated a blue bird house in my yard recently. Blue feathers on ground. Hope bears do not become common in area like the dear herds.
    Are herons able to spear and eat large koi?

    1. Dave says:

      The few times I’ve caught herons in the act they’re holding the fish in their long beaks. I think they fly off to safer ground and then gulp them down. There is a mix of large koi and babies, and I don’t think the herons could handle the weight of the big ones.

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