For no particular reason, my wife and I are disappointed by the lack of turtles in the garden. Only once has one been seen. He lingered in the depths of the koi pond for a few days, the koi ignored him, and then he was gone. Several years ago, a large snapping turtle was seen just up the road, but I don’t think this is what we have in mind.
Even without turtles, there is plenty of wildlife in this garden, though I’m certain most visits are after sundown with little evidence left behind. Occasionally, the sealed container of koi food is knocked off the bench where it’s left for convenience. I suspect raccoons or skunks, both of which are known to visit after dark, but are never seen. Several years ago an exterminator hired to remove squirrels from our attic caught a skunk and possum on consecutive nights. Why the fellow was trapping in the garden, where we know there are a variety of critters, instead of in the attic, we couldn’t figure, and soon after his services were terminated (without capturing any squirrels).
With a variety of trees and shrubs, and many flowers, there are bound to be caterpillars and a variety of insects, which of course attract birds and then a variety of predators. To my eye, most of this happens peacefully, though the natural world can be violent, as well as wondrous. A consequence of this world is that one beast eats another, while innocently, I am only concerned that caterpillars are eating the leaves of the redbuds.
I hold dragonflies in high regard, besides the beauty of their bright metallic colors. Dozens occupy the vicinity of the large koi pond, where they buzz about in a seemingly never ending quest to defend their territories. Mostly, I appreciate that they keep this area relatively free of the dreaded tiger mosquitoes that terrorize other parts of the property, which borders wetlands where breeding is inevitable. In fact, there are plenty of potential breeding areas for mosquitoes in the garden, where I have no intention of filling in every mud hole or cleaning up every pot that catches rainwater.
On a rare occasion a few days ago when my wife accompanied as I walked through the garden, she cautioned as I approached a Tiger swallowtail supping nectar from the Mountain mint. The afternoon was intermittently sunny, and in a cloudy moment there were fewer wasps and bees on the mint. Still, my wife was concerned for my safety, though the wasps rarely seem bothered by my presence.
There are abundant numbers of bumblebees in this garden, and I suspect most gardeners consider these to be gentle beasts. Only in mid March, while feeding on early flowers of pieris, have I found them to be aggressive, though I’m not aware of what it is they could do to harm a person. For a few weeks, I don’t venture too close, taking the long way around rather than brushing past the agitated bees on the path to the back deck.
A hummingbird (or perhaps hummingbirds, though only one is seen at a time), regularly visits in mid summer. The garden has not been planted to attract hummingbirds or butterflies specifically, but when shrubs or summer flowering perennials are planted it is inevitable that some will attract these treasures. I haven’t the patience to be still long enough to capture photos of hummingbirds, but pictures of butterflies are easily captured.
Mostly, there are swallowtails, and then smaller and less distinctive butterflies and moths. No poisons are sprayed in this garden (though foul smelling deer repellents are sprayed monthly), so beetles and caterpillars are free to feast on whatever their little hearts desire. A year ago one redbud was stripped of foliage by mid summer, and the catalpa has lost every leaf to caterpillars for a second year. For several years, the foliage of Golden Chain trees was eaten, but natural cycles or predators prevent these from being annual problems. The trees recover, though the redbud is not quite as full this year, and I’m thankful that only a few caterpillars have been seen this summer.
I’m reminded that a year ago I saw a large black bear just across the street in early morning, and since we’ve had no repeat visits. I suppose the bear came through the section of forest that borders the garden, but no harm was done, though there were reports in nearby neighborhoods that a few trashcans were tipped over. Still, no lions or tigers, so it seems safe enough to be outdoors.