Visitors from the Wild
I don’t ever think about salamanders, but fished one out of the pool last Sunday. I believe it’s a Northern Redback, but what do I know about salamanders? Next to nothing. I spend as much time outdoors as I can, but I don’t poke around in streams or under logs and leaves looking for critters. No, the only time I really see the creatures in the world adjacent to mine is when they come to visit. Usually that means they’ve gotten into the pool and can’t get out.
Many visitors from the wild are commonplace. Birds are lured to the feeders. Rabbit, chipmunk, squirrels, turkey, skunk, raccoon, turtles, frogs and deer are regular visitors. And so are the creatures that hunt them. Walking at night you’ll hear coyote or the strange cries of a fisher cat break the stillness. Hunters, especially nocturnal hunters, are much harder to see, but you know they’re out there if you pay attention.
The wild where I live is right on the other side of the fence. We live adjacent to protected woodland that abuts horse fields on the opposite side from our yard, and runs uphill to form an unbroken necklace of wooded shelter for wildlife. Within that necklace, Providence Hill Brook runs down that hill right behind our yard, flowing into Hog Hill Brook down the street, which eventually flows into the Spicket River to the Merrimack River and finally to the Atlantic Ocean. This waterway is a highway for all kinds of creatures – from salmon to the first explorers to this land.
We get a lot of toads and frogs visiting the yard. Sadly I found a toad with my spade when I was digging in the garden. It didn’t end well for that toad. Generally I’m able to avoid harming more than I hurt. I spend a lot of time fishing frogs out of the pool. The relocation program for survivors begins with the pool net and ends at Hog Hill Brook, which should be a more attractive home than my pool.
A few weeks before that I was looking for pole beans in the garden when I looked a garden snake in the eye. It was sunning itself five feet high up on the trellis. Outside of taking a picture I let her be. Snakes are hunters doing a great service to the local ecosystem, and seeing this one confirms that overall that ecosystem is healthy.
The ancestors of these visitors from the wild were living in this neighborhood long before we built here. Hopefully their descendants will be here long after we’re gone. Any illusion of permanence on my part is tempered by the old stone wall that runs between the woods and my backyard. I like that the local ecosystem still supports visitors from the wild despite the encroaching development. We’re surrounded by woods and streams on all sides that should never be developed. But other forested areas are being razed nearby, disrupting the local ecosystem there. Will that impact my own someday? I think that’s likely. We’re all connected aren’t we?
The joy of visitors from the wild are in learning a little bit more about the place I call home. I’ve lived here for almost 20 years, and that was the first salamander that I’ve seen. Makes you wonder what else is out there, hidden from view. I’m grateful for the visit, and look forward to seeing who stops by next. The world is right in front of us, is we’d only pay attention to it.