Backyard circle of life…and lessons on the trail with two young children!

I had to swallow hard with the whole circle-of-life drama. Our hawk is definitely still hanging around! Jay and I had a rare moment to actually sit in our backyard and with no warning the rush of those powerful wings swooshed past our heads to make a strategic strike against the bird feeder.  Finches and sparrows scattered for the hedges sounding an immediate alarm and all we saw in those split seconds was a spray of feathers.

I may primarily be a city girl, but I do love our encounters with wildlife. They may be unexpected, but they’re not that rare! My well-being seems to boost with each addition to the list of visitors–although some have been rather inconvenient. We survived multiple seasons of skunks nesting under our house.  Although blockade after blockade promised hope of defense, these crafty characters fought back.  And they have a mean defense!  It’s humbling to sit in church listening to people mutter and sniff as they try to detect the origin of the strange smell we carried in on our clothing.

Then there was the fox that “took” our family bunny, the heron that sat on the roof eyeing the fish in our backyard pond, and the peacocks that visited the neighborhood for about three weeks, sunbathing on our roof and sleeping in our planter boxes.  Some of the neighbors vociferously complained about the subsequent garden destruction, but the birds were magnificent.  I wasn’t too happy with the neighbors!

Queen of the backyard

The other day a raccoon was in our pond and got to the fish.  Neighbors reported a driveway sighting, and although we didn’t witness his nocturnal deeds, we did discover the destruction—missing fish and shredded water lilies. The fish did not go down without a fight!

But nature’s backyard drama isn’t an entirely comfortable story for my two little gals! My overt enthusiasm has contributed to a climate of concern and lots of questions from Sophia.  She’s been very curious about wolves and coyotes.  I could answer “no” to the wolves, but there have been coyotes in the neighboring golf course.  “No” they aren’t in our backyard—at least not very often. Now when she spends the night she wants to make sure the gate is closed.  I think we’ve frightened her just a little bit.  Karina loves the squirrels and birds in the yard, and on occasion she reports an owl sighting.  She, too, has a great imagination!

So to add a little education and begin to dispel any misinformation we took a short field trip to Eaton Canyon–located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and only twenty minutes from home.  The girls are too young for all but the opening-hiking trail, but the Nature Center is a great way to begin talking about the animals that live in our local mountains.  They were less interested in the mountain lion, bear and opossum, but couldn’t get enough of watching the snakes in the terrariums.  One of the snakes was poised and ready to eat its goldfish lunch. To their disappointment he wasn’t planning to eat with an audience!

Snake with goldfish lunch...a matter of time!

It was a little drizzly and we weren’t dressed for much of a hike—that, and I also saw a sign that told us what to do if we encountered a mountain lion on the trail—so I wasn’t venturing too far with two small children.  But maybe another time we’ll sign up for a guided family hike.  It was beautifully serene and oh-so-quiet! Karina stopped in her tracks and with hushed tones commented, “Look at the pretty mountains.”  That acknowledgement from a two-year old made the whole effort worthwhile.


What preschoolers enjoy doing on a hike!

Scrub and the San Gabriels