With the advent of spring weather, I have found my thoughts turning to reminiscing about spring doings in our garden over the years. Because of the verdant growth, lots of shade and hidey holes, our garden has played host to some interesting animals. One year we had wild rabbits come morning and evening. Well, we think they were wild, although one was pure white and the other black. So perhaps not. They were so cute! Until – we had planted new ground covers and were carefully nursing them. All the grass had been removed. Hubby was sick of mowing lawns. And as is well known, lawnmowers are dreadful polluters of the environment. Our intention was to replace grass with flowering ground covers.
We had bought two expensive pots of what looked like soft, lush green, thick moss. In our minds eye we could see it spreading into a thick, spongy carpet. Beautiful. A daily routine was to check how they were doing. One morning when I went out to look, I was devastated to find one of them had been totally demolished. Some fiend had come and eaten our baby moss plant!! The other had been munched on. It looked decidedly sick. I was determined to catch the monster that had dared to desecrate our new plants.
That very evening, as I looked out the window there it was. The black rabbit. It’s cuteness had dissolved in an instance. The demon was happily munching away on the only remaining moss plant. I noisily opened the sliding door to the decking in front of my office and marched out. I yelled at it. Barely a twitch of the ears. How rude, I thought. I told it to eat some of the other stuff. There was plenty to choose from, I said. No need to be greedy. That one was off limits. Fell on deaf ears. How dare it ignore me like that! I was furious. Stomping down the steps I walked right next to it, talking loudly and gesticulating with my hands. It lazily hopped back a few steps and stared insolently at me. Fiend! I shooed it away. It didn’t go very far. No sooner was my back turned than there it was again – chewing at the precious little bit that was left. Even protective mesh around the plant made no difference. All I can say is, it must have been delicious. Not long after this episode, the rabbits disappeared for good. No doubt they didn’t like being yelled at and found greener pastures elsewhere. We do not have the soft, lush green moss growing in our yard.
Australia is home to many strange creatures. One of the native species that has adapted well to suburban life is the blue tongue lizard. We always welcome them with open arms into our garden as they help to keep bugs and snails at bay. I have found them in our garden shed. In the open ends of drain pipes where it is cool and shady. Under tubs and bushes. A couple of years ago a juvenile moved in and made itself at home. It moved between three or four houses, foraging and growing. There was plenty of juicy food around. Then we noticed that he had been joined by a mate. The time had come to given them names. Abdu and Abdulla seemed appropriate a friend and I decided. It was a woman’s business to allocate names. The happy couple came and went at will maturing into beautiful, sleek suburban garden lizards.
My friend had noticed that Abdu and Abdulla had become proud parents to twins. By the time we were introduced to their family, the twins were already a good eight inches long. Shy to be seen in public, Abdulina and Abdul could be heard rustling around in the undergrowth. We knew they spent a lot of time in the shelter and shade of an overturned flower pot. Often one of the adult’s tails was spied sticking out. Many mistook it for a snake. One day as we were sitting on the front veranda enjoying fresh air and sunshine, we could hear the lizard family in the hedges in front of us. Our little dog was outside with us. She seemed extraordinarily interested in inspecting the shrubbery.
Alas, our attention was diverted. In an instant she dived into the bushes. There was a lot of rustling and scurrying. Tess emerged resplendent with one of the twins firmly grasped in her jaws. Terrier-like she proceeded to give it the death shake. My friend leapt up, yelling at her to drop it. Being a bit of a princess, she immediately stopped, let go of the baby lizard and slunk off to the naughty corner. Picking the injured lizard up, we inspected its wounds. Its throat had been punctured. Tenderly she held it, while I, as the nurse, cleaned its wounds. It was returned to safety under the flower pot. Some hours later, on checking, we discovered it had died. The devastated, grief stricken lizard family moved away from the neighbourhood that had so traumatised their little family.
Wild ducks have been visiting our neighbourhood for many years. Three of them were regular visitors to our front yard every spring. Pickings were juicy there. I was even able to hand feed them for a while once they got used to seeing me. That all changed one day. Our dog happened to be outside when they came foraging. She took exception to their presence in her domain. Quacking indignantly they left with rustling feathers and never came back. Shame. I enjoyed having them around.
Then one year our neighbour’s back yard became home to a breeding pair. It was not long before a nest appeared. Followed in short order with a clutch of eggs. And then the hatched ducklings. Ten of them. One black one. Sadly that one quickly disappeared never to be seen again. Victim to some night time scavenger.
Duckling watch became a favourite neighbourhood pastime. Comfortable and safe in their enclosed backyard, the ducklings waddled around on their little legs. Nibbling here and there they were learning to fend for themselves under the watchful eye of Mother and Father Duck. On some mysterious cue they would spread randomly across the yard. Each intent on their own treasure hunt. A quiet warning quack from Mother Duck brought them all scurrying back to shelter under her wings. Uneasy for some reason she called them back into protective custody. Threat over, little duckling heads soon started peeking out. Soon they would emerge into the sunshine and start all over again.
Sometimes the ducklings, for some duckling reason or other, would put their heads down and dash madly across the entire length of the yard, little legs scurrying hell for leather, barely able to keep themselves upright. Only to tumble topsy turvy, head over beak, dust themselves off, and go again. So entertaining !! We sat and watched them for hours. Laughing at their antics. Enjoying the private show during leisurely sunny afternoon drinks and nibbles. Such delightful fun.
Soon Mother Duck started venturing further afield with her brood. Out of the Backyard into the Big Wide World Beyond the Fence. Mother Duck in front. Little ducklings waddling behind. Watchful eyes led them into neighbour’s yards. At sunset she would take them back home to roost in safety. Her family stayed safe. All accounted for. Their Human Family also kept a close eye on them. Counted heads every day. Even did a daily clean of the back veranda where the ducklings left little piles of fertiliser to be hosed in to the grass.
A wading pool was set up too. The sides were too high so a plank of wood provided an access ramp. It was viewed with some suspicion, this alien contraption in their homespace. Some of the more adventurous ones tested it, but it never really did became a favourite.
They grew bigger and stronger as ducklings and all babies are wont to do. Duckling parental behaviour changed. It seemed cruel to us humans to watch them training their young. Rushing headlong at the babies. Quacking loudly at them, frightening them away. Eating first. Nature’s way of teaching survival skills.
Then came the day Mother Duck decided to return to The Wild with her family. To The Duck Ponds round the corner and down the road. Along a busy road. Human Family concern saw them gather the precious not so little ones into boxes. Transport them safely. To meet, greet and join the Extended Family of Wild Ducks.
I hope they lived a long and happy life in The Wild.
© Raili Tanska