Sure signs of spring

colorful deck chairs 4-1-2014

A sure sign of spring. Colorful Adirondack chairs on the roof of Rhoads, a wonderful garden/landscaping shop in North Wales, PA.

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I found bunnies!

Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that I was mourning the lack of rabbits in my area? These last few days, I’ve seen them everywhere.

I walked out of my apartment building early Tuesday morning, and spotted two palm-sized, fuzzy baby bunnies wandering the lawn by the stream. Wednesday, I flushed three more tiny rabbits from the garden at work. Thursday evening, after the storms ended, I drove past another couple of small brown bunnies hopping through a grassy field. And then, while walking in the park later that evening, I saw at least half-a-dozen rabbits running in and out of the tall grasses lining the paths.

And the important thing about all these sightings is that all of these rabbits were small. They ranged from the baby variety measuring maybe four-to-six inches long to the juvenile eight-to-ten inch size. None of them, though, appeared to be adults.

Logically, of course, there have to be adults around. I mean, where else would baby bunnies come from? But the adults — are in hiding.

Maybe they’ve become ultra-paranoid about being hunted, given the jump in the number of hawks and foxes around, and are wisely keeping out of sight of the predators. Or perhaps their little brains (and the brain of a rabbit is very tiny, according to my friends who have pet bunnies) have finally assimilated the fact that in rabbit versus car competitions, the car always wins, and so the adult rabbits now avoid the roadways.

Whatever the reason, I’m not seeing any adult rabbits, but I now have pretty concrete evidence that they’re still in the area. I hope that the plethora of babies I’m seeing means that the population is beginning to grow again. Rabbits are such an integral part of my concept of a healthy world; not seeing them had me worried that our local forests were going to be devoid of animals. Not that that would occur — we’ve got enough white-tailed deer here to stock a good-sized farm — but no matter how graceful they are, deer just can’t replace bunnies in my heart.

And of course, the bunnies are just So. Darned. Cute!

Do you know Mr. Toad?

So, can anyone identify the mysterious Mr. Toad shown below?

Last Friday, two co-workers and I were among the last people to leave our offices for the long holiday weekend.  It had been raining all day, and when we got to the parking lot, we found Mr. Toad waiting for us:

mr Toad

The picture really doesn’t do him justice.  He had a wonderful, brilliant green face — and a defiant, belligerent expression.  Which makes more sense if you see where we spotted him:

standoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, that’s him.  Right under the bumper of — and in a standoff with — my co-worker’s SUV.

We walked up next to him and he just held his ground.  We aimed cameras at him and he didn’t bat an eye.  My co-worker started her car, and despite the roar of the engine over his head, he didn’t give up an inch of pavement.  For long minutes he refused to yield — and when he finally moved, where did he go?

Further under the car.

Fortunately (through courage, good sense or sheer terror), he held still when the car backed up, and as we left the parking lot and headed home, I could see him in my rear-view mirror, still hopping around in the puddles.

We have a parking lot that is bordered by a strip of mixed trees and bushes, and through that wood flows a tiny stream.  As a result, we have wildlife — deer, groundhogs, voles and mice, the occasional skunk or garter snake, a resident fox and numerous birds.  But this is the first time I’ve ever seen a toad — or is he a frog? — anywhere in the area.    He (or she) may have ventured out in search of food, or perhaps the poor thing was driven out because the stream was overflowing its banks (the first time I’ve ever seen it do that).

It was a lovely gift of Mother Nature and made us all laugh as we headed home.  Now, if only I could identify his species.  I’ve had no luck finding that face in any online databases of wild animals.  A trip to the library may be in order this weekend.

Meanwhile, let’s all admire the courage of Mr. Toad, who faced off with a behemoth SUV — and lived to hop another day.

Where did all the bunnies go?

I’ve only just now noticed — where have all the rabbits gone?

I spent this Memorial Day weekend wandering around the Philadelphia area, thinking deep thoughts and making a few key decisions on where I want to go from this point in my life.  Much of that was done while walking in the woods, in fields, along the rivers and creeks of the area.  I saw a lot of wildlife.  What I didn’t see was the usual spring glut of fuzzy, brown bunny rabbits feeding on new grass and clover.

I passed massive numbers of whitetail deer, including two absolutely adorable, wobbly-legged spotted fawns trailing behind their mother as she fed her way across a meadow of mixed grasses and other greens.  They kept getting distracted by everything they saw, stopping and staring wide-eyed at everything in their path, then skittering quickly to mother when they realized she’d gotten farther than 6 feet away.  And I was impressed by a buck at the Wildlife Sanctuary — his antlers, covered in soft velvet, had already grown taller than his rather large ears, promising to be a spectacular set of antlers by autumn.

Every lawn I passed, including tiny patches of grass along the highway, sported its own groundhog.  I watched red-tail and Cooper’s hawks circle in the sky, while every tree, bush and spike of tall grass had a red-winged blackbird, variety of sparrow or cardinal perched in or on it.  I heard owls hooting and woodpeckers tapping deeper in the trees.  At night, I held my nose while skunks wandered around my apartment complex — I have to admit, they are cute, as long as you don’t need to breath.  And last night, as I stopped at the local library to return my books, I came face to face with a pair of red foxes.  The smaller one sat down, demurely tucking its tail over its paws, while the taller one stood nearby, watching me as I walked back to my car and then drove away.

There are enough squirrels running around to populate an entire city.  Enough said about the rats with furry tails.

Then, this morning, I once more carried a box turtle across the road by the Sanctuary.   I’ve had to do that at least two dozen times every year for the past five years.  I’m not sure if the Sanctuary has a lot of turtles — there are many small streams and large ponds dotting the landscape — or if this is the same turtle every time, hitchhiking to its destination.  Either way, I simply can’t leave it (him? her?) in the middle of the road to be run over.

And as I placed the turtle in the grass on the other side of the road, it suddenly hit me.

There are no rabbits.

Three years ago, I couldn’t keep the fit-in-the-palm-of-my-hand baby bunnies out of the garden at work.  I had to drive slowly along every road, because there was always a rabbit charging blindly out of the weeds into traffic.  I could walk the Pawlings Road trail along the river in Valley Forge Park and see a dozen or more in a quarter-mile stretch of pathway.

And now, there are no rabbits.  None.  I can’t honestly recall the last time I saw a furry bunny bounding along the road, ignoring me while I cursed them and yanked my car into the other lane to avoid hitting the silly rabbit.

Is it my imagination or are the rabbits now — endangered?  We have a good supply of foxes and hawks, both of which seem to have adapted well to suburban life and probably relish a good meal of bunny rabbit.  Have they been run over by so many cars that the population has dwindled?  Or is there something else going on?

I never thought I would say I mis the rabbits — but I do.  I really do.  Silly rabbits — come back!