I like to go outside first thing every morning so I can find out who we lost the day before.
It’s not in the obits. For the news I’m after, you have to take the direct approach and walk around making your own tally from the clumps of feathers, scraps of fur and odd bones that the neighborhood wildlife leave scattered around.
Getting to know the individual animals around you is always rewarding. But man, no matter how safe we keep our city for ourselves, it’s a bad bet to get too attached to any of these wild creatures around here.
Still, it’s hard not to, even when you can’t decide if you’re rooting for the hungry predator or the desperate prey.
The last time the winds came through hard overnight, gusts were still roaring off and on at sunrise. That might be how a big brown bat came to be dragging itself through dirt when I passed by. It looked about as dazed as you’d expect an animal to be if it woke up in mid-air having been blown out of a tree from a solid sleep.
A friend who saw a picture told me where to call for expert advice if the bat needed help getting back to a safe roost before something ate it, and seeing the elfin ears poking up from luxurious brown fur, I get where she was coming from.
But I don’t know how I’d explain to any hawk that might have been watching why I ruined its easy breakfast.
That’s the trouble with paying attention to what the critters are up to. Even in the suburbs, it really is a jungle out there — no good guys, no bad guys, just a fascinating show with every cast member straining to win at least this round of eat-or-be-eaten.
This time of year, though, you really can’t help joining the camp of the new characters that keep getting introduced.
The latest ones to take the stage near me are seven tiny Canada geese that hatched at the neighborhood lake last week. Watching them huddle up and toddle into the water as soon as they notice me and my dog heading their way gives mornings a happy start. But nature being nature, this little comedy comes with a good dose of suspense.
See, I’m not entirely sure that the appearance at the lake of a bald eagle the morning of the goslings’ debut was coincidence. I suspect the newcomer might have already known what I had to look up in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology: Its best shot of tasting one of those yellow fluffballs would be in their first 12 days, and the clock was ticking.
The bald eagle is the talk of the trail around here, strangers pointing it out to each other whenever someone notices which tree it’s perched in. It puts on a spectacular show of snagging catfish from the lake early every morning, and judging by how much of the fish it leaves lying on the grass and trail, it might be fishing for sport.
It certainly seems like a hunter that’s mostly killing time until what it really wants to kill is out of Mom and Pop Goose’s sight for a second.
I suppose that the lake would quickly turn into a mess if every gosling that ever hatched there lived to raise a brood of its own. And, yes, you only get to have the majesty of a bald eagle in your neighborhood as long as the neighborhood keeps it well fed.
But I’m rooting for those fluffballs anyway.
There were still seven this morning. Come on, little guys, you’re halfway to Day 12!
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.