Thursday, August 20, 2009
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been admiring a large flock of Canada geese that have taken up residence at a house near mine. The place is a mini-farm with a pasture and a pond, so it’s an ideal stop for migrating waterfowl. I haven’t noticed it attracting many birds in the past, but this year it’s goose central. There are always at least three dozen geese strutting around the property when I drive by in the morning. Occasionally they go for a group nibble on the grass across the road, forcing drivers to slow down and edge through the crowd. The folks who own the house seem to be the tolerant type. I haven’t seen any sign of them trying to evict the birds—but as it turns out, they didn’t need to. I drove by yesterday morning on my way to the park, and there was not a goose in sight, nor any sign that they’d been there. Same story today. Apparently, the anserine rapture arrived.
The absence of the geese made me feel a little sad, so I was happy to encounter a woodchuck when I got to the park. I love woodchucks. This one was standing up in a grassy area near a picnic shelter. He let me get within about 30 feet of him, then he turned around and ran toward the trees in that loping, faster-than-you’d-expect woodchuck way. He came to a narrow sidewalk beside the shelter and abruptly disappeared—just vanished, like Alice down the rabbit hole.
Woodchucks are burrowers, but they like to make their homes in sheltered places, usually along the tree line. I couldn’t believe this one had dug his hole right out in the open. When I got to the spot where he disappeared, I couldn’t even see a hole. I hunted a while and finally discovered a tiny opening under the sidewalk, clearly a rodent excavation. It seemed way too small for a fat woodchuck, but he had to be in there. I peeked inside carefully (woodchucks bite!), but it was too dark to see him, and he didn’t stir. I marveled at his brilliance. A concrete bunker might lack the charm of a burrow under the trees, but no coyote or bobcat will ever successfully invade his space.
As I type this, I can see “my” woodchuck rooting around under the bird feeders in the back yard. I worry about her safety, but I doubt she’d make use of a concrete bunker if I provided it. I suspect it’s hard to impose innovation on a woodchuck.
Groundhog photo by EIC from Wikimedia Commons.