Wildlife on the Main Line

Sharing the neighborhood with mutant squirrels, deer you want to pet, and birds you try to save from your dog's teeth

One of the best things about living on the Main Line is the abundance of nature. We lucky residents are surrounded by natural beauty. There is no shortage of trees and streams and the creatures that inhabit nature — for better or worse. I should have known what was in store for us with all this wildlife the first morning we woke up in our new house and found what we decided must have been an inside-out groundhog on our front lawn, entrails and all. We further deduced a hawk must have dropped it there. Nothing like a housewarming gift.

Personally, I love the wildlife. Usually. I think deer are the most amazing creatures. I wish they’d let me pet them. I’d get them deer beds for my family room. I am even happy to let them treat my evergreen bushes as a salad bar. I’d rather buy new bushes than shoo them away. I feel very much alone in my adoration for these creatures, though. My contractor hunts them, my neighbors consider them a threat to their beautiful gardens, and the township shoots them. I know, I know, Lyme disease and road hazards, right? Well they’re still adorable. The deer and I are on our own, I guess. Except when I have to pull ticks off my dog. They lose me there.[SIGNUP]

Then there are the raccoons and squirrels. We have a particularly interesting breed of squirrels in our area. In spite of the overabundance of acorns and other natural food items, they prefer to feast from our trash bins. We’ve had to replace the bins a few times because our squirrels are a mutant strain that eat right through those heavy-duty lids. (Evolution should give them hands one day.) Acorns? Not so much. Last night’s chicken and the old Easter candy? Right on! The raccoons also appreciate the garbage buffet served nightly. They, however, prefer to dine on the hood of my husband’s really nice car. Apparently they have quite a picnic, based on their remnants. We really need a Kryptonite lock for the garbage can.

Next are the birds. I was never a bird person until I got my own birdfeeder and started to appreciate the amazing variety of beautiful birds that are indigenous to Eastern Pennsylvania. I even bought a bird book and spent evenings last summer, bird in hand, identifying cocktails. I mean, well, you know. I have to stop here to point out that there seems to be no discrimination among different species of birds, or even between birds and squirrels, birds and chipmunks, chipmunks and squirrels. They all coexist beautifully in and around my feeder. People could really learn a thing or two from my wildlife! (No, not to raid my garbage can.)

The problem with the birds is that you can really get sucked into caring about them. This spring, a family of robins nested on the pergola above our back door. In my bird-watching studies, I’ve learned that robins build nests in the stupidest places. The pergola is right above the constant comings and goings of us and, of course, our snappy little terrier. About a week before the babies were ready to leave the nest, our dog discovered their existence and damn it all to hell, she became obsessed and would lie directly under them and wait.

We were all in the yard one lovely weekend when the first baby left the nest only to flutter right down to our dog’s waiting teeth. One down, two to go, she must have thought. Thus began our new mission to save the other babies from the same fate. Which became really difficult since we now had to ban the dog from the back yard. Walking that dog at 11 p.m. because a bird had fluttered down before it knew how to fly and was hopping around in our groundcover was a giant pain in the ass. In the end my husband had to “assist” the last bird over our fence to freedom so we could have our yard back. All this was right around the same time we made the mistake of watching Hitchcock’s The Birds. I became convinced the mother and father robin were plotting their revenge. They definitely resented what they perceived to be our intrusion near their nest. The nerve of us using our own patio!

A few days after the bird-eating incident, we watched a huge bird of prey—maybe the biggest hawk ever, I’m talking the size of a turkey with a six-foot wingspan—swoop straight down into our other neighbor’s yard to catch and eat a bunny, which is as pleasant to witness as you can imagine. This was not the first incident with the bunnies—the damned dog ate a couple of those too. And last summer, on a nice night with the windows open, we all woke up to a screaming rabbit, likely being attacked by a fox, which was disturbing to say the least. I love the bunnies, but I’ve found that investing emotion in creatures at the bottom of the food chain only leads to heartbreak. Maybe this circle of life thing is too much for me after all. I think one day I’ll get a condo in the city.