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  • Writer's pictureljmarkson

If Nature Was Predictable, It Wouldn't Be So Fascinating

My tiny, semi-urban, rewilded yard surprises me. Every. Single. Day. This past Sunday it was deathly quiet in both the front and backyard. I didn’t see a single bird, chipmunks or Eastern grey squirrel all day which typically means there’s a predator around somewhere. Usually, it’s a hawk because I don’t see many outdoor domestic cats. The ones that occasionally appear don’t seem to fair well because urban coyotes come from the nearby creek at night and wander through our neighborhood.

My area is not the safest for cats. For about a month we saw this cat on our daily dog walks around the neighborhood. Then it disappeared.

Occasionally I’ll see a barred owls early in the morning, but not during the day.

Sure enough when I looked outside later in the afternoon there was a Coopers’ hawk sitting on my back fence in what must be a prime viewing spot because it’s where I often see visiting owls or hawks. I quickly grabbed my camera and went out on the deck because unlike songbirds, hawks and owls don’t fly away when I step outside so it’s easier to get photos of them. It’s also a bit unsettling how comfortable the raptors are with me being so relatively close to them.

Learning the mechanics of photography is not intuitive for me and I was trying to adjust the camera settings when I saw a squirrel hopping along the fence. It was like watching a movie in slow motion as the squirrel ran towards the hawk.

I didn’t interfere, but instinctually wanted to alert the squirrel because the young squirrels in my yard now are the babies I watched grow up last fall. I’m guilty of being a bit attached to them and aware it means heartache at some point because only 25% of grey squirrels survive the first year.

It was hard not to become a little bit attached to the cute baby squirrels I watched grow up in my front yard poplar tree!

The squirrel continued bouncing along until he was only a few feet away from the hawk. He stopped and the hawk turned his head towards the squirrel.

The squirrel sat up a bit and they both appeared to have a bit of a stare off before the squirrel jumped to a nearby tree.

The squirrel went up the tree about 5 feet and groomed himself.

The hawk looked at the squirrel in the tree.

The hawk then went back to surveying my backyard for another ten minutes before flying off.

I know so little about hawks, squirrels and what was going on. I don’t need to know everything about nature to appreciate it though. Seeing the unexpected is what fills us with awe. If nature was predictable, it wouldn’t be so fascinating. Reclaiming nature in my yard is at the core about interfering as little as possible. I’m a visitor in the ecosystem of my yard and lucky when I get such an intimate view of the natural world, if only for a few minutes.

Rewilding my small Atlanta yard means even in the dead of winter it is filled with life.

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