Never mind the humans, this building teems with wildlife. Today’s morning was cool, blue and sunny, and after breakfast I went to check my new pot of zinnias out back. Barefoot, coffee cup in hand, I heard a stern voice hidden down below call out “What are you eating?!” Startled, I thought “oatmeal!” Indeed, my cook-pot was now soaking in the sink. The voice wasn’t directed at me. It was a neighbor from across the alley scolding his dog – which was apparently consuming something only a dog might enjoy. I was glad the whole event was obscured from my view.
There are robins all over this town, and mysteriously they have been swooping around the front courtyard. I’ll watch TV and a couple of grey streaks will shoot past my window, skyward. I couldn’t figure out what the attraction was. I guessed maybe they had a nest and they were engaged in some sort of territorial dispute over the Blackhaw viburnums. Last week I solved the puzzle. The robins had been fattening up on the ripe serviceberries in the courtyard. You couldn’t blame them – it has to be an improvement from a diet of bugs and worms.
The cardinals, once noisy in spring, have stepped back into a more subtle role. I do hear them sometimes, and just this week I was thrilled (really, I was!) to hear a crow calling from a block or so away. Crows! Imagine that. Before West Nile virus, they were as ubiquitous as those robins are now. Hopefully their thin numbers will increase. I have also noticed, again, this summer that the chimney swifts are back in force. They seem to be a more-or-less constant presence here, and I enjoy their overhead acrobatics. And I wonder where they roost.
The morning doves that I was feeding this past winter have scattered around town. I do see one or two from time to time flying by, or perched on a roof ridge. I have to wonder if they see me, too. You should know that I have become a pretty reliable winter food source for this flock, and you’d think I’d be one human they’d keep their eyes on. But if they have field guides, I can’t begin to imagine what my identification markings might be.
Dave Coulter is a horticulturalist who lives and works in Oak Park.