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Left Coast / Right Coast: The Wildlife in our Backyard

As it happens, we had a landscaping service at our home today. The owner upon completion of their work mentioned that he saw a group of Orcas swimming just off the waterfront directly in front of our home. He said they were jumping and playing and seemed to be enjoying themselves.
One of Mike's eagle friends come to visit - sitting on one of Mike's trees in his front yard. Photo credit: Mike Gold.

By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."

As it happens, we had a landscaping service at our home today. The owner upon completion of their work mentioned that he saw a group of Orcas swimming just off the waterfront directly in front of our home. He said they were jumping and playing and seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Only problem with his report is as far as I know the Orcas (Killer whales) who swim in our waters don’t ever come into the Sound near our home. We are south of Whidbey Island, near the channel between Mukilteo and Whidbey. We did read that a few weeks ago one of the local pods was spotted just off the south end of Whidbey Island – but on the Straits of Juan de Fuca side.

When salmon season opens, we do have hundreds of small fishing boats out in the sound in front of our home. And we understand our local Orca pods feed on salmon. But Orcas also eat seals, sometimes walrus and bony fish.

We did have a gray whale (with a calf) swimming in our local waters two summers ago. But they forage for shrimp – which are relatively plentiful off our local coastline.

We have a family of seals who live and fish directly in front of our home daily. This morning just after sunrise they were out there barking their heads off. I wonder whether that’s what may have attracted the Orcas (if they were really there?) I guess I’ll know more tomorrow morning – assuming we still have those seals there.

As we think of all the wildlife that live in and amongst us, all you need do is think of their food source. We have a neighbor that feeds an entourage of feral cats and raccoons. Every evening (dinner time) at least a dozen or more cats and raccoons gather at her front door. And I truly mean at the front door. On a couple of occasions, the front door is open and both the cats and raccoons go inside the home (I would not like to have that home’s cleaning bill!). It is interesting that the cats and raccoons get along. I guess that’s because there is sufficient food for both groups.

What I can count on is that if I’m driving near that particular home at dinner time one can see a parade of raccoons coming out of the woods across the street and walking in single file to the front door of the home.

Then we have all the hyper local creatures. We have had moles since we moved into our current home in 2014. We just accept them. We’ve learned pouring vegetable oil down the tunnels keep them away. But I guess we must have a generous amount of slugs and other small insects on which the moles feed. Plus we have four “mole sticks” which generate an electronic vibration which also keeps them away.

My favorite is a family of Bald eagles that live in the woods behind our home. You can see them on most days sitting on the wood pilings directly in front of our home. They will sometimes sit there for hours waiting for a fish to swim by.

When they have eaglets, you can also find them teaching the young ones to hunt. The parents will catch “something” and leave the carcass on the ground by the shoreline. The eaglets will eat the catch and over time, figure out that “hey, this carrion did not just magically appear here. Guess we’d better figure out where it comes from so we can catch it ourselves.

We have many large flocks of ducks and geese that both at morning and evening fly in formation along the shoreline. One has to admire the precision of their group. Wonder if they have actual elections to see who gets to “lead the formation” or whether they fight it out for the privilege.

Last we have coyotes and rabbits. One can tell which of the populations is “winning” based upon how many of each you see. While coyotes are shy creatures (they don’t often come out in “public”) I do see many of them in the morning along Picnic Point Road. This year we’ve had an abundance of rabbits so I guess either the coyotes are well fed or something has driven them away this year.

On our new home site down the block, we have several families of Mountain beaver. They are not welcome as they can destabilize an entire hillside – upon which the new home we’re building is resting. And you are not supposed to kill them. Rather, you catch them and “rehabilitate” them in another neighborhood. For some reason, I doubt whether they actually “learn” not to dig boroughs in their new physical location.

I guess I genuinely appreciate all this wildlife living in close proximity to humans. It helps us understand how – as Rodney King said during the LA riots: - “Can’t we all just get along.

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