Floods and wild animals

Jim McKenney jamesamckenney@verizon.net
Fri, 01 Nov 2013 10:35:40 PDT
I live about twelve miles as the crow flies north of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The area where I live in Montgomery County Maryland is one of the most intensely developed areas in the county. However, the community I live in is surrounded by wildlife friendly territory: imagine a V shaped area with a railroad on one side and a local park with a creek on the other side. I live close to the bottom of the V. The park in question runs from the Potomac River in downtown Washington, D.C. for miles out into the Maryland countryside. 

Bears have been sighted in Montgomery County in recent years, and so have what are thought by some to be coyotes; red foxes are here in abundance - I see them in my garden occasionally. I saw a gray fox once years ago. Opossums and raccoons  are abundant and there have been beaver (the parks people generally remove them quickly) and ground hogs (a huge terrestrial squirrel); we used to have skunks and I once saw what I thought was a mink along the creek. The small mammals, both the native sorts and the imported ones,  are abundant. Because of the lack of suitable predators, the local populations of deer, gray squirrels and cottontail rabbits are unnaturally high. 

Most of the birds  (other than the marine ones)  which can be seen in eastern North America can be seen here at one time of year or another. I've never seen a wild turkey in the garden, but there once was a ring-necked pheasant. And the woods once were full of bobwhite. Of hawks, red-tailed, red-shouldered and Coopers are familiar;of owls screech, barred and great horned have all stopped in the garden at one time or another. I once saw a bald eagle flying high in the sky over the garden. Herons, bitterns and night herons are common (but try actually seeing a bittern!) The veery and the wood thrush make summers very musical. 

There are several species of local turtle (box turtles, painted turtles and snapping turtles have all turned up in the garden) , and six species of snake have also turned up in my garden. There used to be copperheads in the neighborhood, but it's been years since I've seen any. Massive choruses of spring peepers are still an annual event here, although toads seem to be declining. Green frogs and bull frogs are common in local wet lands, and they occasionally turn up in the garden.  Tree frogs are occasionally heard in the summer but are rarely seen. 

We used to have two commonly seen salamanders: the red-backed wood salamander and the spotted salamander, but both seem to have declined to the point where I can't remember seeing one in years. The red-backed wood salamanders used to appear on the patio in November during damp, wet weather and used to swarm all over the bromeliads I kept there. The easiest way to see the spotted salamanders was to look for them in their breeding pools. Unfortunately, the best of those pools have been drained and I don't know where the salamanders breed now - if they are still here. Several other salamanders used to live in or near the local creek; but again, it's been years since I've seen them. I have a hunch that a half century of automotive chemicals have done them in: every time it rains, everything on the street gets washed into the local creek. 

I've run our garden more as a wildlife preserve than a conventional garden for decades - herbicides and pesticides are out of the question. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7

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