Check It Out: Backyard flora, fauna fascinates



One of the things I love most about living in a rural area is the chance to see a variety of wildlife. And this summer has brought many visitors to our yard. For several weeks now, a pair of mourning doves has dropped in during their daily journey. They usually come in the morning, and while they spend some of their time pecking around our bird feeder, they seem to prefer walking about our patio. I’d offer them a chair and a cool drink, but they’re terribly shy.

Our resident hummingbirds, on the other hand, have no qualms about asserting themselves. If I don’t return their feeder quickly enough after refilling it, I get a scolding that surely means, “Bust a move, lady! We’re thirsty!”

Then there’s Jane Doe. She’s our deer friend who finds our apple and pear trees quite delicious, and that long grass we haven’t trimmed in a while makes for a cozy napping spot, thank you very much. She even tolerates our presence just so long as we don’t try to get too neighborly.

All of these winged and four-legged guests have prompted me to become better educated about our local fauna, and Patricia Lichen’s field guide is a great place to start. From black-capped chickadees to yellow jackets, Lichen offers concise yet fascinating chapters about each species. Did you know that a mole’s fur, just like velvet, can be pressed in any direction? This allows for easy forward and backward travel through those tunnels that mar our beautiful lawns. What about those ladybugs that invade my house every spring? Like opossums, they can discourage predators by playing “dead” — rolling on their backs and folding up their legs. And what exactly are “Hollywood frogs”? If you’re watching a movie and a scene calls for “background frog noise,” more than likely those screen “ribbets” came from Pacific tree frogs. Movie stars right under our windows — who knew?

If you want to know more about the birds and the bees appearing in your yard, consider checking out this entertaining guide. Even those prolific garden slugs, the bane of gardeners everywhere, are fascinating creatures. I have to say, though, that their mating habits might be better described as icky rather than passionate. But I suppose even slugs need love.

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at