Backyard Wildlife Getting Out of Control

It has been raining in Northwest Ohio for basically the last month and a half straight, which has made it difficult to get much yard work done. Last week, we finally had some dry nights to go outside and catch up on some seriously neglected items on our outside to-do list. As we did these tasks, however, we kept running into wildlife. I can’t believe how many animals we keep encountering; it’s like we live in a nature preserve.

First we needed to cut down a bunch of tall, dead, ornamental grass before the new stuff grew. It was so thick that we had to tie each one into a bundle and cut it with a hedge trimmer. I’m talking about three feet around. The previous owners must have really liked this stuff, because they had about 30 of them. It took several hours and trips to the burn pile to get it all trimmed down.

After that, I had to pull the dead grass out of the middle of each bundle and rake and burn all the grass bits all over the place. While I was doing this, I saw mice scampering around. Another day while I was working on raking up grass, I saw a big toad. I didn’t want to hit him with the rake, so I picked him up and moved him. Then I saw another. And another.

That’s when I remembered what I did last fall. While I was outside spraying bug killer around the foundation of the house, I noticed a toad in the well of the basement. He couldn’t get out. I didn’t want to spray it with poison, so I moved him away from the house. I decided to check the other basement wells for toads and found so many it was ridiculous. One well alone had about 15 toads, ranging from big fat ones to little baby ones. Since they could not get out of the wells, I also found a few dried-up toad skeletons.

I went and found a box and proceeded to gather all the toads from the wells. They were hopping all over and having a fit, making all kinds of toad noises. I wish I would’ve thought to take a picture of all those toads in a box, but I was just trying to get things done, so I carried them out to a big flowerbed at the corner of our property and released them all. This is also where a bunch of tall grass was and where I found several toads this year. It’s like a little toad sanctuary now.

So instead of speed raking the grass, I had to watch for toads and do a lot by hand. I kept looking to make sure I wasn’t going to step on any. My husband said he was going to use the rototiller to till up all around the grass to help with all the lumps and weeds, but I’m afraid that will chop up the toads. So I’m not sure how we should proceed with that area exactly. I guess we could still use the rototiller if I looked for the toads first and put them in a box.

Another chore on the list was to do something with the koi pond we inherited with the house. When we got it, it was full of muck and overgrown with cattails and water lilies. There were no fish. We tried to clean it, but ended up having to pull everything out, drain it, and pressure wash the liner. We planned on making it nice in the spring. Well, it filled with rain water and became dirty over the winter and spring. We weren’t sure what to do with it exactly. Before we could get around to trying anything, though, I noticed we had some guests…hundreds or even thousands of tiny, black guests. Our pond is now full of tadpoles and frogs. It is pretty cool to see tadpoles grow, but that was not in the plans. I don’t want to kill them, so I guess we will have to wait on having a nice koi pond.

While I was checking out the tadpoles, a female duck that has been hanging out on our back patio flew out from some bushes and scared the bejesus out of me. I almost fell in the pond. “What is up with this duck?” I wondered. “Why is she always hanging around in these bushes?” I decided to walk over and investigate and saw a large broken egg shell by a bush. I didn’t see any baby ducklings, but started looking for a nest. I finally found one under an evergreen bush. It was made of the tall grass we had been cutting down. There is one big grass bundle next to this nest that we haven’t cut down yet. The nest has three eggs in it. So now I have to worry about disturbing a mother duck and her future babies if I cut the grass or spray the weeds all around that area. I wonder if they will stick around after they hatch and make a meal out of the tadpoles and swim in our little pond. It’s a good thing we don’t have a cat yet.

The tadpoles make an easy meal for other birds too. I see robins constantly grabbing tadpoles. I think there is a nest in a tree by the pond, because they carry them up into the tree. After I saw the duck’s nest, I went in to get my camera. When I came back out, a dove flew out of nest in the corner of the window above the patio door. There was still a ladder nearby, so I climbed up to have a look. There was one little white dove egg. I took a picture. Since then, I have looked and there are two eggs. This really was a cool spot for the dove to build a nest, because she gets to watch TV and spy on us. It’s cool, but a little creepy too. All day and night, that dove stares at us in the living room. Maybe she’s really a robotic spy dove.

I also took pictures of the tadpoles and the duck’s nest. I walked around the house and found another robin’s nest in the tree where I hang my birdfeeders. There were two pretty blue eggs. I took a picture of those too. Then I went back in the house. Before long, my husband hollered for me to come out and help him with a bird in our garage that couldn’t fly.

“A real bird?” I asked. “Yes, a real bird!” he said, probably wondering yet again whether I ate any paint chips as a kid. I meant to ask whether it was an adult bird that was injured or a just a baby bird, but it didn’t come out right.

I saw it flapping around in the corner. It looked like a huge baby robin. I gently guided it out of the garage and under a large pine tree. It could sort of hop and fly a few feet, but not too well. It was so big for a baby robin that I wondered if maybe it was a baby duck from that broken egg shell. I really don’t think so, though. It looked like a robin.

We then worked on cleaning the garage and some things around the house. I came across another toad in the basement well, a toad on the sidewalk, and a huge toad trying to hop into the garage. I know toads are beneficial and eat a lot of bugs, but this is getting a little out of hand; they are everywhere! My husband said we needed to spray Round-Up to kill the weeds, but I’m scared it will hurt the toads or the duck nest or the bunnies I see hopping around my hostas. It’s hard enough to get yard work done without worrying about disturbing a bunch of wildlife. I might as well forget it and start charging admission to our nature preserve/petting zoo. “One dollar — come one, come all!”

Since most of these encounters were in one day, I figured we wouldn’t see anything else crazy for a while. Wrong. The next day in the morning, my husband came in from the garage once again to tell me that there was a hummingbird that couldn’t get out. In disbelief, I grabbed my camera and went out there. I saw a green hummingbird repeatedly smacking itself against the top part of one of the garage windows. I snapped a couple of pictures and took a short video before springing into action (if I had known how complicated it would be to get it out, I wouldn’t have wasted any time taking pictures).

It was too high to reach, so I grabbed a piece of trim and tried to guide it to the open garage door. Well, that hummingbird was a stubborn little thing. It completely ignored me and stayed strong in its belief that it could get through a closed window if it just flew into it enough times. Of course it picked the window with the ledge where I had several plants I had started from seed. They had to be delicately moved before I could open the window. After that, it still refused to go down and out the window. I had to get gloves and a ladder and try to gently catch it and put it by the open window. The poor thing was so scared I could see its heart beating out of its chest. Finally, I successfully helped it get out and it flew far away as fast its little wings could carry it. What a fiasco.

Later on that night when I came home from the tornado warning at Lowe’s (see that story here), I opened the garage door and saw a big fat toad sitting right by where the bottom of the door would have been. I had to get him back in the flowerbed so he wouldn’t get squished by the door. I went inside for a couple of minutes and then went back out to get something from my car. There he was again, trying to get in the garage. What is up with these animals wanting to be in our garage?! Is it that amazing?

Anyway, I don’t think our animal encounters have come to an end by any means. I will keep you updated, so stay tuned! You can see a few pictures above, but you can see a more detailed slideshow of these animals and nests here.

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