July 24, 2010

Two Very Unexpected Visitors

There are so many stories to be told since moving to our little apartment that I have found it difficult knowing where to start. Because, the events of this past Wednesday are still so unbelievable to me, I have decided to start with the most recent and then work my way back. But, before I begin, it is important to share a bit from the beginning.

When we first moved in, our Secret Garden was visited daily by dozens of wild turkeys and their almost countless chicks. Each mother turkey had between 6 and 12 little ones following her down the path that winds between our balcony and the creek. As the weeks passed, we noticed fewer and fewer families coming through; and the ones that did, had fewer and fewer little ones with them. In recent weeks, there have only been two females; one that may be part albino and one that is a typical female wild turkey in color. They each have only one little one remaining.

Every morning and every afternoon they appear in the Secret Garden. They usually walk down the path towards the creek and then roost for a time in the 100 year old oak tree that came crashing down about 2 months ago and now lies lifeless and dry across the creek (That's a story for another post). We always enjoy watching them as they stretch their wings and groom themselves as the sun starts to set behind the buildings, casting shadows and rays of light through the trees lining the creek.

Wednesday was different. As we were watching the turkeys, we noticed the albino mother suddenly stop her grooming. She stuck her neck out really, really far; peering intently down into the creek, and pointed her wings behind her in a most peculiar fashion. Michael noticed something moving in the creek directly below where the turkeys were sitting. It was a little larger than a cat and it was swimming around in a rather playful way. The balcony is approximately 50 feet from the creek and up on the second story of the building, so it was difficult to see exactly what type of creature was in the water.

Before I knew it, Michael was out the door and down the stairs with his camera in hand. I had already changed into a floor length sundress and sandals (upon arriving home that afternoon). I was not dressed for chasing a creature down the creek in hopes to get a picture; but, I wanted to be part of the adventure. So, I quickly pulled my long dress up between my legs; tied it at my waste; pulled on my knee high garden boots; grabbed my camera and followed after Michael. By the time I got down to the spot were we spied the creature, Michael was no where to be found.

I surmised that the creature had been startled, and had taken off down the creek with Michael fast on his tracks. I stayed where I was; hoping that Michael might scare him back down my way. I waited for what seemed like 10 minutes and then decided to go looking for Michael.

As I walked up the little hill from the creek, I saw Michael coming from the south; waving his camera in the air and yelling, "I got him, I got him!"

"What was he?" I cried.

"Just look", said Michael as he handed me the camera. As I looked at rather unfocused and blurry picture, I could see a little whiskery face looking up at me. It was a river otter! That's right. A river otter, in the creek of our Secret Garden.

Michael had snapped three pictures. He wasn't able to get very close and so the pictures were rather out of focus and blurry--almost reminded me of those pictures you see of the Loch Ness Monster; but, the fact that he got pictures at all is amazing.

If you look closely you can see his little whiskered face and one eye looking up at Michael as he snapped the shot.

After Michael took the above picture, the little otter got out of the water and ran across a sand bank; heading as fast as he could away from the man with the camera.

Ah, But the evening doesn't end there.

Michael and I were so excited by the experience, we went back to visit the very location where the river otter first appeared. As we were glancing down at the water in the creek, Michael noticed something else moving. He said, "Ah, perhaps that is what the otter was after."

As I looked down, I could hardly believe my eyes. Crawling among the green algae which coated many of the smooth rocks on the bottom of the creek, was what appeared to me to be a miniature lobster. It was not a miniature lobster, of course, but that is what it looked like. I had seen crayfish before, but all of them had been grey or brown in color. This one was about 5 or 6 inches long and lobster red. What an evening it was in our Secret Garden.

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