The COVID-19 pandemic has kept many people from heading out to their favorite nature spots. Trails have been closed, campgrounds and parks too. It’s like we’ve been social-distanced from Douglas firs, Douglas squirrels and anything else David Douglas slapped his name on.
But there’s nature just outside your door, often just as rich as nature deep in a forest or gorge. A yard, a parking strip and certainly the local park can hold dozens of species of native wildlife. Even just a patch of clover could be feeding multiple species of bees.
So let’s take a look in some likely places where nature might be and reconsider a couple common neighborhood friends.
In the blooms
Aside from birds, there’s no more beautiful group of animals outside your home than the pollinators fluttering and buzzing around flowers. But it’s easy to miss some of the tiny bees working in the pollen. The sweat bees above are the size of ants. If you take care, you can get close. These tiny, solitary bees won’t fuss you if your keep your hands to yourself.
Predator of the garden
Lady beetles are little domes of pure springtime delight. Unless you’re an aphid. Then these spotted red and yellow jewels are voracious, unstoppable predators. From when they are spiky larvae through adulthood, lady beetles eat and eat and eat aphids and other small bugs. (Those are aphids behind the lady beetle in the photo.) So take joy at their sight, then watch the lion of the leaf.
Under the rocks
The quickest place to find some of the creatures hiding all around you is to pick up a rock. Do it gently, pull the rock straight up and place it with its topside down. Why? Because there are delicate lives on and under the rock. Most likely, you’ll see multiple invertebrates (animals with no backbones) like earthworms, slugs, spiders, millipedes and centipedes. Make sure to put the rock back, very gently.
The nectar boss
Anna’s hummingbird: They’re the smallest bird in your neighborhood, and they’re the bravest, too. Listen for a buzzing, almost electrical sound to find them. It’s not a pretty song, but they make up for it with stunning, iridescent plumage. While most birds will fly off if they know you’re watching them, Anna’s will eyeball you back. And if you’re by their favorite flowers, they may buzz a warning by your head.