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As late spring and summer arrive, Celebrate Nature is on my calendar. This time of year I want to hang out in my garden and keep ears and eyes open for birds, butterflies, and any other life forms that present themselves. I do, of course, work in the garden and the exercise is good for me, plus we benefit from the fruits and veggies of our labor. I do hit “pause” whenever something new makes itself known to me, so I take breaks from the labor at regular intervals. Obviously the bird life is one of my great joys, but other animals are also unique and amazing in their own ways. 

Our garden block wall and compost pile is home to Western Fence Lizards. They sun themselves and eat insects with vigor. They don’t seem bothered by my activities and we watch each other. We also see Western Skinks, the small lizards with the blue tails, but they are less tolerant when I approach them. One of our raised garden boxes hosts a Northern Alligator Lizard that lingers in a morning sunny spot nearby. We have seen these lizards in other parts of the property, and they are avid bug eaters as well. We actually keep small rock piles near fence posts to provide habitat for the reptiles. They feed on many insects and invertebrates, and we are happy to have them in our small ecosystem.

One May day a few years ago, we came across a Western Pond Turtle traversing our hillside on a mowed path. We watched her make her way down the hill toward a small pool along Fox Hollow Creek. She had come from an adjoining property that has a small watercourse and seemed to know exactly where she wanted to end up. We assumed she had made the trip before—an annual trek to her summer pool.

Last month, we found a Pacific Giant Salamander near this same creek. It was an impressive nine inches long, and it was out in the open, which we thought unusual. We soon realized it was dying, although we don’t know why. We hope it had been able to reproduce abundantly during its life. We have often seen the smaller Rough Skinned Newts in the early spring too.

We’ve found three species of snake at our place: Rubber Boa (which feeds on lizards), Garter (eats slugs), and Gopher Snakes are around. Any summer day we walk the property we find Garter Snakes, and my husband is careful to avoid them when he mows. Good thing we are retired now, as our work efficiency drops with so many animals to watch! And finally, bird sightings—it is amazing how many times I have seen a Red-tailed Hawk carrying a dangling snake up to feed the nestlings on a summer afternoon. This is, of course, all part of the natural balance of things. We are happy to be able to enjoy them all and celebrate nature at this beautiful time of year!