Ecotone: an area of transition between two biological communities.
I've been fascinated by this term from the first time I heard it. Frankly, it was a title of an episode of the TV series "Six Feet Under", and it really piqued my interest at the time. Basically, it underscored the closeness of the threshold between one species and another. Human to wild animal. Wilderness to city. Somewhere along the way is a dividing line. That line could be as near to you as your back door. Look out the window and you see wild birds sitting on branches, rooftops, bird feeders, telephone lines. Explore a little further and you may see hawks, deer, coyotes, foxes, owls, vultures, hummingbirds. Drive to the grocery store and you may see, along the way, a hawk perched on a light pole, or a wild turkey on top of someone's house. These things happen, and I find them fascinating. An example of how humans have, step by step, taken over this planet, and yet, a miracle of sorts, too. Since, in many ways, we have come to appreciate the nearness of the "wild" species. Though that appreciation may be one sided, the wild side has adapted in their own way, too.
We live in the city of West Allis. A neighborhood near busy streets. We put bird feeders in our backyard, and are treated to cardinals, house finches, house sparrows, goldfinches, chickadees, and an occasional nuthatch or warbler. We've seen skunks walk through the yard, raccoons, opossums, a wild turkey on the rooftop of our neighbors house, seagulls, chipmunks, and squirrels. But recently, on a fairly regular basis, we have hawk visitors. An adult, and a juvenile Cooper's Hawk. Beautiful creatures visiting our backyard, basking in sunlight on our fence, on the lookout for a meal, no doubt. The other birds are scarce at these times. My hope is that they are picking up a mouse or two wandering the alleyway. I know they have to eat, and I hope they do. I just don't want to see it. Yeah, I'm a little squeamish that way. But I am thrilled to have these visitors. And amazed, because just this week I stepped outside to get a few photos, expecting the hawk would take off, though I was quiet, respectful, and cautious (I kept my distance). But he did not. He sat on the fence and posed so proudly. So grandly. In fact, I was surprised to see that he was still there when I left for the day about an hour later. I hope he found lunch. And then, I hope he had dessert.
It will happen. Spring will come. It sure doesn't feel like it these days, but it will. Just this morning I took a short drive along the Root River Parkway in West Allis and was treated to the sight and sounds of a red-winged blackbird. A sure sign that spring is on the way. The call of that red-winged blackbird is indeed music to my ears on such a gloomy winter day. It instills hope in my birding spirit.
In fact, this morning, though I saw the blackbird, and a few cardinals, I did not see any others straight away. But I did hear them. So, I practiced a little birding by ear. In addition to the cardinal and the red-winged blackbird, I also heard woodpeckers, chickadees, robins, sparrows, and a few other calls I'm afraid I can't name by heart. Migration is coming, and this year I am ready. Are you?
A traveler, singer, novice photographer, humane gardener, and nature lover.