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There is a purple martin house in a pretty little copse next to the parking lot I use south of the Library and Life Sciences building. I had a feeling I was being watched as I walked past earlier this week.

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I moved around the structure until the curious occupant took a look to see if I was going to climb up to eat him. I decided against it.

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Urban landscapes with active wildlife show a level of health that users may not regularly recognize, but is important. The turtles in the pond under the bridge to the large student parking lot south of my lot, the birds that hop in the fountain on the southwest corner of the Central Library, squirrels that ignore food from people because there is so much indigenous food, they’re welcome signs that the percent of lawn and trees, when compared to the amount of concrete and buildings, sustain an environment for these small animals. I watch people along with the wildlife, and am glad to regularly see individuals walking up the hill from the parking areas pause to watch the antics of a squirrel or grackles in the fountain.

In summer when there were concrete benches under the trees near University Hall one could see these squirrels spread eagle on the cool concrete, dissipating heat from their bodies through their torsos and the membranes at their armpit and groin areas. In fall you can pick up pecans on the lawn of the Library Mall and generate high-pitched scolds from the squirrels that are dropping the nuts from those trees. This isn’t random noise unrelated to you, you’re interacting with that tiny individual.

There’s a lot of life on campus, and I predict that with the advent of the community gardens more wildlife, with an adverse effect, may arrive. Here’s hoping resourceful gardeners can set up the gardens and its defenses in a way that don’t harm the beneficial wildlife while still finding a way to exclude the interlopers. The many facets of companion planting are useful in this. And have-a-heart traps. As with the squirrel above, wildlife doesn’t always live in the places we would wish them to (or not.)

Written by dwyer

December 15th, 2011 at 10:29 am