Jack Simpson - 05/01/09
Midnight Observations

My spouse has had some health problems lately that keep her awake at night. As much aggravation as this causes her, she has found a bit of amusement in looking out the kitchen window at 2 a.m.

On one early morning recently, she watched deer roaming the front yard. On another occasion, a coyote spent some time near a bird feeder looking for a morsel to eat. Just last night she reported a raccoon visited looking here and there for any kind of food he could find to eat.

Animals are finding their habitat overrun with people who are taking over the woods and fields once the solitary residence of critters of every description. So now the only safe time for many of our animals to forage for food is in the middle of the night when most humans are sleeping. If you want to observe wildlife, stay up beyond your normal bedtime and find a quiet observation post like a den or kitchen window. If your view happens to be illuminated by a security light, then all the better!

At one time in years past, we had a motion sensor light out in the back on the carport post. For some strange reason, that light kept coming on and going off again in the middle of the night. Being awake and looking out a window in the wee hours can solve a riddle like this.

There was one of those squirrel feeders nailed to a big old oak tree in the yard. You probably have seen one where an ear of corn is pushed down on a big nail and a little perch is provided for a squirrel to sit there and munch on the corn. Dottie discovered what was going on out there while everyone was sleeping involved the raccoon. He kept walking in front of the motion sensor light so it would come on, and then he could easily eat that ear of corn in a lighted setting!

Other things to be learned from early morning sightings are that raccoons are great tree climbers, and they will eat just about anything! Those living near water enjoy a diet of fish, frogs and crawfish. The one seen out our window truly enjoyed a meal of yellow corn. I'm told a raccoon is also known to eat eggs out of bird nests, but my wife has reported no such sighting.

The coyote that Dottie saw is probably one of those famous for the eerie howls coming off the Monastery land just when we are sleeping soundly. The animal seen out the window was quiet and very intent on finding a meal of some kind. Naturally he preferred mice, rats, or rabbits, but none were seen on this night. Maybe he ate some of the stale bread we often put out to feed the crows!

Deer seen under the security light were constantly alert for motion. Dottie could tell they were looking back at her in the window whenever she moved her head. Alerted by motion, the deer quickly raised their tails straight up and prepared to flee.

Sleeping individuals may not be aware that life is ongoing even in the dark of night. It is then that some of the earth's fruits are enjoyed by living creatures too fearful of man to show themselves in the light of day.

Should you be under the weather and find yourself awake in the middle of the night, look out your window. If you take the time and have the patience, your observations may be rewarding. Perhaps you, too, can collect some wildlife memories of your own.

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Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.