- Written by Clyde McMillan-Gamber Clyde McMillan-Gamber
Sitting on our lawn one evening this summer, I thought about the adaptable wildlife that recently raised young or lived in sheltered places on the outside of our house in a suburban area. These common creatures provided much entertainment and intrigue to us, right at home.
These animals used several parts of our home, including the deck and porch, an old gas vent, an awning over a door, two window air conditioners, the chimney, and the attic.
Female carpenter bees chewed round holes in the undersides of wooden porch railings until those structures were removed.
Each bee made a few compartments in a railing, where she deposited balls of flower nectar and pollen and laid an egg on each ball. Each resulting larva consumed its ball of food, pupated in its wooden cell, and later emerged as a grown carpenter bee.
At dusk in summer, spiders of a couple kinds spin webs in corners of our porch and deck. The webs’ function, of course, is to snare flying insects, right on those outdoor structures.
Over the years, permanent resident pairs of house sparrows nest on support posts under our front-porch roof. These birds create bulky nurseries of dead grass, feathers, and other soft materials and raise up to three broods in a summer.
A resident pair of lively Carolina wrens seeks shelter under our deck. The male chants vigorously the year around to announce his territory, providing us with his beautiful melodies.
Traditionally a bottomland woods species, Carolina wrens nest in many sheltered places, including crevices in rock piles, in brush piles, and under fallen logs. They also hatch young in sheltering, human-made structures, such as in garages and sheds and under porches.
I’ve noticed that a cottontail rabbit and an opossum live under our deck, but maybe not at the same time. These field and woodland creatures often live under sheds and decks on people’s lawns.
Traditionally another woodland species, resident Carolina chickadees eat invertebrates and nest in tree cavities, bird boxes, and other sheltered places among trees. For a few years, a pair of chickadees lived in an unused gas vent leading into the house, offering more beauty and enjoyment to our family.
Over the years, pairs of house finches raised young in twig cradles on supports of an awning over a door to our house. Male finches have pink feathers and sing lovely songs early in spring.
Mourning doves and house sparrows rear offspring in spaces between two air conditioners and the two windows they project from. Parent doves feed a mix of predigested seeds and throat phlegm to their two youngsters in a brood. And doves produce a brood every month through the warmer part of each year.
This summer, a few chimney swifts flew down our chimney at dusk to spend nights in safety. Swifts also hatch babies down the inside of sheltering chimneys, as they do down the inside of hollow trees.
Some summers, we have a couple of little brown bats resting by day in our attic and flying out to feed on flying insects at night. These interesting little mammals want only to be left alone.
These are some of the critters on our house. Readers probably have these same animals or other kinds. One has only to watch for them and enjoy.
Clyde McMillan-Gamber is a retired Lancaster County Parks naturalist.