Despite that, there's still a bit of wildlife. The Bolsa Chica wetlands and the marshes surrounding Anaheim Bay both abut the city, and there are strange pockets of ponds scattered along the San Gabriel and Santa Ana Rivers, as well as dozens of channelized creeks that were formed when much of land around the town was origiannly drained. There are also de facto greenbelts along the edge of some or our mesas, owing to the fact that the grade was simply too steep to stuff in more houses.
So there's wildlife aplenty around the wetlands--herons, kingfishers, ospreys, skimmers, assorted raptors, and the two remaining nesting sites for the endangered least tern. The wetlands also have raccoons, coyotes, fox, and even the occasional cougar. But although we don't live next to a marsh, our back yard can get pretty darned busy.
I've already mentioned our accidental pet crows. We also have two bullfrogs in the back yard, the result of buying a trio of tadpoles to eat up the algae in our pond. Who knew they would grow to adulthood and begin serenading us, like a pair of libidinous foghorns, on summer nights? We've also had our share of possums, who are innocuous, but not terribly good company; after all, what do you say to someone whose reaction to anything new is to freeze? (Makes it easy to snap their photos, though...)
Like most cities in Southern California, we also have raccoons wander through every so often. But recently one of them has done more than wander through. He has set up housekeeping in our back yard.
He (or she) is a young adolescent, obviously only recently seperated from his mother. We first saw him stealing food we had put out for the crows. Not unusual behavior, except for the fact that he was placidly muching away in broad daylight.
At first we thought this was raw courage, but we have come to understand that it is a deliberate strategy. The night belongs to a gang of larger raccoons who maraude the neighborhood, and he isn't part of that gang. By creeping out in the day, he has a whole new ecological niche to exploit (although he has to put up with almost incessant scolding from the crows. Come twilight, her retires to a nest in the line of Italian cypresses that lines one side of our property.
He isn't fearless by any means, but he is surprisingly unafraid of us. One of our beach towels went missing; when we were sitting outside one afternoon, we saw him up on the deck wrestling with it and dragging it about. When he saw us watching him, he gave as a what-are-you-looking-at glance, and went back to killing the terrycloth.
He also stole one of Pamela's rubber sandals, though he was good enough to bring it back a few days later (somewhat chewed up).
Since he seemed desperate for entertainment, as a joke when we were at the market we bought him a couple of squeaking rubber dog toys and left them outside for him. We had no idea what a hit they would be. He absconded with them immediately, and seems to keep them hidden up in the trees. In the afternoons, and sometimes late at night, we can hear the trees going squeak! squeak! squeak! (God only knows what the neighbors think.) He also seems to use the toys as a novel form of defense; when the gang of bigger raccoons comes through at night and tries to chase him off, we can hear him snarl and whine, alternating with vicious chomps on the squeaky toys. It seems to baffle the opposition; at any rate, he's still here.
He's cute isn't he? Yeah, yeah, I know the rules: never get attached to a wild animal. It will end in tears.
But, then, doesn't everything, eventually?