Wildlife is Everywhere

Otter or nutria? I thought as I headed home late one evening after a pet-sitting visit. The chance to see wild, nocturnal animals is the only positive about doing nighttime visits. As I drove the last mile home, I spotted an otter-like critter come up out of the right-side drainage ditch, scramble across the road, and enter the left-side drainage ditch. Sometimes, I feel like we are living in a zoo. Wildlife is everywhere, and it is rare not to see critters every day, both in the campground and on the slow, windy road to and from home.

It’s No Hudson River

We are fortunate to have large windows at the back and side of the RV. So when I stand at the kitchen sink each morning washing dishes, I can watch a lengthy portion of the creek for wildlife. As I scrub, I often see a large, blue heron flying low over the water. It’s impressive since the width of the water is narrow, and he has a wide wingspan; mature herons have one of 5.5 to 6.5 feet.

Our creek is no Hudson River, but I still call him Sully despite never seeing the heron land on the water. He always disappears around the bend without touching down. Herons often walk the banks, stopping to catch a fish or two. For a couple of weeks, one was in the habit of visiting our little dock. He’d stand there a while just looking around.

Another recent wildlife visitor was a river otter. Unfortunately, when I’d dried my hands and grabbed my camera, his head was no longer popping up out of the water. Instead, like Sully, the otter had been headed toward the bend in the creek and disappeared. He’s not the first otter to visit this part of the creek. Soon after moving in, Richard watched a river otter catch a large fish and eat his lunch on the bank across from our broad back window.

Blue Heron

A What?

Sitting at my desk is another great opportunity to spot wildlife, as the desk sits under the RV’s long side window. One day I looked out at the water to see a turtle balancing on its belly on a log sticking out of the far bank. It was a yellow-bellied slider, which I found out later. I can spend hours searching the web to figure out what I’ve seen. A pair of male mallard ducks occupied the same log the following morning—no Googling needed.

Pair of mallards on log
Mallard ducks sharing a log at side of creek.

Someone told me that a visitor reported seeing a “wild boar” visiting the campground one night. I immediately thought of a large, horned creature charging at someone. However, I hoped that the person had just been dreaming, drinking,  or mistaking a short, heavy-set person bending over for a boar. After some time at my laptop, I realized that if someone had seen a swine of some type, it would likely have been a feral pig.

I learned that feral hogs’ only long-term or historical population exists in extreme southeastern Virginia Beach. Specifically in the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park. The population is estimated to fluctuate between 200 and 500 individuals. This population is the result of subsistence farmers abandoning their homesteads in the 1920s–1930s and leaving their livestock behind.

Gratefully, I didn’t have to walk a dog around the campground after dark, and after a few days, I stopped watching for the pig. Although, I did continue to keep an eye open for a pair of deer that haunted the woods along the last mile home—far less stressful.

Oh, Deer

Many deer have appeared in the woods and fields along that mile. As I left the campground one evening, at least a dozen pairs of eyes glowed in the farmer’s field across from the entrance. It wasn’t until my headlights swung around while turning that I realized the eyes belonged to a herd of deer.

A dow and her fawn made random appearances for a few months. I drove less than the posted 25 mph not to miss them, and for a Boston driver, it’s indicative of how much I enjoyed seeing them. The deer became a bit less skiddish, less likely to dash into the underbrush, as I often stopped to attempt to take their picture.

Doe with Fawn

I haven’t seen them in a while and hope they reappear. Female fawns will stay with their mother for up to two years, and male fawns for about one. I’ve been learning lots about our wildlife since moving into the RV.

Barking Birds?

I have developed a strange fascination with turkey vultures. I see them everywhere. These misunderstood birds are large and impressive as they fly overhead. They can have a wingspan of up to six feet and rarely flap their wings as they ride air currents.

Closeup, they’re not very pretty with their bald, pink or reddish heads. But this lack of feathers serves a purpose because these guys are messy eaters. Their bald heads minimize the amount of surface area for bacterial growth.

Turkey Vulture Profile

One day I was walking a dog in a nearby neighborhood when I heard a dog bark. I am always on alert for barks to prevent any dog squabbles. As I looked around, I saw about a half dozen turkey vultures cleaning up a raccoon that had misjudged how long he’d had to cross the street in front of a car. And then I heard the barking, again, coming from one of the vultures!

It turns out that they don’t have a voice box and are limited to a range of grunts, hisses, growls, and barking-like sounds.

Who knew?

Hunting Osprey and Kingfisher

Of course, it’s not only the road home that allows us to spy on wildlife. We live on a creek—and we have a pontoon boat. So you can often find us in the early evening cruising Muddy Creek. It’s a peaceful way to end the day, and we usually see turtles, snakes, and a wide variety of birds.  

Osprey Eating Fish
Osprey enjoying his dinner.

One evening, we caught sight of an osprey overhead. It was clear he had a large fish in his mouth. I always have my camera with me, and Richard agreed to “just follow that bird.” After a bit of cat and mouse, the winged creature settled on a tree. He must have decided he was more hungry than fearful, allowing us to float near enough to watch him enjoy dinner.

On the other hand, the creek’s resident kingfisher toyed with us endlessly last summer. We could never get the boat close enough for pictures. Recently, on the road home, I saw him up on a utility line. I stopped the car and finally got a picture as I hid behind a bush. Gotcha!