Portland’s Wildlife—All up in There
In Portland, I sometimes wonder at the way the city has insinuated itself into the natural world. Some towns feel like “nature” was strategically removed or plowed under to make way for development. To its credit, much of Portland feels more like we’ve borrowed from nature a piece here and a piece there temporarily for ourselves, leaving forests and fields all around as a reminder that we’re here, but we’re not IT.
Heather and I live in Southwest Portland, off of Terwilliger (you should hear the alternate pronunciations of this road by all non-Portlanders). From our second floor office I can see more trees than neighbors. Not just shrubbery, but great, towering evergreens and flowering fruit trees. Leafy maples just sprouting shiny green buds and mossy oak trees standing resolute against the tail end of a winter rainstorm.
As I look out at blowing branches in the bright overcast morning—talk about appreciating the subtle nuance of shades of gray—a squirrel runs along a moss-covered branch forty feet above the hillside. Squirrels are everywhere. A whole family of them buries nuts in our backyard landscaping. Each morning we watch them bury things in the beauty bark, dig them up, re-bury, dig some more. One chubby and particularly well-kept little bugger plays peek-a-boo with us from behind the deck as he packs his mouth with our bark chips before racing up the fencepost and along the fence and leaping into the neighbor’s fir tree where he disappears upward.
I’ve never been a birder, but our backyard menagerie of bluebirds, starlings, and other feathered friends leads me to consider picking up an Audubon guide to peruse over breakfast. Birds are everywhere. Robins, crows, and a half-dozen other bright birdies pluck worms from our lawn and flit about in our tall laurels. Our cat, Beatrice, has a favorite perch at the upstairs bathroom window where she stares for hours at the tasty, winged morsels.
In our last abode, we went to sleep listening to coyote yips from the nature park bordering our apartment. I also once rescued a baby raccoon from the apartment dumpster. He’d gone in to root through trash too soon after garbage day and found no piles to climb out over. Garbage-fed urban raccoons bear only a vague resemblance to their truly wild counterparts, but they’re fun to watch from a distance, with their long-fingered paws and fuzzy masks. One local bandit used to lie in the crook of a tree branch outside our apartment on his back. I’d come home from work on a warm summer evening and see him lazily scratching his belly, a portrait of bliss. I felt like I should offer him a cocktail. I suppose our trash was good enough.