We live in Midtown, which is like a small village that has been plunked down in the heart of the city. It's about a five-minute drive to the main library, the State Capitol building, the K Street Mall, the Community Center, and all the new restaurants and lofts going up in quite modern-looking buildings. But our neighborhood is a clutch of tree-lined streets, old bungalows and Victorians homes with long yards and curbside gardens. It's about a five-minute walk to small boutiques, galleries, and sidewalk cafes. And almost any back door in Midtown opens onto a world of urbanized nature.
Let's start with the birds. I've observed jays, robins, sparrows, and finches, along with the ubiquitous crows that fly in clouds away from their roosts along 21st street in the mornings and return, cawing raucously each evening, around five p.m. Our garden seems to be home to a family of doves that coo all day long. Then there are the hummingbirds who hover over the herbs and flowers I've planted. From someone's yard nearby, I often hear a woodpecker drumming. One day, while walking Cezar, I spied a gray falcon calmly sitting on a garden fountain about a block from home. Occasionally my husband and I hear its strange shriek high above our neighborhood and hope that all the other birds have found safe cover.
The wildlife in our neighborhood doesn't stop with birds. I've awakened to Cezar's growls at night and peered out our back window to see possoms poking and scratching through our lawn. One evening I saw two raccoons on the roof of our alley garage, investigating our grape vines. (Those vines have a way of reaching out long tendrils everywhere.) Another evening I saw a family of five racoons in front of the apartment building down the street. Two large ones, presumably the parents, were on the ground. Three smaller ones clung to the trunk of an immense palm tree. The parents immediately glided away into the darkness between building and side fence. One of the young ones peered back at me from its foothold, and for a transfixed moment we locked glances. Then Cezar growled. As calmly as you please, the young racoons manouvered down the tree and disappeared into the same darkness as their parents. I assume they all went in search of more cordial adventures along the back alley.
Birds, raccoons, possums... What else? Once, while driving in Fair Oaks a few years ago, I saw a coyote padding down a sidewalk like someone's friendly dog. So far I love the wildlife in my backyard. But, I'm glad the coyotes haven't made it to Midtown.