In The Garden, I May Not See You, But I Know You’re There

This is an update with additional information and photos to an original tale by Loret T. Setters published on January 13, 2015 at the defunct national blog nativeplantwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments and find working links to other stories.

Belted Kingfishers make a loud rattling sound just prior to diving into the water for a bite to eat.
Belted Kingfishers make a loud rattling sound just prior to diving into the water for a bite to eat.

Sometimes you know there are critters in your garden, but you don’t necessarily get to see their flying, furry or feathery self.  How can you tell?  Well, they leave signs.

Signs can be something as simple as a sound.  Many birds are secretive and some, like owls are nocturnal and not everyone gets to observe the actual bird.  So, there are times when listening will give you a hint of who is visiting.

Pattern of hammering left by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) in a the bark of a Live Oak tree (Quercus virginiana)
Pattern of hammering left by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) in a the bark of a Live Oak tree (Quercus virginiana)

Other creatures may leave slight damage on a tree or other plant as a sign of their visit.

Southern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa micans) nests in a dead limb of Saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia)
Southern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa micans) nests in a dead limb of Saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia)
This Redbay leaf was used by a leafcutter bee to gather nesting material.
This Redbay leaf was used by a leafcutter bee to gather nesting material.

Sometimes they leave a noticeable trail.

Moles leave mounds as they dig under ground
Moles leave mounds as they dig under ground
You’ll see tunnels through brush as evidence of Rabbits or similar mammals
You’ll see tunnels through brush as evidence of Rabbits or similar mammals

Sometimes they will dig a hole to nest in:

This is an indication of either a bumblebee (Bombus sp.) or a ground nesting wasp such as the Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus)
This is an indication of either a Bumblebee (Bombus sp.) or a ground nesting wasp such as the Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus)

Sometimes they will leave a piece of themselves such as the Black Racer snakeskin featured in the photo at the top of this post.

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) flew by at some point
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) flew by at some point

Sometimes they leave an undesirable sign in the form of scat, a phrase that has a better ring to it than saying excrement, poop or sh*t, I suppose.  It all means the same thing.

Bunnies leave other kinds of “trails” as well
Bunnies leave other kinds of “trails” as well
I haven’t seen a deer inside my yard, but I know they are there by their scat
I haven’t seen a deer inside my yard, but I know they are there by their scat
Nocturnal toads or treefrogs leave their mess around the base of the house
Nocturnal toads or treefrogs leave their mess around the base of the house
This is probably from a skink (a type of lizard), although it could be from one of the two species of anoles that call my place home
This is probably from a skink (a type of lizard), although it could be from one of the two species of anoles that call my place home

So, when wandering around your garden, don’t just be on the lookout for the moving, breathing things, be on the lookout for signs of living things that you may otherwise miss in your native plants and wildlife garden.

Southeastern Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon inexpectatus) In case you are wondering what a skink looks like from the outside rather than what comes out of the insides
Southeastern Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon inexpectatus) In case you are wondering what a skink looks like from the outside rather than what comes out of the insides
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