By David Hawke — Seeking wildlife species is a constant quest for most of us.
What animal made that track? Which bird is coming to the feeder? We tend to be looking around all the time, trying to find a critter here or a bird over there. But the cold weather of late may be curtailing your desire to be out and about on the trails, so what’s naturalist to do?
May I suggest searching within a slightly different habitat than the hardwood forest or the snow-covered meadow? The “new” place I will suggest may well have the following holed up in the sheltered areas: mammals, insects including flies, bugs and beetles, and arachnids (spiders). I have made a list that has 20 critters for starters. You might add a few more as a result of your explorations.
That “new” habitat is your house. The attic, the basement, the back of the closet, maybe even under the bed. There are so many places for wildlife to hang out in the house it’s amazing!
With a bit of sleuthing around the floorboards or the warm, dark corners of the garage or attic, you might find such mammals as raccoons, red squirrels, flying squirrels, grey squirrels, bats (hibernating), mice, shrews, and Uncle Bob who went missing from the family Christmas party. (Yes, he’s a mammal, too!)
Don’t get your hopes up about finding birds… unless you live in a barn. Then pigeons and starlings may be found roosting there. But let’s get back inside the cozy confines of your house.
Quite honestly, your best bet will be with finding insects. Look for flower aphids, pill bugs (some people call them sow bugs), carpet beetles, flies at the window, ants along the counter top, or maybe crickets in the pile of wood beside the fireplace.
Spiders of many different sizes and shapes can be found everywhere from hanging off the ceiling to tucked behind the dresser. They’re quick to move if disturbed so you need to be at the ready with your flashlight.
And then there’s the whole other invertebrate clan that are not insects; these have more than just six legs — the millipedes and centipedes. Again, check that wood pile or dark damp corners in the basement. Or you might get lucky enough to spot a silverfish before it wriggles under a loose board.
Don’t forget to examine the pets, as I’d include fleas as “wildlife.”
One of my favourite indoor species is the pseudo-scorpion (see attached photo). They look so awesome! Massive crab-like pincers are held at the ready while it searches relentlessly around the bathroom floorboards and trim for silverfish. Trouble with locating pseudo-scorpions is that they are small. Like really tiny. Three of them lined up side-by-side would hardly cover your small finger nail. Try it, you’ll see.
As just mentioned, many of your housemates are predators and live for the hunt. Seriously, what a spider would give just to have one house fly a week get tangled in its web!
There are some people (and perhaps you might know one or two yourself) who don’t like to share their living space with wildlife. (Yeah, I know, weird, eh?) They prefer to splash disinfectant around, and demand that the floor is cleared of toys and sweaty outdoor clothing to thwart house-hunting centipedes.
There is even a book (we obtained years ago) that helps people get rid of small urban wildlife. It’s called “Tiny Game Hunting: Environmentally Healthy Ways to Trap and Kill the Pests in Your House and Garden.” The authors, Hilary Klein and Adrian Wenner, seem to have a strangely focused desire to help others rid their house of these endlessly fascinating creatures. What’s up with that?
I just found a way-cool poster from the University of Guelph’s Arboretum that has all of these urban critters identified with photos and short text write-ups. (Give them a search on the ol’ Internet… they have a series of great posters to help you identify all the other things found where you’d probably expect to find them… outside the home.)
Keep in mind that ‘dust bunnies’ are not real. But who knows, with careful examination you might find some dust mites living within them. Bonus marks for confirming microscopic wildlife!
So, if being locked up inside for days on end is starting to get to you, try this fascinating new hobby of indoor explorations. Beside locating Uncle Bob, you might find that long lost missing black sock.
Dave’s Notebook: I hope that you are remaining in good health: physically, mentally and spiritually. This pandemic certainly has brought home the notion that Nature can provide all we really need. As safely as you can, get outside daily to see how the real world is doing. But if you can't do that, then look around indoors.
© 2021 David J. Hawke