The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 7, 1999


My Back Yard: a Little Piece of Nature on Craigie Circle

We moved here to 81 Craigie Circle in 1962 as soon as the house was built and before they built the other house beyond us and before the sand pit on Peter Hans Road became house lots and eventually houses. The back of our property is outlined by Pages Brook which spreads itself toward us as beautiful wetlandsthe source of wide and varied wildlife.

On the other side of the brook were lots on Maple Street which had been bought by a builder who had intended to build several more houses, but as luck would have it, he could not because the land was too wet. My husband was on the private conservation commission at the time and promoted interest in purchasing this land for conservation purposes. It was accomplished and later the land became a part of the Greenough conservation land into which it flows.

Birds in the backyard

The first year we were here we saw many birds which we rarely see now. The towhee, the brown thrasher with his beautiful voice, several flycatchers and swallows (both of which were greatly affected by mosquito spraying), crossbills, scarlet tanagers, killdeer. We saw our first wood duck when he was quite rare, but now is prolific. The black duck was the dominant species then but is few in number now. I hear them being executed down by the Concord River during hunting season. We have mallards aplenty and an occasional merganser and blue- and green-winged teal. We have had brants and still have many Canada geese who nest in the area, as do the ducks I have mentioned above. These all bring their babies around. Of course they have a struggle raising the babies when they learn how many predators are lurking in and around the wetlands. But I'll have to say that the little wood duck is much more successful than is the much larger Canada goose.

Animals in the wetlands

There are animals who live in and frequent the wetlands. The first few years we were here the beaver made quite an impression on the neighborhood. One neighbor in particular had his backyard and basement flooded by the effects of a dam which beavers had built at the culvert under Maple Street. This was at the time when the land still belonged to Greenough. The disagreement over who had the right to protect the dam and who had the right to protect his home became such an issue that the Audubon Society was forced to come in and remove the beaver. However, they left the beaver house because there was a Canada goose nest on top which had eight eggs in it.

Fox were not plentiful when we first came here because there had been an epidemic of rabies which seemed to have wiped them out, but within a few years my children could hear them scream in the woods and then at dawn see the mother fox running over the ice or down the road to reach her kits who were hidden under a neighbor's barn. A few years ago we put a floodlight out back which we would turn on at various times to see what kind of wildlife was strolling through. One time I saw three raccoons on my picnic table, a skunk nibbling at the bird food which had fallen to the ground and an opossum strolling through.

Several years ago when people were swearing that there was some sort of wild cat roaming Carlisle my children saw evidence of such a beast having dropped out of a tree onto what had been a duck. I had heard very loud cat sounds about two in the morning and upon going out the front door (but no further) could clearly hear an animal snarling and growling while it was devouring its prey. We have not, however, been visited by the latest transient, the Carlisle bear or bears, but I have some very reliable friends who have had their bird feeders devastated by the visiting marauder.

Now when the coyote yips and howls, I hope that I haven't forgotten to bring my cats inside. This winter and last, perhaps because of the new building on Maple Street, I have seen a weasel in his winter coat (white) and then later in his brown coat. I also saw a mink who disposed of the muskrat who had been living in our backyard. He regularly comes back to check the same area. A fisher made his unlovely appearance. He is mean-looking. Of course we've had visits from woodchucks, rabbits, moles, voles, chipmunks and squirrels.

Back to the birds

To get back to the birds we have had living out back a great blue heron and a pair of red-tailed hawks. My sons who get around to Greenough more often, have seen the great horned owl and a bald eagle. Then my bird feeder has attracted the hairy woodpecker, the downy woodpecker, the flicker, the pileated woodpecker, one bluebird, chickadees, titmouse, goldfinch, purple finch, nuthatch, red-breasted nuthatch, and occasionally a rose-breasted grosbeak and evening grosbeak. The mountain ash tree and the many blueberry bushes attract cedar waxwings, when they are passing through, as well as the permanent residents such as the cardinal and the mockingbird.

Plant life

Considering plant life I am not as knowledgeable, except to note with great pleasure that in the swamp area it is always changing. We do have mallow and some wild cranberry and an occasional exotic-looking flower. The big difference now is the invasion of a long-stemmed purple flower (loosestrife) which seems to be choking everything out. My thought had been that this sort of invasion lasts just so long and then dies out of its own accord, but that doesn't seem to be happening.

Snapping turtles

I have not mentioned the reptile life of the "swamp" which is many and varied. Many a baby duck or goose has fallen victim to the large snapping turtles which are often seen hauling themselves out of the water and looking far and wide for a suitable place to lay eggs. That place is always across the roadany road. Several weeks later we can see the little babies running unerringly toward the water. Besides the snapper we have seen the mud turtle, the box turtle, the painted turtle, to say nothing of the peepers who announce spring. Frogs did seem to be fewer in number a couple of years ago, but now seem to be having a comeback. I have not been able to observe the mutations that the current science studies have mentioned.

I hope this has helped, and I have enjoyed telling about our little piece of nature here on Craigie Circle.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito