I parked my car in the driveway and walked into my backyard. There was a sudden flurry of movement, as a dozen or so small birds rose from some shrubs to take refuge along a fence or in the nearby pear tree.

My husband, Paul, and I are experiencing a baby boomlet of sparrows. At times, they rule the yard. It is part of a wider phenomenon I’m calling “the summer of wildlife.”

So far this year I’ve seen two sturgeon jumping in the Kennebec. I hear them frequently in June and early July, but had only previously seen one above the water line, and that was a couple of years ago.

A young fox emerged from the woods and gazed at Paul and me before disappearing back into the underbrush. As we turned into a preserve for yet another trek, we saw a fawn standing by the side of the road before she turned and bounded off.

We startled a bald eagle from his perch in a tree as we walked along the Kennebec. We were able to get a good look at him as he took flight.

At Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, I could see the ospreys in their nest on Googins Island, across the estuary. There’s another nest high atop a utility pole along the route home. Often, I can just see the ospreys’ heads peeking over the top, but on that day one of them was standing up and flapping his wings.

This is the first time in my life that I’ve kept a list of wildlife sightings. Maybe I have too much time on my hands?

I enjoy sitting on my deck and watching the activity swirling around in what Paul and I call the “little backyard.” Our 19th-century house has a long ell extending off the back, forming a western border. The main part of the house is to the south, a fence to the east and the garage to the north. The result is a courtyard that includes several bushes, an herb and flower bed and a grand old pear tree.

With two bird feeders and two bird baths, it’s always been a haven for birds and squirrels. Nothing exotic — chickadees, sparrows, wrens, catbirds, cardinals, yellow finches. The occasional woodpecker and nuthatch. This year, however, a troupe of at least five young squirrels showed up. They chased each other up and down the tree and vied for a place on a bird feeder. We dubbed them all “Darryl,” a reference to the “Newhart” TV show, which featured the brothers Larry, Darryl and Darryl.

One day, I was reading on the deck when I saw Darryl scamper over to a watering can. He stood on his hind legs and peered in. Then he hoisted himself up and stuck his head inside. Darryl yanked his head out, as if thinking better of it. Then he put it back in and flipped over with the watering can.

I laughed out loud.

We don’t usually have chipmunks, but we have two this year. They mind their own business and will eat seed off the ground in the company of birds.

The sparrows were young when they first appeared. I saw one repeatedly try to land on a bird bath. She was determined to succeed, which she finally did.

Some of the sparrows would flap their wings as they waited on a branch of the pear tree for a place at the feeders. I think they were afraid they were going to lose their balance.

We usually have a pair of cardinals hanging out. Last month, in the “big backyard” (beyond the garage) I surprised Mr. Cardinal and he flew off followed by what could only be his son. A few days later, I spotted them again — and this time there were two small females with them. Another first for me.

And as I wrote the previous line, I saw the male cardinal, flying across my neighbor’s yard.

There are more chipmunks this year because of a bumper crop of acorns. Maybe the same is true of squirrels. I have no idea about the sparrows. I am spending more time at home, so maybe I’m noticing what’s going on in my backyard more. Last summer, we had the back of the house painted. So I wasn’t on the deck as much, and the painting probably deterred animal activity to some extent.

Though Paul and I always hike in natural places in the summer, it’s all we’ve been doing this year. There have been none of our usual trips to art museums, movie matinees or quaint villages, for lunch and shopping. So it’s probably not surprising that I’m seeing more wildlife.

One day on the road I said to Paul, “I think more people are fishing.” He said, “Maybe you’re going to more places where people fish.”

He’s probably right. But I’d like to think that when we humans are staying home more and pursuing quieter activities, animals get braver. They thrive. It makes me feel better about the terrible situation we’re in.


Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected]

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