Most gardeners are nature lovers–except when “nature” gets the best of their garden!
Deborah L. Martin
Isn’t she just precious. She looks so soft I would love to give her a big snuggly hug, but I don’t think she would like that as she is a bit shy. Her name is Beatrix, and this is her story; about how she came to live here in our garden.
Her story starts in late May, when a lone rabbit or eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) was regularly visiting the back gardens. Content to eat the clover, we let her be. At the end of each visit, she (we later discovered it was a female) would make the same trip to the right side of the gazebo, and lose herself in the giant stand of Obedient plant there. I thought, at the time, she was just following her normal path in and out of the garden.
In hindsight, I should have guessed she was a nursing mother as it was clear to me later when I looked at the appearance of her fur. Nursing rabbits usually have uneven and matted fur as we have noticed from those who have had nests in the garden before….and you can see that same uneven fur here in this picture of her in spring.
Her visits continued through June, and I really didn’t think much about them. Just always making sure she steered clear of the veg gardens on that side of the fence.
In early July we had an amazing discovery brought about by a young fox who decided to jump the fence. As you read in his story, he ran around that same area of the garden where the rabbit would visit, and found a meal in a baby bunny he captured. I was in complete shock that there were baby bunnies in the garden. But given that this year I had not weeded, I was not surprised. You see every spring, as I weed, I also look for rabbit nests. I did chase one rabbit (pictured left) in late April, but she must have found another spot elsewhere. Right back there in the leaf litter, weeds and Obedient plants. We discourage the rabbits from building nests inside the fence because as it happens, they are sitting ducks or should I say rabbits.
The real surprise after the fox visited was discovering that one rabbit survived. And we saw her out and about in the garden soon after the demise of her sibling. Of course I have no idea if she is really a she, but I like to think so. I promptly named her Beatrix, after Beatrix Potter one of my favorite authors who wrote one of my favorite books, Peter Rabbit.
Bea remained very shy, and would hide whenever we were in the garden. But we enjoyed watching her explore the garden beds and patio containers from inside the house. She was a bit too small to do much damage, but I was still wary.
Bea continued living in the garden all summer, and took up residence in the back by the rain garden on the left side of the garden. We suspected she found a home under the shed next door. She still had easy access to the tall grass and clover growing in our garden. All she had to do was just scoot under our fence to get to the goodies she loved.
Clover and especially clover flowers have been a particular favorite of the rabbits in our area. Many venture inside our fence to partake. And we leave them alone, as long as they don’t go after anything else. If they do, they are summarily chased many never coming back.
I was worried about Bea all summer as I feared our young fox would find her, or perhaps she would be in danger from the young red-tailed hawk that was hunting rabbits in the area. Yes I got to see that too~sigh. And of course the rabbit hunting heron in fall made me cringe too. But the last time I saw Bea was in early fall, as she was eating clover in the back near the gazebo. She was getting bigger, and I knew she would be gone soon to make a winter home somewhere.
I have seen many rabbit prints around our garden, but have not spied the rabbits. With the snow now, we will be able to easily see if any rabbits are visiting. I hope one of them is Bea. It would be wonderful to know if she is still around. Perhaps she will raise a family close by in spring. Of course, we only admit well behaved rabbits to our garden as Beatrix can attest to.
Some Interesting Facts and Folklore About Eastern Cottontails:
It is said the Mohawk Indians learned to dance from rabbits
African folklore tells stories of the trickster rabbit
The Algonquins tell how the great white hare formed the earth
In Europe (especially Ireland, Wales and Scotland), it was believed witches would turn themselves into hares, and it was bad luck if a hare crossed your path.
In 19th century England, country folk would not eat rabbits as they believed their grandmothers souls had passed in to the rabbits.
Some cultures, like the Egyptians, Aztecs and Hindus, believed the rabbit was associated with the moon.
Rabbits were also associated with fertility going back to the Greek and Roman times (we can certainly see why).
And next month, I will post my wildlife stories from my new blog, Living From Happiness. I hope you will join me there.
Please join me in celebrating the new season coming soon to your part of the world.
Just write a post between now and December 21st. Leave a link with your comment on the kick-off post of Seasonal Celebrations-Winter Wonders. I will include your link in my summary post on December 22nd.
I am collaborating with Beth@Plant Postingsand her Lessons Learned meme at this same time. What lessons have you learned this past season of summer here in the North and winter in the South. Write a separate post or combine your lessons with your celebrations in one post.