Sometimes it Pays to Get up Early

Tuesday morning at 5:45 I stepped into the kitchen with one thought on my mind.

Must. Make. Coffee. Now.

There was a lot of Mockingbird ruckus going on outside, which is not totally unusual, since this particular mocker scolds cats and crows multiple times a day with her ferocious grinding chirps. Most of the neighborhood babies have fledged however, and by the sound of it, this was a five alarm emergency. So after putting the water on to boil, I peered out the small kitchen window, noticing that the action must be happening next door, and not the garden like I had assumed.

I sleepily glanced around, looking for the cat or whatever the problem was. Everything looked normal at first.

And then I laughed in glee as I looked closer.

Ah, so it’s you, little trickster.

About 10 years ago (ohmygodihavelivedheresofeckinglong) I was awakened in the early morning by the sound of parrots outside my bedroom window. I groggily enjoyed their chirping and then realized that it did sound like a bunch of birds…except that it was coming from the breezeway between my house and next door…and it was on the ground. I slipped on my robe and tip toed outside, expecting to see a lost flock of tropical wonders.

Instead, I encountered five baby raccoons and their mama, who were all shouting encouragement to the last little slowpoke. Everyone else had made the jump into a small opening underneath the house, except for one little junior. Finally, one of his siblings jumped back down, shoved his nose under the baby, and boosted it onto the ledge.

I have wondered about this family, since I saw them around for a bit and then never again. About a month later, there was a dead raccoon on the sidewalk, with a bullet in its head.

This spring I wondered again, noticing how I hadn’t seen any coons for years, and feeling curious about that. Then, three months ago I spied two little gallumping bodies around Alamo Square, and pulled over to watch as one jumped a fence and one played look-out. I was pleased. Here in the city, I am not so concerned about their notorious ability to pull chickens through fences or to eat all the goldfish in your pond. In the urban scape, they make me laugh and lend me some of their wildness, restoring my faith that not all can be tamed or domesticated.

It turns out there was more than one. Five alarm emergency indeed.

I tiptoed outside with the camera (and was only able to get blurry shots, sorry), but I was not stealthy enough and they saw me immediately. So I struck up casual conversation, “Hi there. So you’re the ones who have been digging in my garden.”

The first bandit looked at me beadily and said, “Chitcheecheechee chitcheecheechee chitcheecheechee.

I would translate that for you, but this is a family blog and really it was just too rude.

They both slipped off to a hiding place for the day.

That evening we came home late, just after our housemate. She was excited and asked us if we had seen the raccoons out front? I went back out and there they were, emerging into the dark dusk for their nightly prowl. They looked at me again as I admonished them to be careful, and then slowly meandered their way up the street. Cars and people passed by without even noticing, as they finally turned the corner and disappeared into the night.

Coons are synanthropic. I wish I could say the same thing about myself.

What have you seen in the long summer twilight?

(If you homestead rurally, you may be all too familiar with the ways of raccoons. But if not, or you want to learn more, the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife has great info on living with coons.)


10 thoughts on “Sometimes it Pays to Get up Early

  1. Wow! We don’t have Raccoons in Ireland. They have such sweet faces! We have had a hedgehog visit us regularly this summer… mostly to eat the cat-food that we leave out for the cat that adopted us. Love how these little creatures adapt to our strange habitats.

  2. Those plums are insane! And the raccoons are cute little stinkers! I grew up living against a hill in L.A. and our raccoons were pushy. My dad would improvise all sorts of wile e. coyote schemes to keep them away from our trash cans, but they never worked. I can’t believe someone actually shot one in the middle of SF. That is nuts and really sad too.

    I live in the middle of suburban sprawl now, so I don’t get the same types of visitors. But lately, we’ve had a mocking bird perched up in a tree above my yard singing all night long keeping me company during the too frequent night time nursing sessions.

    1. raccoons are super smart! and even though you are in suburban sprawl, i bet you have more critters than you realize…here’s sending wishes your way for a wildlife encounter.

  3. Hi there! Yeah, the shooting thing breaks my heart. I see them up here in Nevada City by our house alot. I would love to see a whole family. Have you seen Pompoco, by Miyazaki? A cartoon about the coons…..

    1. hi adie! we tried to watch pompoco about three years ago…it was so bizarre that we didn’t make it all the way through. but we did laugh quite a bit and often revisit the idea of watching the rest…perhaps we will on your recommendation.

  4. They’re pretty gorgeous looking creatures, i’vebeen astounded by the wildlife here….we saw gophers, a hummingbird, a big lizard, and met a Texan woman at the campgrounds who isjust like sandra bullocks depiction in The Blind Side! Of course the raccoons found their friend Mary in the big city that is SF, it is the best place for them to be while there. xoxo

  5. one morning in the winter, when the sun doesn’t rise until 8 a.m., i was on my way to the gym and saw a family of raccoons posing at a tree, totally frozen, watching me as i walked past. the baby was clinging to the trunk, its older sibling on the ground, and mama paused in its circling to watch me pass. it’s like they were posing for a family portrait! funny little creatures.

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