I was clearing vegetation from around tree seedlings and shrubs that I was trying to encourage in the nature preserve, a five-acre area that the first- and second-graders I teach at the Bruderhof school have been developing as a wildlife habitat. While working, I was surprised to notice an eastern cottontail sitting motionless in a little hideout underneath some dried-up ferns about five feet from where I stood. I stopped working and stalked quite a bit closer before it hopped away to safety. The next day I forgot all about it until I was working in the same area and again found it in exactly the same location. In the days and months following, it was frequently seen resting in its matted-down hideout. One day, with my whole class watching, I crawled slowly toward the eastern cottontail to pet it and got my hand within eight inches of its back before it again hopped to a safer place. Later, my son managed to get four inches away. It would not be touched. After that we left it alone.

Yesterday I saw a fawn lying on one of the islands of Low Pond. It was in the shade of a twelve-foot white pine and only its head and ears were visible above the thick vegetation.

Today I saw a doe with her fawn walking through the witch hazel woods northeast of Low Pond in our nature preserve. As I followed them, I heard an interesting chattering noise that sounded something like a yellow-billed cuckoo. I went to investigate and discovered a baby raccoon about ten inches long, not counting the tail. I watched it search for shelter from a rain shower under a skunk cabbage leaf and a fallen log on the stream bank.

Photograph by Saul Cuellar / Unsplash