My Chosen Spot contest Grand Prize winner
When I saw the announcement in the July Nature Friend about the “My Chosen Spot” contest, I knew I should write about our backyard. We live in a suburban neighborhood near Kaneohe Bay, the largest natural bay in the Hawaiian Islands. There are few native animals in our area, but we do have many introduced species from other countries.
I started my week early one September morning. The ground was still wet from the last night’s rain, but now there were only a few high, wispy clouds. As I walked out to the yard, I almost stepped on a snail that was slowly sliding across the yard. The African giant snails we have here are aptly named—some grow up to 4 inches (10 cm) long!
I was watching a Common Myna eating the fruit from a palm tree when I heard something near our old chicken coop. I turned and saw a Scaly-breasted Munia eating grass seeds. I got a few pictures; then it flew up onto the coop and hopped onto another piece of grass, bending it down so it could eat the seeds. I snuck closer to get a better picture, but I must have gotten too close, because it flew quickly to a tree a safe distance away.
Next, I went around to the side of the house where I had seen a green anole a few times. It wasn’t there, but I did see a gold dust day gecko peek around a post before running away.
When I stepped outside the next night, I could see the mostly full moon and a very bright planet through a window in the clouds. A light rain was falling, and there were at least a hundred snails and slugs feasting on the grass and garden plants. Being careful not to step on any with my bare feet, I walked to a spot where there were usually a lot of greenhouse frogs. Several frogs were hopping around and chirping, adding more noise to the crickets’ chorus.
A large brown anole ran out from a sweet potato patch and bit a slug, then decided it didn’t taste quite right, and scampered back. In another patch, two young mourning geckos chased each other around a sleeping brown anole, their golden eyes glowing in the light from my flashlight.
The next creature I looked for was the large cane toad that likes to hang around a very wet, overgrown part of the garden. After searching for a few minutes unsuccessfully, I was about to leave when I noticed him sitting several feet away. I watched him stare at me for a minute, but by then I was starting to feel tired. I went inside, leaving Mr. Toad to enjoy the rest of the night without me.
For several days, I had been hearing what I thought was a bulbul, and on the third day I finally spotted it. A young Red-vented Bulbul was following its parents and begging them for food as they hopped around in the tops of the bamboo. Other than that and the usual brown anoles and Zebra Doves, there wasn’t much.
On night five, there were almost no clouds. I decided to use our telescope to have a closer look at the planet I had seen on the second night. I know that it’s millions of miles away, which isn’t exactly in my chosen spot, but since I was observing it from my spot, I guess it counts. The moon wasn’t up yet, so I could see thousands of stars. Because of all the light pollution in our area, I had never noticed this many stars from our yard before.
My older brother helped set up our telescope, and my parents and a few other siblings came out. After our eyes were adjusted to the dark, we took turns looking at the planet. There were two dark bands across the middle and four smaller spots of light below it. It was Jupiter and its moons.
After everyone had seen it, we aimed the scope at a distant group of shimmering stars, which we discovered were the Pleiades. We were all amazed at how many stars were in that one spot. We had recently read Job 38:31, which says, “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades,” and now we got to see how the stars of Pleiades appear bound together. All too soon, the clouds started to take over the sky, telling us it was time to go to bed.
On the morning of the last day, as I was looking for the young bulbul I had seen earlier in the week, I noticed a Java Finch peeking out of an attic ventilation hole in the side of the house. Suddenly I saw a flurry of feathers and turned to see a White-rumped Shama land on a branch about 10 feet (3 m) away and start singing. In Asia, these birds are prized for their long tails and beautiful warbling songs (my favorite of all birdsongs), and they are even entered into singing competitions. I got one picture before it realized it was too close to me and flew away. I hardly ever see them in our yard, so it was a real highlight to my day.
It had barely gone out of sight when I heard the sharp “Cheer, cheer!” of a Northern Cardinal. It landed on a rock wall behind some banana trees, and whenever I moved to where I could see it, it would hop behind another tree where I couldn’t see it. Soon it flew up to its nest in the bamboo, so I went to look for the green anole that I still hadn’t found. I never did find it, but I’m thankful for all that I did see (especially the White-rumped Shama), and I am glad Nature Friend provided the opportunity to do this project.