Nothing wild lives in the city. Or at least nothing bigger or more exciting than the occasional rat. This is the common perception among most people I talk to. On the surface it appears to be true. Many neighborhoods appear, at first glance, to be asphalt and brick. What green there is are small patches of ill tended yard. Cities are blighted places.

The truth of the matter is more complex. There are many areas so blighted but most parts of most cities have a diverse and hidden wildlife populations. There is more green than you would think. Wild things can make a fine living in the canyons and green patches of large cities. It is just not seen.

Wildlife makes its living by not being seen. It is of evolutionary advantage if you are able to travel on the down low. This is why so little wildlife is seen. Common urban critters include foxes, squirrels, a greater assortment of birds than most people would credit. There are of course the ever-present pigeons, house sparrows and starlings but if you look beyond those you will find a variety of tiny birds who specialize in a diet of insects. Along water courses there will be waterfowl from mallards to gadwalls and geese. There will be tiny waders like killdeer and large waders like herons. Living here will also be muskrats and, in some cases beaver.

The key to urban wildlife is knowing when and where to look. The best time for seeking these critters is at the transition times between dusk and full light on either end of the day. This is the changing of the shifts from night to-day and day to-night and the busiest time of the day.

Rise early and take a walk. Leave the iPod at home. Watch for movement out of the corner of your eyes. Walk quietly but not sneakily. A smooth, silent walk looks like an animal going about its business. A sneaky walk looks like a predator on the hunt. Keep your ears open. Listen for the sounds of the chitter of the birds. Listen for animals talking back and forth to each other. Yes, you will hear the caterwauling of the alley cats challenging each other and the dogs barking. But, if you listen closely you may also hear the yip of the foxes talking to each other or the coyotes calling out position for the hunt or the end of the night and time for home.

Cities are more alive with wild things than they appear at first glance. Take the time to walk around where you live and if you keep your eyes open you will see your hidden neighbors.

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