I’ve always been a light sleeper. It’s one of the reasons living in the city drove me nuts. Sirens and loud neighbours and traffic at all hours. I never really needed an alarm clock, as I could never sleep past 5 anyway. So when we decided to try country living, I was all blissed out at how quiet it was. That is, until I realized (or rather, remembered) that nature has its own way of waking you up early – and keeping you up at night.
Let me start by saying that we live in a log cabin in the bush. Not on a farm, or on the rolling prairie – but six acres and change of mixed deciduous and coniferous west coast rainforest with a couple of small clearings, bounded by two misty mountain creeks. Before we moved in, our little house hadn’t been lived in for quite awhile. Put all those things together and you can see, it was, and is, mecca for creatures great and small. Unfortunately, more than a few of them have the same effect on me as those sirens from the city.
When we first embarked on our country living journey, it was the mama squirrel and her incessant chewing on the house at all hours. That first summer, she had her babies inside the roof, so no, not much sleep to be had for those few months, and no need for an alarm clock. And of course, we had mice. Lots of mice. Turned out the renter who’d lived in the cabin previously had left a bag of birdseed in an open cupboard – a veritable buffet for generations of tiny pink-footed rodents. So as you can imagine, for the first while after we moved in, there was much skittering and scuttering and squeaking in the middle of the night, doing laps in the toilet and bounding around like elephants. Who knew tiny feet could make that much noise.
But eventually I did get some sleep – after days of surveillance, we managed to lock the squirrel and her grown babies out of the roof one afternoon (and they made sure to voice their displeasure – for weeks), and a clean kitchen and a resident weasel slowly picked off the mouse population.
Then mama squirrel came back. Running, scritching, scratching, racing back and forth, round and round in that frantic way squirrels do, on the roof, in the middle of the night. Once again, my need for an alarm clock was moot.
Still better than sirens, but barely.
Finally, mama squirrel appeared to find a new home, and all was quiet. Until late one night when I was awakened by a giant thump on the kitchen shed roof. Then, trump-trump-trump across the span, then silence. What was THAT? We still don’t know, and I’m not sure I care to.
Then came the bats, who took up roost between the antique cedar fascia boards outside the sleeping loft window. At least they were reasonably quiet, but it’s a bit weird to be serenaded to sleep by squeaky bats not two feet from your ear.
And finally, there are the birds. Of course, we have all the beautiful songsters that so gently wake us up in the quiet mornings of spring and summer. Juncos and robins and various thrushes and tiny vocal maestros. But we also have birds with calls that sound more like the ‘EH-EH-EH’ of a digital alarm clock gone terribly wrong. Pileated woodpeckers, ravens, and Stellar’s jays are the worst offenders. Gorgeous birds, nasty sounding calls. Especially at 4 am.
But my absolute favourite, my 4 am buddy who calls through the forest like a lonesome pioneer, is our resident barred owl and his mate. “Hoo-hoo-hoo-hooooo” they call to each other through the forest when all the other creatures are quiet (except the squirrel, who lets us know she still holds a grudge by racing around the roof at night). I love those sort-of-quiet times, and I love those owls.
As far as alarm clocks go, I’ll take that one any day.
Have you had any funny encounters with wildlife waking you up in the middle of the night? Share them with us in the comments!