Slices of Life: Spring in the backyard
I spotted the first one out of the corner of my eye, just outside the kitchen window. A bunny! And then there were two of them. Hopping in the yard and eating grass.
They were brown with white tails. Nothing fancy, just common garden-variety bunnies, but I marveled at the way they blended in with the still-brown grass and patches of white snow not yet melted from winter. They served as a true demonstration of nature's perfect camouflage right there in my own backyard.
It turns out there's more than camouflage working in the color of their body (and tail) fur. Researchers believe that the white tail evolved as a way to confuse predators that give chase. These predators focus on the white tail. As Mr. Rabbit darts back and forth the white tail flashes in and out of sight, confusing said predator and giving our friend, the bunny, an advantage. Sounds good to me. I've always had a soft spot for bunnies.
The rabbits in my yard weren't worried about predators. They seemed focused on eating.
That, and doing the thing that rabbits do best: making more rabbits.
One rabbit — the bigger of the two and probably the female — took a hop toward her counterpart. He leapt backward high in the air — or at least high for a twitterpated bunny. It happened again. And again.
In the midst of this curious backward hopping dance, they took a break and stood nose to nose. It looked like they were kissing, but I realize they were more likely sniffing each other out. They stayed locked in this stance for a few seconds before the smaller bunny took another leap backwards, apparently demonstrating his extreme hopping aptitude and vertical prowess to his soon-to-be bride and mother of his children (not necessarily in that order).
He took about 10 hops away before turning to the female. She hopped in the opposite direction. An attempt at coyness to be sure.
Not to be outdone, he ignored her for a while, eating brown grass. She used her back leg to scratch her ear. He looked at her, twitched his nose and used his front paws to wash his face. I feared we might be at an impasse. Perhaps no baby bunnies would be made today.
Or maybe they would. The bunnies in the yard continued their unique mating, hopping, dancing ritual. At first, their interaction piqued my curiosity. I'd never seen rabbits interact in such a manner. I was glued to the kitchen window.
But after a few minutes, I began to feel like a voyeur — infringing on what they surely thought was a private, not to mention intimate, backyard moment.
At what point does watching bunnies get weird and perhaps a little creepy?
I decided I didn't want to go there, so I left the window and let bunnies be bunnies. If they are like most rabbits, they're probably growing a half-dozen or so baby bunnies that will be born soon enough. Rabbit gestation is between 30 and 33 days, with another three weeks spent in the nest before they are ready to romp in the yard on their own.
Which means in a couple of months my yard could be littered with bunnies — literally. Now that would be something worth watching. Hashtag cuteness overload.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.