Living in a small town in rural California is full of surprises. Located in the greater Sacramento region, Winters has many residents who grow walnuts. The city itself used to support a walnut orchard behind one of its neighborhoods, but the city abandoned the land and let the weeds and animals take over.

To offer those interested in small towns with a glimpse into what to expect if living in such a neighborhood, this article explores the various creatures found in this particular wild orchard. The list includes the most common birds, rodents, grazers, and dangerous animals.

Credit: geopungo

Birds, Birds, and More Birds

Hopefully, any newcomer to the area enjoys bird songs, because this wild orchard collects many, various birds. The most common bird songs heard include those heard from cheerful songbirds, loud crows, cooing doves, obnoxious magpies, and territorial blue jays. To the dismay of birdsong lovers, the blue jays frequently chase away the songbirds, and doves often overpower the other songs with their incessant cooing. But all can sing their songs at some point during the day.

Less often heard bird songs come from owls and woodpeckers. Owls normally remain well hidden in the wild orchard, content on feasting on the small rodents. They have no reason to come closer to man so the residents can hear their hooting. The woodpeckers are seasonal. Two times during the year, they come and peck on the trees in the wild orchard, and on the residents’ houses. These pesky birds better be more careful of residents with BB guns.

Credit: Martyn Fletcher

Mice and Other Rodents in the Field

Squirrels are only expected in such an orchard. They can collect, store, and feast on what the wild nut trees produce to their hearts' content. Residents rarely see the creatures in their yards, because like the owls, the squirrels have all they need in the wild. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all the rodents.

Mice are a problem. Since the small, flexible creatures eat nearly anything, but especially sweets in households, the rodents find their way into residents’ homes and nest in the walls. Birds can also nest in homes if the homes have open ventilation, but mice go into the house and take over. Unless the residents are careless, the mice will chew through wires and piping along with the sweets.

Credit: Katriona McCarthy

Unthreatening Wanderers and Grazers

Though these creatures actually belong to someone, sheep are occasionally found in the wild orchard. Delighting the residents with their bleating, these docile animals wander the orchard and chill under the trees. The wild grass provides them with plenty of fodder, so the sheep herders gladly use this abandoned field to their advantage. Loud bleating during the nighttime is the only annoyance when these creatures wander into the neighborhood.

Unlike most of the creatures that avoid man, wild turkeys will wander down the middle of the residential street. Coming only during certain seasons, they mostly congregate in the orchard, where they can feed freely. Resident children will follow them when they strut down the asphalt street, gobbling as they do so. Sometimes they feed in residents’ yards. Getting too close to a wild turkey is a bad idea, though, since they attack when feeling threatened.

Mountain Lion
Credit: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Wild Animals to Avoid at All Costs

Most animals found in the wild orchard are harmless. However, at least two creatures exist in the orchard that requires residents to take care. Coyotes are sometimes heard howling into the night. When residents hear them, they are usually howling at sunset or sunrise as they hunt. Hunting in packs, coyotes are a threat, and no one should even peak over their backyard fence when they come close.

Mountain lions are the second threat. They sound much like regular household cats, only deeper and more menacing. Instances have occurred where a mountain lion would climb over fences into residents’ backyards and attack the pet dogs. To keep such sad occurrences from happening, residents listen for the great cats and hide in their homes to keep safe. Killing a mountain lion is now illegal in Northern California, but some residents have no choice when the creatures threaten their children.

Wild Orchard
Credit: Don Graham

Finding Delight in the Animals

Some of the creatures mentioned are household nuisances. Birds and mice nest in homes, turkeys get in the way, and wild animals pose a threat. However, having wildlife so near and personal brings a certain regard for life. Feeding them is inadvisable, but watching how they work to survive brings delight to residents in the beautiful complexity of their existence.

If creatures bring no joy, then people should look for a place to live in the suburbs or the cities. A small town in rural California is full of country folk. Animals and people live side-by-side and work together. Therefore, the animals found in a wild orchard bring nothing but smiles.