It’s late evening in early November. After day of rain, campus is teeming with wildlife looking for dinner. The remains of a carved pumpkin from Halloween sit in the woods to decompose. Slugs happily feed on the softened pumpkin flesh. A wet carpet of decomposing leaves makes the forest floor the perfect environment for these soft-bodied mollusks. Slugs will eat just about anything that grows in a garden and are considered to be pests. These slugs are grateful for their nutritious meal and help dispose of the rotting pumpkin.
More slimy friends surface in the wet grass. The earthworm is hermaphroditic, like our friend the slug, and has both male and female sex organs. Stopping to pick one off the paved path, the worm squiggles and struggles as if to escape. This is a reflex, a response to the salt on human skin. Earthworms do not have lungs and take in oxygen through their skin. When earthworms burrow through the dirt they mix the soil, stirring in minerals.
A large, black bird with a straight bill swoops down into a field and begins to peck at the soft ground. He tosses an earthworm back into his mouth American crows are one of the most intelligent species of bird. They are very social birds and thrive in areas densely populated by humans. They can be frequently found in parking lots and garbage dumps. American crows eat insects primarily, but are also known to munch on trash, carrion (dead animal flesh) and chicks stolen from other birds’ nests.
It may be cold and damp. The trees are bare and the wind is harsh. But even the most unpleasant nights are filled with life. The rain provides and the earth is grateful.