Love to watch wildlife? Why not spend a few hours in your suburban backyard observing the antics of our feathered and four-legged friends as they search for food amongst your flowers, fruit trees, veggie patch and pet bowl. It's like a wildlife documentary that unfolds before your eyes - minus the voice-over.
Birds provide hours of entertainment as they forage for food, conduct mating rituals and produce a cacophony of sounds. My favourites are a family of magpies that come squawking at my back door demanding food whenever my neighbours who usually give them mince, are away. And if I dare feed them, a pair of Australian ravens (AKA Sheryl and Russell Crow) are quick to swoop them and banish them from their territory.
At times you'll be surprised by the appearance of a creature not common to the backyard environment. I once saw a red fox early one morning dart across my inner city backyard towards the front garden and onto a busy road - unscathed.
In Australia foxes are considered vermin, along with rats and pigeons but I can't help admiring the craftiness of these animals as they cleverly dodge cars, predators and humans in their quest for food and shelter.
If you have a pond or a less than pristine swimming pool (like one of my friends had) you'll most certainly attract ducks to your garden.
My neighbours' fig and persimmon trees are totally irresistible in summer to a flock of noisy rosellas that gorge themselves on the fruit and wake our household at dawn. But nothing beats the range of vocalization produced by the invasive Indian Myna bird that dominates my garden and screeches out warnings of lurking cats.
A common sight in Melbourne gardens in the evenings are ring-tail possums displaying their impressive tight-rope antics as they cross power lines to the next tree or worse, into your roof. They'll even polish off your roses and feed on your fruit trees, but even their cute faces won't endear them to gardeners.
The grey headed flying foxes (fruit bats) from the Melbourne Botanic Gardens use the flight path over my garden at dusk in the warmer months to raid suburban fruit trees; darkening the skies with their outstretched wings.
But the most audacious visitor of all is the black or roof rat – a species famous for spreading bubonic plague in Europe. My neighbourhood rat lives in a palm tree on the nature strip and enters my garden via a branch to a paling fence from where he scuttles headlong to the ground to rummage for vegetable scraps left behind by my free-roaming guinea pigs.
This rat repeatedly sneaks up on ravens that eat from my lawn so as to steal their food and hoard it beneath a bush. Much to my horror, I've even found him alongside one of my guinea pigs happily feeding from the same bowl like two old friends.
Have you come across any unusual, endangered or venomous creatures in your urban backyard? I'd love to hear about them.