I walked today and it felt good. It was gray and cool and perfect. I remembered that this kind of weather was what I thought about when I was walking in the heat and humidity of summer. These are the glory days of walking. No heat, or freezing temps, or ice or snow. Just cool crisp days! I love Fall.
Fall and Halloween decorations are popping up in the neighborhoods. Leaves fill the streets and sidewalks. The squirrels are boldly grabbing all the acorns they can find. Since squirrels are notorious for not remembering where they hide their food, they overcompensate by hording beyond their needs. When they can't find their hidden meals, they turn up at my bird feeder - stealing seed from my resident birds.
I know that some people find squirrels to be pests. But I enjoy watching their antics and acrobatics. I admire their ingenuity and persistence in seeking food. And they proved to me that they do have some memory.
Last winter I began feeding the birds on my deck. In the spring the squirrels showed up. To deflect the squirrels, I bought a squirrels resistant feeder, called a Squirrel Buster, and corn cobs. My thought was that I would throw out the corn cobs for the squirrels keeping them busy freeing the feeders for the birds. And it worked. It actually worked too well.
Every morning I would come down stairs to make the coffee, open the blinds and pull back the kitchen slider blind - and every morning a squirrel would be sitting on my balcony staring back at me ... waiting. I would open the slider, he would retreat to the banister, I would fill the feeders and then throw a corn cob over the deck. He would scamper off to retrieve it ... and all would be well. Friends who would visit would comment on what a chubby squirrel he was. My husband and I joked that maybe we should name him. But reason took hold. The next thing you know, I would be taking him for regular veterinary care! No, no naming of the wild life!
Then one morning I opened the slider blind and there were 2 squirrels sitting there ... staring back. Word was spreading! At one point we had 4 squirrels. We were wondering if they were a family. It was alittle creepy because the numbers were climbing. But the final straw happened one day when I was returning from a walk. I was walking on the sidewalk parallel to my town home, and I became aware that something was moving beside me. I stopped and looked down. Not 3 feet away was the squirrel looking back at me. I started to walk and he kept pace. Totally freaked, I stamped my feet and he moved away. But not too far. I was the corn cob lady after all, and you never know when she would toss one. So, yes, I do think squirrels have memory - selective memory like everyone else. And there is one out there who is keeping an eye on me.
We were moving into summer and the birds would not starve, so I stopped feeding everyone. EVERYONE! The squirrels still came for a few weeks and then finally gave up. Now that it is fall, I am back to feeding the birds again. And I probably will feed the squirrels as well. I still have a few of those corn cobs. I am guessing it will take the wild life a little while to figure out "she's back!!!". :-)
I love feeding the birds. I have two bird books for the mid-Atlantic region and I have kept track of the birds I have seen off my back deck. Once I saw a Cooper Hawk in the trees behind my house. As I was admiring him through my binoculars, he took flight. I kept watch and he dived towards my deck, obviously going after one of the birds. I quickly looked him up in my book and sure enough, he eats lots of things and one was other birds! Darn. I was now creating a smorgasbord for his lunch. Somehow this feeding the wild life was more complicated than I thought.
Last winter when we had many feet of snow on the ground, I know I kept a small flock of birds alive behind my house. During one of the mega east coast snow storms I discovered that my bird feeder couldn't keep up with the demand - there were too many birds. I filled a pie plate with seed but the snow was coming down so fast, it would cover the seed before they could eat. So I put an umbrella over the pie pan so they could feed under shelter. My neighbors never asked what I was doing ... probably better not to question the nut next door!
I'll be feeding the birds again this winter. And if I need to keep a family of squirrels alive again this winter, so be it. They are hungry too!
For those who are interested in how to control squirrels, check out:
Squirrels, 101 Cunning Stratagems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Birdfeeder by Squirrels by Bill Adler, Jr. It is a very fun read, because everyone knows that you can't outwit squirrels. My edition was the Second Edition "revised and even craftier".