Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Squirrel Update

I haven't written about our yard squirrels for a while so I thought that I should.

They are fine.

Currently we have seven of them. They only appear as an entire group around 8:30 a.m., just about the time we head out to the health club. Prior to that they come in groups of two or three for what seems to be turning into a morning ritual.

Around 8:00 a.m., depending on what is on the "Today" show in regard to the missing woman d'jour, I go out to fill the two "day feeders" and re-supply the corn holder. Normally the tree-rats scatter when I open the door but sometimes one of them is so intent on breaking his fast that I come within inches of him as I move past the soda bottle feeder to the other ones.

Suddenly he senses my presence and, after making panicked eye contact, he leaps to the ground and runs away. Invariably at that point one of the other two squirrels will run immediately to the oak tree that houses the corn holder and wait, either at the empty station itself or on the bark on the opposite side of the trunk. Then mysteriously he wanders off somewhere without paying even a perfunctory visit to the newly placed food.

They also come to the feeders in groups of two or three at other times of the day. Until recently they usually arrived singly. Then, with the weather getting colder we hung up our suet feeder.

The fat holder is a square green wire cage specifically made to accommodate the "Hi Energy" version of the hard white blocks that we buy from a local nursery. Not surprisingly the additional feeder has attracted additional eaters - particularly of the bushy tailed rodent variety. It is now not uncommon to look out the family room windows and see one squirrel clinging to the suet basket, another inside the cylindrical pottery fish seed holder, and a third draped along the length of our soda bottle feeder. There also is an increased number and variety of birds - juncos, Downey woodpeckers, and nuthatches. But judging by the rapidly increasing size of the squirrels they are getting more than their fair share of the fabulously fattening food.

Probably because of the impenetrability of the metal wire, even to the sharp rodentia of the tree-rats, they have done little if any damage to that particular food station. Likewise the pottery fish, which has stood up to at least twenty years of, squirrel invasions. Not so the soda bottle feeder - which of course is the reason that we have a soda bottle feeder.

One of the squirrels, we have not definitively fingered which (although it is for sure one of the fatter ones), has every week or so taken to chewing head-sized holes in the bottom of the bottle (top of the feeder). This allows easy access to the seeds when the feeder is full-up, but requires continual modification as the food level diminishes - resulting after a few days in a visible-from-the-street fissure, and replacement of the bottle.

Not being soda drinkers we have only those few containers that we can grub from friends and relatives. Therefore, at the first sign of squirrel destruction we take action to prolong the useful life of the plastic container.

Normally Mars spots them first. "Bad squirrel!" she shouts as she leaps from her chair and opens the door to better communicate her message. This usually causes the squirrel to cease and desist its destructive activities - temporarily. Moments later Mars is outside. She is looking up at the recidivistic rodent and drawing her words out more slowly and forcefully to really get his attention. After, at most, one more verbal thrashing and perhaps a follow-up visit from me ("good cop - bad cop"), the squirrel withdraws from the scene and allows one of its more etiquette-inclined partners to dine, in the proper non-destructive manner, at the damaged decanter.

A few days later I replace the bottle and in a couple of weeks the saga is replayed.

You know - I really think that finally we are getting them trained.

"Good squirrel!"

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