Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ducks and Snails and Chipmunk Tales

Our chipmunk is back – as are the ducks.

First the mallards. They are a pair and they – or other identical looking ones (aren’t they all?) – have spent the warm months in our neighborhood for the past several years – literally in our neighborhood. This is a little odd. For one thing, about one quarter mile away is a small pond in a city park, fenced in and tree-lined for protection and (based upon personal observation of other water fowl that inhabit it) perfectly suited for such nice, young couple. But this duo, or their predecessors, have on at least two occasions chosen to set up housekeeping in a bush on the front lawn of one of my neighbors a couple of houses up the street.

 They come to our place for meals. We have a squirrel feeder nailed to the trunk of one of our oak trees. It is a small picnic table with the upright screw onto which every evening I dutifully place a new ear of specially purchased squirrel corn. The rodents who dine there are not that fastidious in their dining habits and thus the base of the tree each day is covered with a blanket of discarded maze kernels. For some reason the squirrels ignore them – although they will eat sunflower seeds from the ground underneath our actual bird feeders.

The ducks, however, waddle over to the buffet and peck away. Or at least the female does. The male stands a few feet away watching – like Prince Phillip with its wings held in a relaxed position behind its back. They usually arrive by foot and leave the same way – although sometimes they fly in and land awkwardly on the non-splash-able grass surface. We will probably see them on our property and wandering the hood for the next several months.

We had not seen the chipmunk since early spring when we brought our PT Cruiser in to our favorite service station because of an unpleasant odor emanating from the car’s heating system. Jim the mechanic found sunflower seed husks and nesting material – but no corpse. They cleaned it out and sprayed it with a deodorizer whose semi-pleasant aroma still issues from the auto’s HVAC.

Then a few days ago Mars looked out at our only real, honest-to-God squirrel-proof bird feeder – a cylinder within a cage – and saw the brown little guy inside the anti-rodent-barrier stuffing his ever–expanding cheeks. He appears almost daily now. Our previous assumption was that he lived in our garage into which we would frequently see him retreat. Once again that is probably where he is.

Mars and I had dinner with friends the other night. She is a master gardener and was talking about how chipmunks had destroyed the astilbe on their property. Mention of how well our hosta was doing this year led to talk of snails::hosta as chipmink::astilbe.

And it turns out there is a chipmunk equivalent to the deep-dish-filled-with-cheap-beer snail trap that organic gardeners have used for years to trap and kill the encroaching escargot. The chipmunk version involves a larger bucket partially filled with h2o, and a wooden board from which the tiny rodent, lured by floating sunflowers, makes its lemming-like leap into the watery abyss.

The downside, as it is with the snails, is the disposal of the remains – except these victims have liquid brown innocent eyes.

 Oh well – we don’t really have any room for astilbe anyway.

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