Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Critter Report

My menagerie has forced me to change my feeding habits. The squirrels broke my last feeder, so I finally bought one of the kind that closes when the squirrel gets on it. His weight causes little windows to descend over the seed ports. Pretty ingenious! It is a large feeder with three tubes, so it holds about 10 pounds of seeds. In the beginning, I was refilling it about every third day. Now that it's really cold and word has gotten out that I supplement the "regular" seed with all sorts of exotic seed, I'm filling it every day. Sometimes on the weekend, I fill it morning and afternoon! I'd begun to wonder if the squirrels had figured out some way to eat seeds without tripping the mechanism, but after watching...there are just LOTS of birds wanting to eat! I finally had to put the seed bins in the house. The squirrel had chewed a large hole in the Rubbermaid container and begun helping himself! Eventually I started putting out a plate of seeds and raw peanuts for the squirrels. At first, I thought that the squirrel just came multiple times each day to eat. But one day, I could tell that I'd seen two different squirrels. I was trying to figure out some way to mark them (I wanted to spray paint numbers on their backs!) so I could figure out how much food to leave. Just to be sure, I'd started doubling what I was putting out. Big mistake!!! Suddenly I had squirrel fights daily. They are fast and kind of mean and it was making me mad that one was being territorial and thinking it was all for him (of course, the trouble makers are male in my mind). So I had one of my "conversations" with the squirrels. I told them that if they couldn't get along, I'd quit feeding them. (I did this telepathically--and YES, I wonder about my state of mind!) The remarkable thing is that it worked! They seemed to figure out a feeding schedule. One squirrel will come for about 3-4 minutes, then jump off the deck into the tree and disappear. Within seconds, the next squirrel is there for his allotment of time and food. They are such fun to watch. I'm getting so I can identify them by their behavior (I'd still like little numbers on their backs!). The fence around the deck has a 6" gap between the deck and the first railing. I have a fake raccoon sitting there to hold down the rug. A couple of the squirrels will take their peanut and run next to the raccoon to eat their treat. They look like little garden statues. Another will just crawl into the dish and hold his peanut in his little paws. Yet another faces the sliding window and peers in while he eats. Sometimes he stands up on his back legs and stretches all directions to see into the house. I can be standing on the other side of the glass, but if I hold still--he doesn't mind. However, Loren can be in the next room, and if he coughs or sneezes, the squirrels and the birds take off fast. I haven't seen the chipmunk since autumn, so I don't know if he moved, died or is hibernating.

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