Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Winter of My Discontent (Squirrel Edition)

I was once at my brother-in-law's house when a wasp flew in. I don't like wasps. Had it been a fly I'd have gone after it - no one can say of me "she wouldn't hurt a fly" because I have, with extreme prejudice. But not wasps. One painful sting was enough.

My sister-in-law caught it in a glass and put it outside. I was amazed but felt no shame at what I would've done to that wasp had I had more courage.

I admit it, I do not love all of God's creatures equally.

In this current winter of my discontent, the piles of snow and ice stand at least two feet high and can support my weight. The squirrels have discovered they can jump up to the baffles and then either climb up one of the poles to the open house-like feeder or, as seen below, grab the end of the long feeder's "squirrel-proof" cage on another pole and feed its furry face.

2014 - winter of my discontent (Margo D. Beller)
This winter, particularly since 2014 began, we've had snowstorm after snowstorm, making walking or driving hazardous. It is mid-February as I write, and we are currently getting our 11th - at least I think it's the 11th, I've lost count - snowstorm. Snow is piling up and a couple of the female squirrels are hungry. My husband says at this time of year the females are likely eating for six. They still do not have my sympathy.

As the snow falls there are a lot of birds hitting the different feeders I have out. They, too, have it tough if not tougher - they can't scratch at soil for insects unless they are in an area where the snow is ever so slightly starting to recede. Especially when the temperatures plummeted from the "polar vortex," they needed what I could put out.

With my seed and suet supply diminishing from all the hungry birds, I don't take kindly to squirrels helping themselves in the feeders (picking up what the birds drop to the ground, fine).

Even within the birds there are some I take pains to shoo off the feeder. Starlings, for instance. They can't crunch the large sunflower seeds the way a finch or cardinal can, but they do sit in the feeder and keep the other birds away. One starling is bad - a flock is far worse. Worse still is when starlings mix with the larger grackles and redwing blackbirds and hit the backyard at once. At that point I take in the feeders and wait. There can be thousands of birds.

This snow isn't going anywhere fast, even with temperatures above freezing at the moment and projected to stay that way for most of this coming week.

Front walk/trench (Margo D. Beller)
When I found a squirrel in the house feeder today it was my worst nightmare. I took the feeder in but it tore at me to see cardinals and chickadees - two of my favorite birds - come to the pole and look around confused when the snow started. So I put it back out as well as the long feeder I had taken in a few days ago.

As I expected, one squirrel found it easier jumping to the long feeder on one pole than trying to get to the house feeder on the other. She is eating and dropping seeds to her squirrel friends and those birds that crowd in. It is an accommodation I am making for them, even tho' once in a while I go out to scare her off.

What I am hoping is a Cooper's hawk or a redtail will swoop in and pick her off for a meal.

Cruel? Yes. But, hey, even these birds have to eat once a day.

And as with other unpleasant things, there are always more squirrels down the road.

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