Saturday, October 9, 2010

Circus Admission: Sunflower Seeds

The race was on - you could hear the bark flying. Up, down, ‘round and ‘round the tree, across the grass lickety-split. Then up another tree, across the branches to another, down, up ‘round and ‘round. They scrambled along the ground, right under the rake, nearly knocking it over and right across the toes of my shoes - with me in them! Then up the tree again, with one finally settling into the swinging box feeder, one in the pole feeder, and one on a nearby branch trilling away. I laughed ‘til I doubled over and cried. Our backyard has become a 3 ring circus. Admission: sunflower seeds.

When we first moved here 30 years ago, we didn’t have many - at least not on our property. We would catch an occasional glimpse of one racing across the road as we drove. One large Doug fir on the corner of our pasture collected a big pile of cone scales near its base, so we knew at least 1 or 2 were busy there. But mostly, they remained a rare sight for us.

Things have changed over the years. To eliminate some of our grass, we planted ground covers and native shrubs; trees that were small now tower above us. More houses (and fewer trees) fill our neighborhood and we no longer have a dog. Thistle and sunflower seeds replaced wild bird seed mix .

They cause us no problems, so to speak. There is the thump, thump, thump as green fir cones come tumbling down and gnawed-off scales do pile up beneath certain trees. There is the chattering, trilling, squeaking and nattering that can be incessant, but I have learned to talk back to them - not that they pay me any mind. Near the end of one summer a few years ago one did get rather bold and was seen exploring our side porch frequently. I had a funny feeling about that one, which was confirmed when I discovered several holes chewed in the cushion on one chair. Reading up, I discovered they have young in June and October, so suspected nest-building. Fall brought the appearance of 3 lively young, so all was forgiven. Another year about the same time, the tablecloth on the picnic table was nibbled all along the edges, so I guess those nurseries must be carefully equipped also...

This could be called the “Year of the Squirrel” for it has certainly yielded a bumper crop. The 3 young Chickarees (or Douglas squirrels) that have graced “our” territory this summer have certainly kept us entertained. In early August, 3 more small ones appeared, and we wonder what part we have played in this increase.

We have stopped filling the most easily-accessible feeders for now. Bickering has increased, and it will be interesting to see who runs off who as territories are re-established. We’ve noticed the Sharp-Shinned Hawk cruises through more frequently.

One change always leads to another, and we sometimes forget that all life is indeed interconnected...

When goods increase, they increase who eat them; and what gain has their owner but to see them with his eyes?
Ecclesiastes 5:11

1 comment:

  1. love those squirrels!! they sure are determined little creatures!!
    watching them...makes me laugh. great pictures too!!
    i think our squirrel population here is kept in check...by the hawks. nature at work...