Tag Archives: squirrels

Good-bye To An Old Friend – “My” Old Maple

Those of you that have spent time here on a regular basis know that I love to take pictures of the wildlife feasting and visiting in the grand old maple just feet off the back of my house.  With my kitchen a story up at the back of the house, I got to spend time up in the tree with all the critters.  It was wonderful and relaxing.

The feeders in the old tree weren’t the only draw for the birds. The large spreading tree offered a great place to hang out as well.

Baby squirrels would hone their climbing and jumping skills on its broad limbs after pigging out at the ‘all you can eat’ buffet.

But the old tree had been dying off, bit by bit, over the past few years. Of course, the woodpeckers all loved the bug buffet. And the resident flickers decided to raise a brood of young in a top branch of the old tree last year.

Unfortunately, this spring it was clear the old tree wouldn’t stand on its own much longer.  Only about a quarter of the tree began greening up.  After several days of heavy rain and wind, I was out in the yard with the energizer bunny (Ryder) and noticed a distinct list in the tree.  I checked the ground and realized there was no mound next to the base of the tree.  Roots on a leaning tree will push up the dirt as the tree pulls them up.  There was nothing there. YIKES!  I informed my husband that the next storm would probably push the tree over, and, oh, by the way, there are some branches that need taken off the roof.

So my husband goes up to remove branches and I began vacuuming.  As I was in the middle bedroom, I heard noise, looked up, and saw all kinds of dust and pine needles go blowing by the window. I rolled my eyes figuring he was dragging the branches off the side of the house and kept vacuuming.  A few moments later he walks into the house looking white as a sheet.  Part of his commentary cannot be printed here.  Apparently, one of the branches on the roof was still partially connected to the old tree.  He was tugging and twisting the branch in an attempt to break it off.  Whilst he was holding that branch, the tree fell nearly taking him over the side of the roof with it.  Have I ever mentioned how much my husband dislikes heights? 🙂

This was my view as I walked into the kitchen.

The old maple fell into an old pine on the corner of the house. This gives you an idea of how close it was to the window.

Into the old pine. The large green part of the old tree is literally in the pine tree. As you can see, this dead side has lost almost all its branches.

One of the neighbor’s cats decided this was a great vantage point to view the world. (The mesh pattern is the window screen in the bathroom.)  You can see we moved the bird baths away from the tree.

As we pondered whether or not to assist the old tree to the ground, two days later Mother Nature took the matter out of our hands with some nasty storms that included high winds and tornado warnings.  It was a day that made me feel a little like Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ as all kinds of crap went blowing by the windows.  A glance out the window showed the old pine swaying mightily and making the old tree move as well.  I stayed well away from the back of the house until I  heard all the snapping and popping and ‘KABOOM!’ that signalled the end of the old tree.

The old lady was down.

As you can see there was considerable rot throughout the tree. Only one large root was feeding the live part of the tree.

Perspective. I am 5’6″ tall and weigh 130 lbs.

In this shot you can see the destruction wrought on the old pine. A quarter of it stripped bare. And all the mess at the base of the pine is the smashed top of the old maple plus the pine branches ripped off by the old lady on her way down.

It was very interesting to watch as over the next couple of days everyone, feathered and furred, came to inspect the downed tree.  I began checking out the windows whenever I could to see who was next to inspect the old lady.  I was amazed at the activity AND the noise as they all spread the word, “Come here! Check this out!” Nothing goes unnoticed by the wild denizens of yard and forest.

While the critters have gone on with their lives, making adjustments to the new location of their free food, I have been bereft.  The view from the kitchen table is wide open and empty.  No more birds at breakfast.  No woodpeckers and loud squirrels for lunch.  And no more flying squirrels to peek at in the night.  All the activity and nature right outside my window – gone. I’ll live, I know. But for now I mourn my daily trysts with my old lady and the wildlife she nurtured.

Eat’n Size

If my father were still alive  he would look at my visitor and claim him eat’n size.  “Mmm, gravy and biscuits!”

Say, "Hello!" to  the Fox Squirrel.

Say, “Hello!” to the Fox Squirrel.

My father grew up on a farm back in a time and place where squirrels were a regular part of their diet.  If he got his chores done quickly in the morning, he would head to the woods to see if he could bag enough squirrels for dinner before he left for school.

Raiding my feeder.  We usually only see these guys with any regularity in the spring.  They're probably hitting us up for seed to feed hungry mouths.

Cautiously checking the feeding area.

Fortunately for this guy, I don’t need to put him on my dinner table! 😀

Raiding my feeder. We usually only see these guys with any regularity in the spring. They're probably hitting us up for seed to feed hungry mouths.

Raiding my feeder. We usually only see these guys with any regularity in the spring. They’re probably hitting us up for seed to feed hungry mouths.

Even though they make a mess at the feeders, I enjoy watching them from my window.  Enjoy your meal, squirrelly!

Squirrel Invasion

When we moved into this house 22 years ago, there was a birch tree off the corner of our front porch.  After we had lived here awhile I noticed that it handled a lot of bird traffic.  A bird feeder hanging on the edge of the tree would be easily visible through the front window while sitting on the couch.  I figured we could afford one bag of bird seed a month for our viewing pleasure.

I found a small cheap tube feeder and within three days I had birds lined up in the tree waiting for their turn to eat.  Of course, some of them weren’t content with waiting, so we also had some very noisy squabbles.  It was obviously the center of activity.

The following spring I was looking out of the window and saw something peeking over the edge of the roof at the tree.  I curled up and sat very still.  Eventually the tiniest, scrawniest squirrel I ever saw creeped slowly to the edge and then jumped into the tree.  I was somewhat concerned.  The squirrel wasn’t just skinny, it was bony.  And it’s fur was blotchy with naked patches.  Was this squirrel sick?

I watched him eat and his appetite was good.  He was very alert and was quick to seek shelter.  But he looked awful.  Even though I wasn’t real thrilled about feeding squirrels, I decided to leave him be and warned my husband of the possibility of having to murder a squirrel.  A couple of days later his coat had smoothed out somewhat and he was becoming bolder about running the birds off.  Huh.  And then he brought a friend to the tree.  And that squirrel was even smaller and looked as bad as he had.  No danglies were present, so I assumed a ‘she’ squirrel.

Over the next week as the squirrels got plumper and fur grew back, I realized I had a pair of red squirrels.  I then proceeded to read up about them and found out that they were having habitat issues and were declining in some areas.  These, apparently, were starving.  *sigh*  But they were getting comfortable around the house and their antics delighted my young daughter and made me smile as well.  Alright, I decided, I would feed the damn squirrels.  They were small, how much could they eat?

Wee Red Squirrel on new larger feeder.  ($10 on clearance!)

Wee Red Squirrel on new larger feeder. ($10 on clearance!)

A lot.  The little suckers were piglets.  And once they realized they were safe here, they took to running the birds off in a very rude fashion and even had the gall to yell at me when I would come out of the house.  And when the food would run out, which it did every day with the squirrels plus many birds, they began chewing on the feeder.  I would go out and take it down, but shortly it was toast.  So I bought a feeder with metal around the openings.  That lasted awhile.  Till they figured out they could just chew right through the sides.  Grrrrr.

Time to think.  How would I fix this?  I didn’t want to get rid of them even though they were making me crazy.  They had blossomed into proper red squirrels and I loved watching them make our back yard, which has lots of trees, their home.  But they were harassing the birds, which made them twitchy.  And destroying feeders had to stop.  So, separate feeders.

I liked watching birds in the tree outside the kitchen window at breakfast.  I would love some sort of feeder out there.  But the squirrels were happiest in the trees, so it would be their feeder out back instead.  The kitchen window was one story up, so it would have to be put on a pulley.  I then went shopping for a feeder and was pleased to find there was actually a ‘squirrel feeder’.  It was cedar with a clear plastic front that sat clear down on the wood with a small ledge in front of it.  No gap for food to slide out.  It had a lid on hinges.  The squirrels were supposed to sit on the ledge and open the feeder and take out the food.  Peanuts and corn were recommended, but we couldn’t afford all that.  So seed it would be.

We took down the feeder in the front of the house and hung the feeder in the tree.  The squirrels were not impressed.  Much running of the tree and chittering, chasing birds, and yelling at humans ensued.  It took them 5 days to find the feeder in the back.  Another two to quit being afraid of the lid.  Another week and we had another problem.  The squirrels were so small they fit inside the feeder.  And apparently they have no problem with peeing all over their food.  At which point they would begin jumping in and out and in and out and banging the lid each time.  And then they would dig, dig, dig in the seed.  I assumed looking for something edible.  There was a major waste of seed.  So I took the feeder down and pulled the staple above the plastic out and put it below the plastic front making it like a bird feeder with the seed coming out of the bottom.  I had my husband nail on wood strips to make the ledge in front a tray for the seed to sit in.  And then added a simple eye hook to hold the lid down.  Ta Da!  The tray is small enough that if they have to pee, they can just stick their butts over the edge.  Many, mostly pleasurable, years have passed and our population of red squirrels grew.

Three babie from last year.

Three babies from last year.

A couple of years later we realized we had other squirrel denizens feasting at our feeders.

Flying Squirrels.  They are denizens of the night and come to the feeders no sooner than dusk.  Usually after the cardinals, the last birds at my feeders, give up and go to bed.

Flying Squirrels. They are denizens of the night and come to the feeders no sooner than dusk. Usually after the cardinals, the last birds at my feeders, give up and go to bed.  My husband began saying, “The ‘Rockies’ are here.”  And the name stuck.  (For you younger folk, there was a cartoon during our generation called “Rocky and Bullwinkle”.  Rocky being a Flying Squirrel.

(Trying to get a decent picture of these guys was impossible. There were 4 of them vying for feeding rights and it was all grab and run. I took over 30 pictures, most of them empty. No squirrel. By the time I pushed the button, they were gone. -damn camera-  I started pushing the button as soon as I saw movement. This picture was the best I could do.)

For all these years, these were the only two squirrels I had to deal with.  occasionally, a grey squirrel would wander in and we would chase it off and it would stay gone for that year.  Not anymore.  Last July/August a mother with two young showed up and nothing we did would keep her gone for long.  Later, of course, the youngsters would come in on their own.  We don’t want them, but we don’t want to kill them either.   But grey squirrels have been known to run the red squirrels out of their territories.

One of the youngsters.

One of the youngsters. (Grey Squirrel)

When Saver of Bugs was home for spring break, another much larger squirrel showed up. We discussed the possibility of a Red Squirrel/Grey Squirrel hybrid.  They do occasionally cross-breed.  But it just didn’t look quite right to me.  So I went looking and it turns out we now have a fourth type of squirrel.  Meet the Fox Squirrel.

These suckers are huge.  And brassy.  This squirrel upon noticing me in the window taking pictures, challenged me.  (Hey!  Where's the air soft rifle?)

These suckers are huge. And brassy. This squirrel, upon noticing me in the window taking pictures, challenged me. (I wonder where my son put the air soft rifle?)

And then there were two.  Can you see the second one waiting out in the trees?

And then there were two. Can you see the second one waiting out in the trees?

We’ve hit these guys with soft BB’s and air soft pellets trying to scare them out of the yard. They keep coming back.  After having such a wonderful time watching the population of red squirrels growing and expanding, I now worry that they will be driven off and/or cease to be.  They are still coming to the feeder, but not in as many numbers, nor are they as vocal.  I worry for them.

I also wonder what has happened around here that has brought (or driven?) these squirrels so suddenly into our yard after all these years.   I do hope a balance can be reached.  I would hate to see the little red squirrels disappear.