Feeding Our Curiosity

Now that the days are shorter and colder, we are finding joy in our back yard. No, we’re not sitting out there, bundled up, on my red swing; we’re watching from our kitchen window. And we could learn a lot of life lessons from the creatures out there.

The centre of activity is the bird feeder. It’s dozens of years old and sits on a pole, armed with a baffle to keep the squirrels out. The birds congregate there daily around 9:00 for breakfast and then again around noon. There is a definite “pecking order:” the bigger the bird, the closer to the front of the line. The jays are pretty bossy so they go first; the tiny chickadees are the last.

The cardinals are a bit skittish. They wait in a nearby bush until the coast is clear. Then they eat with one eye on the food and the other one watching for danger. Who can blame them, wearing those bright red coats? One day recently I was looking for a photo for the front of our Christmas cards. We usually use a trip photo but, of course there are none of either trips or photos this year. So I thought a bright red cardinal on a snow-covered bush would be perfect. But would they sit still and pose for me? Not on your life! I finally managed to snag a picture but you almost need a magnifying glass to see him.

Every once in a while the feeder needs to be refilled. Peter finishes his morning coffee and then heads out. But one day he was late. There was a tapping at the kitchen window. We rushed over to see a woodpecker, pecking away loudly, telling him to get the heck out there and fill it!

Minou, the neighbours’ cat, loves the birds too. She doesn’t just watch, though. She has a plan. She lies under the feeder until she is invisible, covered by falling snow. Then she rises up, ghost-like, and pounces! Sometimes she even catches one. But the truth is she’s a picky eater, so she lets the bird go. Then she jumps up on the kitchen windowsill and meows for store-bought cat treats instead.

But the most entertaining by far are the squirrels. Somehow they manage to get up on the feeder. But how? One day there were Two of them up there! We are truly baffled by their agility.

When they figure out that the feeder is full, they begin their quest. First they try to climb the pole, but they get caugt by the baffle. You can only see their tails twitching below as they inspect the baffle ceiling for holes. Next they climb up on top of the swing and, after gathering up their courage, they make a flying leap for the feeder. Usually they miss, and spread out like a magic carpet, landing softly on the ground. After picking themselves up and shaking off, they climb up the magnolia tree on the other side of the feeder. Gingerly they test out the highest branch and make another flying leap. Oops – missed again!

But sometimes, when our backs are turned, they make it! We have spent hours watching, trying to figure out how they do it. How do they get way up there? Then one day Peter yelled at me from the kitchen window: “I saw it!” A very athletic black squirrel had done a running high jump from the patio, landed on the top of the baffle, balanced itself while reaching up and grabbing the feeder ledge, then hauling itself upwards. Success!

During these pandemic times, squirrels know that patience and perseverance pay off.


5 thoughts on “Feeding Our Curiosity

  1. That is pretty well how it goes here too. At least you don’t have an entire flock of hens and two roosters (very pretty BIG FAT Orpingtons (wonder why), guinea fowl (yacketty yack yack!!) and a pair of peacocks, tails already half-grown. I solved the squirrel problem by suspending a plastic cone (the kind for protecting plants from frost) over the feeder which hangs from a bow (so no pole). Now, if only I could get the bluejays to stop sorting their preferences and flicking them to the ground.
    PS With 3 hunting cats, there are always casualties, usually in the early days. Mine are diners, former street cats, and therefore motivated. In a winter, a few are sacrificed to feed the many (mostly sparrows or juncos that feed on the ground) and I am very sad about that, BUT the first cat to catch a cardinal is in the doghouse–they’ve been told, and it’s never happened.
    I’d love to put up a window feeder (have you ever?) but that would be like laying out a smorgasbord.
    Thanks for your tales, always.


  2. Love your blog. John and I watch the birds, squirrels and best of all the chipmunks. My sister has a feeder with
    a long pole as yours. One day she looked out her window and can you believe 4 squirrels on each other’s back
    climbed up for the seeds and bingo, they won. Our chipmunks live in our garage all winter so now we have to
    feed them also. One day when John and i came home from our walk, near the backyard was a squirrel laying
    flat out on the lawn. John thought it was dead but I walked up to it and looked for 3 minutes. It was ASLEEP,
    woke up and ran away. Now we feed the squirrels. Animals and birds are such fun.


  3. Hi Sue. Many a year Sharon and I watched the squirrels. They were relentless but 2 or 3 could always beat the odds. We left our feeder at the last house unfortunately. You brought back great memories🥰🥰


  4. Love your story. The picture with the cardinal is wonderful. Glad that you and Peter are taking advantage of the wildlife in your own backyard. Better to be resting your elbows on the kitchen counter, than to be couch potatoes!


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