Saturday, March 4, 2017

The squirrel war

I've been battling squirrels ever since I started putting food out for the birds this winter.  They've put up a good game, and I admit to a sneaking admiration for their problem-solving abilities. On Saturday morning, John photographed this black squirrel heading for  the remnants of a suet cake.

And...he's got it in his mouth. The suet is in a red mesh bag attached to a buddleia branch by green string. 

Now for a good gnaw! Notice the bird on the sidewalk beneath. 

The feast from another angle -- one paw holds the bag in place.

Now he's perfectly balanced on the branch, with both front paws free to hold those goodies!

Do not feed the squirrels, says the B.C. SPCA's website. They're "nature's ultimate gatherers," and quite capable of surviving on the plant material around them -- seeds, berries, leaves and twigs. Feeding them can attract rats, annoy the neighbours and ultimately be dangerous to them.

I read that little lecture just in time. I was beginning to soften toward my backyard squirrels, wondering why I should feed birds and not them, especially when they're so darn interesting. While the birds' greatest accomplishment is finding the bird seed and not getting eaten by the cat, the squirrels are out there problem-solving.

When I dangled a suet cake from an apple-tree branch by a string, the squirrels whirled the string around the branch until the cake was solidly trapped against the limb. Then they feasted.

When I moved the suet to a flexible buddleia branch, they were temporarily stymied. The branch was too thin for them to run on, and bent over, it put the suet out of their reach. But once the birds started whittling the suet down, the delicate balance was lost, and the squirrels were back to whirling and feasting.

That cake of suet is almost gone, so I give it up to them, whatever the SPCA says. But the next batch has gone straight up on very tall, very thin branch of the witch hazel tree. I'm pretty sure they won't be able to figure that out!

The nearly finished suet cake dangles from the buddleia.

The new suet cake, attached to the witch hazel, awaits action. 

The scene of the battle: The bird feeder on the left, with its hot-sauce-coated seeds to discourage squirrels, and the suet on the right, supposedly out of  their reach on a bent-over witch hazel branch. 

1 comment:

  1. You gotta love those squirrels! We've been enjoying our pair of doves that have returned. I think they are quite stupid birds. We got a laugh out of watching a pair of doves in the backyard of our friends in Yorkshire. Each day they came they had to figure out how to gain access to the covered bird feeder.