When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.
Friday, January 4, 2013
We left the house for a few hours later that morning, and when we returned, we noticed that one of our pinecone feeders had somehow disappeared. (And by disappeared, I mean completely vanished without a trace. There was no sign of it anywhere, and even the multi-coloured yarn that I had used to tie it to the tree was gone.) We thought that was a bit odd, but we still had four feeders remaining, and we were looking forward to watching our feathered visitors return once again to enjoy the goodies we had left for them.
This morning, on glancing out the kitchen window, I realized that we were down yet another feeder; there was only one of the pinecone feeders left, and where the second last one had been, there remained only a piece of coloured yarn blowing forlornly in the chilly morning air. Still though, during our breakfast the chickadees returned, and today they wasted no time starting in on their morning meal. While we were enjoying their company from our window, our resident cardinal pair swooped over to the little tree from the evergreen at the back of our yard, and the female seemed especially intrigued by what the chickadees were doing. She sat and watched them for a few minutes, her head cocked to one side, and then finally, she began inching closer to one of the feeders, one hop and one pause at a time along a slender, flimsy branch that sagged lower and lower with her every move. The boys and I quietly encouraged her from our seats. When she finally came as close to the feeder as the branch would allow, she seemed to give a little bounce to set the branch swinging under her weight, and she quickly grabbed a beak full of seeds in the split second that her head got just close enough to the feeder that she could reach it. The boys and I laughed in surprise and delight at her ingenious approach (and remarked that the male was either not as creative, or just plain lazy, as the brighter coloured bird of the pair waited on the ground to make a meal out of whatever seeds fell there!)
Suddenly, out of nowhere in the middle of this happy morning scene, a pair of bushy squirrels, one black and one gray, came tearing pell-mell across our backyard and threw themselves up the trunk of the bird feeder tree! They had an altercation mid-way up, which the gray squirrel appeared to win, and he alone then raced into the lowest branches of the tree where the feeders were hung. Before Noah or Will or I could say a word, the squirrel was hanging upside down from a branch by his back feet like a circus acrobat, holding on to the last remaining pinecone feeder for dear life with his tiny front feet and gnawing away fast and furiously at the yarn with his teeth. In the blink of an eye, the squirrel took off with his bird feeder prize held tightly in his mouth, and that was the last we saw of it.
The boys and I were shocked at the speed at which the squirrel had managed to steal the feeder right from under the birds' (and our) eyes. Noah sat staring out the window with his mouth agape and an upset Will started indignantly shouting about how awful that squirrel was. While I was trying to explain to Will that the squirrel was just looking for food, too, the little furry rascal returned and launched himself into the tree at lightning speed once again, this time with his eyes on the orange feeder. The cranberries on toothpicks seemed to be a brief deterrent to him, but ultimately they were no match for his wild determination. He grabbed the orange peel, furiously gobbled up all of the peanut butter and seed mixture from its middle, threw the cranberries to the ground, and then proceeded to shred the orange peel to tiny bits, which he then scattered defiantly on the snow below. The damage was so quick and so severe that I felt like I was watching some bizarre kind of animal horror film. I guess the squirrel had had enough to eat after that, because he never came back for the last orange feeder, but I fear for the safety of the lone remaining evidence of our act of kindness towards the birds. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before it meets a similar grisly end.
I have to admit that while I understand that the squirrels get hungry too (and I've often left food for them in our yard as well), I'm a little angry and sad that they completely destroyed the feeders that the boys worked on so carefully and lovingly. Unless we can figure out a way to outsmart the squirrels (which my father-in-law, a very resourceful man who lives out in the country, has been trying to do for years without success), I don't think we have much hope of getting to watch the birds enjoy the feeders in our tree anymore this winter. I hope at least the squirrel is somewhere happily gnawing on his pilfered pinecone smeared with peanut butter.