This is my Father's world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker's praise.
This is my Father's world: He shines in all that's fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

- Maltbie D. Babcock

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Wild Life

I love birds.  Not all kinds of birds, but most kinds (grackles, starlings, and crows need not apply).  I love their colours, songs, behaviours, and the fact that seeing one almost always makes me smile.  I like to attract them to the deck off our kitchen, because that's the best way for me to get to see and enjoy them up close. In fact, I currently have five different types of bird feeders attached to my deck railings, just so that everybody from hummingbirds to cardinals gets their preferred type of feed.  I even keep a bag of unsalted peanuts handy so I can throw them to the bluejays when requested.

I do not, on the other hand, love squirrels.  Squirrels, in my experience, are generally ill-mannered brutes and gluttons.  They do not play well with others.  Call me a specist if you will, but there it is.  I would like squirrels just fine if they were reasonable and willing to share.  The problem is that they park themselves on any available bird feeder (except for the hummingbird-specific one, of course) and stuff themselves until the food is gone. The red squirrels (so deceptively cute) are the worst of the lot in terms of gluttony.  They are extra annoying because they are also bullies, chasing away any creature that dares to trespass on what they see as their own personal spa.  I am not exaggerating - I've seen them gorge themselves, take a long sip of water from the birdbath, then stretch out along the railing as if trying to get a nap and a tan.  I'm sure they'd accept a massage if one was offered.

My family has almost gotten used to my banging on windows, waving my arms, yelling, chasing, and threatening to buy a gun with a silencer.  Almost, not quite - there's still a fair bit of eye-rolling that goes on.  No matter what I try, those little red devils are always one step ahead of me.  Yesterday I watched one chase a beautiful cardinal couple away from the feeder, and I saw red (pun intended).  I had to try something desperate.

I don't have a handgun license, so I did the next best thing.  I drove to the WBU store and grudgingly laid down the big bucks for a "squirrel-proof" feeder.  Now, I'm not naive - I've been around long enough to know that sooner or later, my squirrels are bound to figure a way around even these defenses.  I just needed to feel like I had the upper hand, if only for a day or two.  I actually got a bit of discount by purchasing a feeder that someone else had returned, not because of a problem with squirrels, but with raccoons!

Well, I took my new purchase home, set it up, and took some pleasure in watching my now perplexed freeloaders trying to figure it out in the evening.  So far so good.

As I headed off to bed a few hours later, the thought crossed my mind that I hoped no neighbourhood raccoon would come by and knock it down.  I'd rarely had any issues with coons, but for some reason I flicked on the outside light as I walked past the deck door just to check.  The sight that met my eyes had me convinced that I must be on Candid Camera.

There, packed together on the railing as if it was a row of theatre seats, was not only a raccoon, but five - count'em - five young kits.  Oh, they weren't bothering the new bird feeder; their focus was piling on top of each other to take swigs out of the hummingbird feeder.  It put me in mind of nothing so much as a gang of kids being taken out by their mother for ice cream cones.

Amidst much purr-growling, and with me urging them along with a broom, they all eventually and reluctantly left the deck and moved into the cherry tree next to it.  I hope they won't be nightly visitors, but I guess the bottom line is, if you invite wildlife into your back yard, you don't necessarily have a lot of control over just how wild it gets!

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