~~By Kenosha Marge
I was looking out the window, watching the birds in the little feeder outside when I noticed a squirrel ambling down the driveway. Smack down the center the furry-tailed little rodent went as if he hadn’t a care in the world and was the owner of the houses on either side. Surrounded by huge snow banks he casually made his way. He was content and well fed by the nuts I had left for him and his friends in the dish on my back porch.
Suddenly the little squirrel saw a shadow that came from above. Without looking to see what was causing the shadow the squirrel went into full panic mode. He raced up one snow bank and then seemed to realize that he had just made himself a better target. Down the snow bank he raced and up the snow bank on the other side of the driveway. Again a light seemed to go on in his little squirrelly brain and down he ran.
The crow, which had caused the shadow, was long gone by then and little squirrel calmed down and continued his stroll down the driveway. His fear, for the moment, was in abeyance.
These past few days I am learning things I never knew about the animals and birds I feed and care about so much. I have always watched birds and squirrels. I have a groundhog that comes back to her burrow out behind the rhubarb every spring. I love watching the baby groundhogs. Okay, I admit it; I’m a critter addict.
However I do have a life to live and other things take up my time so I have never watched them as long and as carefully as I have the past few days.
Having snow-shoveled myself into an award winning backache I am attached to my new best friend, my heating pad, and moving up or down is not my favorite thing to do. Thus I sit in a chair by the window and watch birds and squirrels.
Lou, the man who has been my Significant Other for nearly twenty years is fortunately a bird, squirrel and groundhog watcher too. He built me a little bird feeder and placed it just outside the dining room window so that when I sat in my favorite place to read I could also watch birds. He didn’t realize that when he placed it so perfectly for my viewing that he also placed it above my reach for filling. Therefore he gave himself another task on what he considers his endless “Honey-Do” lists. I consider it his part of the tasks around the hearth and home. But then I’m a 50/50 kind of gal.
But I digress; back to the saga of the squirrel in the driveway. I was now concerned for my furry friend. Squirrels use the driveway frequently and now they would be trapped should a hawk come after them while they were between the snow banks on either side. Something must be done.
However there was nothing I could do since I was semi-permanently attached to my heating pad. I suggested that Lou go outside and dig little caves along the snow banks so that the squirrels had somewhere to hide. He suggested that I get my head examined.
I was stymied. I had no plan B. And neither did the squirrels. What to do, what to do?
You might not know that although I live in town hawks frequently come into my yard. Hawks, particularly the Red-tailed hawks that regard my bird feeders as their own personal smorgasbord have gone so far as to sit on the luggage rack of the neighbor’s car pursuing their lunch. These predators are NOT afraid. When we run screaming out of the house and chase them away they do not fly until we get very close. Then they just fly up into a nearby tree and stick their tongues out at us. Well, they do fly up into a nearby tree.
Finally I hobbled out to the driveway shovel in hand and a pathetic look on my face. Lou took the hint and the shovel and began to dig little caves for my squirrels. I won’t say he did it graciously because the look I got curled my hair and scorched the skin on my face. (When protecting my furry and feathered friends I am perfectly willing to endure scorching and curling.)
Today it’s 45 degrees and raining. The snow banks along the driveway are disappearing at a rapid rate and the squirrels are holed up in their little nests, called drays. Most of the snow along the driveway is nothing but mush and the only way a squirrel could use this route today is if he does the backstroke.
Lou has given me several “look what you made me do for nothing” looks, which I ignored. He’ll get over it. Martyrdom may provide a momentary pleasure but it’s not any fun if it doesn’t get the desired response. In this case the desired response was guilt and guilt was not forthcoming.
His stint in martyrdom however will interfere with my idea that he make little wharfs along the driveway so that when it becomes a river the squirrels have a place to get out of the water. Little wooden wharfs that would not melt into mush and could be used as little squirrelly decks for sunning in the summer.
Perhaps I’ll wait a little while to suggest it. He’s still a bit touchy about the subject since one of the neighbors asked him about the holes in the snow banks. The sound of the neighbor’s laughter is still reflected in the outrage in Lou’s eyes.
Or what about little squirrel boats? If a squirrel can be taught to water ski…
More on Red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) and their food preferences here.
NYC Red-tailed hawks, January 1, 2009 at http://www.palemale.com/
Editor’s Note: My rock squirrels on the other side of the wall are hibernating most of the time now, although they do come up every couple of days to catch the midday sun and to nibble on some of the veggie scraps I put near their nest entrances…As for groundhogs…well, I’m a Groundhog Day baby and when I lived in NJ, owned my very own Havahart trap…Groundhogs, adults and babies, had a special relationship with my tomatoes…
Filed under: Life | Tagged: "Honey-Do lists", birdwatching, Buteo jamaicensis, crows, ground squirrels, groundhogs, hawks, Red-tailed hawk, rock squirrels, snow shoveling, squirrel water skiing, squirrels |