Monday, April 12, 2010

Unsettled weather and cunning rodents

Just like everyone else, our weather is rather topsy-turvy these days. Even though it doesn't usually rain around here in April it rained today. Then it was sunny. Then it poured.

I spent some time at the kitchen table watching birds (and a squirrel) at the feeder. A female Nuttall's woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii) appeared but was inclined to grab a seed off the platform and fly off to the neighbor's magnolia tree to eat it. I wasn't quick enough to sketch her at the feeder but, since she spent plenty of time eating in the tree, was able to get a sketch of her back. And the tree. Still working on that quick sketching skill.

And that darned squirrel. We hung a platform feeder a few months ago to attract some of the ground feeding birds, who prefer a feeder that's flat and open rather than the tube feeders. It's brought us mourning doves, oak titmice, California towhees and chestnut-backed chickadees. We also now get visits from a pair of rock pigeons who like to clean up the ground under the platform feeder. When the squirrels found it we found ourselves duking it out with them on an ongoing basis. We moved the feeder down. Then up. Then over. The cunning male squirrel figured out to leap off the roof, leap off the front porch, climb the window screen and leap gracefully onto the platform. At one point, before he'd figured out how to land on it, he'd swing on it and tip all the seed off the platform and onto the ground where he'd have a nice midday meal.

Today we implemented our latest strategy and moved the feeder to a pole away from the house, rather than hanging from the eaves. It took the squirrel exactly 45 minutes to figure out how to climb the pole and swing on up to the platform. We've now covered the pole with vaseline (internet advice chosen over that which recommends buying a 12-gauge shotgun) and are going to buy some bulk peanuts, which are allegedly the food most favored by squirrels, to put in a dish at the base of the feeder. I figure we're already messing with nature by feeding the birds and there always seem to be consequences when you mess with nature. I'm thinking the squirrels are one of our consequences. I don't mind feeding them but not at the expense of the birds. I relish the opportunity to sketch squirrels as well as birds. Of course, now we'll have to watch Chloe in the garden because she likes peanuts, too! That probably means we'll have to find a way to elevate the peanut bowl. Consequences.


  1. Is that a cockroach?

  2. I laughed out loud at the thought of the squirrel and the greasy pole. Your squirrel's antics deserve a little artist's book all of it's own. And then there's Chloe, bemused at the antics of her humans.

  3. I agree with Robyn, there is a book deal ready for you. Your word pictures are as well written as your art. I can see Chloe just sitting there watching here persons antics.

  4. As long as the woodpecker is going to take your stuff elsewhere to eat it, I'm glad she picked that lovely floral setting where you, and we, could still see her. My cousin tried that Vaseline on the pole idea -- I forget what happened next, but it did not go well... Perhaps you'll be covering that in the next installment of your illustrated backyard dramedy (that is a real word).