Friday, August 12, 2011

Making Friends (and Others) in the Garden

One of my two friends the fledgling blue jays.

I had some almonds in my pocket one morning in early summer when I went out into the garden.  Out of curiosity, I set a few of them on a patio table and sat in a chair nearby to see if the most gregarious birds in my garden--the blue jays--would stop by for a treat.

It wasn't long before they did.  And I had so much fun watching them take the almonds and hide them around the yard--stopping to eat one from time to time--that I got into the habit of taking treats out in the morning for the jays.

Can you see that the jay has at least two almonds in his beak? They take two or three and hide them for later.

As I watched them I began to realize they were fledglings--young birds who still had a few downy feathers underneath their tails.  At first, a more mature bird dropped in from time to time.  Their mother? But these days it is just the two young birds.

I vowed I wouldn't leave out bird food in a feeder.  I've had ones in the past and they tend to attract squirrels, rats, and then the local cats learn to lurk beneath them, hungrily eyeing the birds as juicy prey.

Taking off!

So I just bring out a few peanuts, sunflower seeds and songbird seed each morning and sit for a few minutes watching the entertaining actions of the jays.  They know me now and I can put the food very close to me and they will take it.  

They always take turns with each other. Each waiting until the other has scooped up what he wants and has flown away before the next takes his turn.  One likes peanuts most, and one favors sunflowers seeds.

When I get tired of watching or have something else I have to do, I scoop up the remaining seeds and put them in a sealed tin on the patio.

You can't please everyone, though, and no good deed goes unpunished.

I went out to sit on the back patio late today to read my mail and the jays were busy elsewhere so I didn't put out any peanuts or seeds. But a squirrel, who has clearly been watching this whole mise en scene over the last weeks, dashed over and sat on a branch directly across from me.

And he started to scold me.  Yap yap yap yap eeeeeek eeeeek eeek, he went on as he watched me sitting there. Yap yap yap eeeek eeek eeek. He stared at me and kept it up for several minutes. And he wouldn't quit. It was obvious he was expecting something from me.  He figured after all my largess to the jays it was now his turn.

He has no idea how I feel about squirrels. How they've nibbled at my pumpkins and stolen my walnuts and robbed me of all my apricots and cherries.

I rose from the patio chair and the squirrel, no fool he, stopped chattering. Ah, he thought, she's going to get some of that stuff. So he paused in his scolding. And watched.

I walked over to my potting table in the breezeway, where I keep my gardening tools and other odds and ends for the garden, picked up something useful and returned to my chair on the patio. The squirrel eyed me hungrily.

I threw that golf ball I'd found in my garden straight at him.  It didn't hit him, of course, but it did make a big noise when it hit the fence. The squirrel dashed away with a yelp and lots of further chattering. And unless he plans to sprout blue feathers, I don't look forward to any further discussions with him.

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Don Meuler said...

See; I'm just the opposite. We have a squirrel feeder that is attached to one of our fir trees, and feeding the squirrels from that keeps them out of the rest of our plants. (They get unsalted roasted peanuts from the bulk food section.) Then the jays show up and raise a raucous ruckus until we toss a few out for them too. which they likewise try to carry off two at a time. But when the crows show up, that's when I start throwing fir cones...

Robin Chapman said...

I don't know ... I think by having a squirrel feeder you don't protect your other stuff, you just attract more squirrels! You really are a softie if you like those creatures!

Don Meuler said...

Shucks, ma'am - I like everybody! And it does seem to work; my biggest problem now is the deer family...

Robin Chapman said...

At least now I know who is reponsible for the huge squirrel population boom on the West Coast of North America!

linda said...


my sister adopted a baby squirrel who fell out of a tree during one of the hurricanes we had here in florida during 2004. the fall left him disabled and seperated from his mother. my sister did a good job of nurishing him back to health.

Robin Chapman said...

I'll make an exception for your sister's hand-raised, disabled squirrel-pet.

peretzklein said...

Whose hitting golf balls in your yard?

Robin Chapman said...

Neighbor kids I think. I find tennis balls too and use those to play with my friend Toby the dog. I've retrieved the golf ball though as a good anti squirrel mobile RPG.

peretzklein said...

Be careful. Golf balls are a little harder than tennis balls. I accidentily hit someone with a golf ball once, while playing 18 holes. I would have yelled "fore!", but I was to busy thinking "that's not going to hit him".

Robin Chapman said...

My throwing arm isn't what it used to be, so I couldn't hit a moving squirrel if I tried! However, the thump the golf ball made on the fence made the squirrel jump straight in the air, so that was good. Once, however, I was near a tennis court and picked up a tennis ball that was outside the court fence and tossed it over to the players and accidentally hit one of them in the head. So I will be careful of the wildlife surrounding me, in future. Just in case of accidental accuracy.