I’ve admitted it before…I love squirrels. But this is bordering on ridiculous. There are 13 of the little gray rascals at the feeders this morning, not counting a red that’s on the hemlock tree and vertically out of range of the camera. Most people dislike squirrels because they dominate the feeders and scare off the birds – or damage expensive feeders and sometimes, porches, roofs, and attics. And in the nesting season, they prey on eggs and young birds.
The squirrel situation here is not really as bad as it looks. I maintain no less than 10 different feeding stations here at the Observatory. The wellhouse in front of the Observatory building is where most of the birds feed – from cheap hanging feeders, from a piece a plywood over the well itself, and from seed spread on the flagstones around the well base. That satisfies high feeder, low feeder, and ground-feeder preferences.
A picnic table on the front lawn doubles as another feeder during the winter months, since I’m definitely not using it.
The photo above was taken from the bedroom window, and shows two of the feeding stations near the house. One is under the hemlock tree; the other is just seed on the ground off the porch, which is easy to fill in inclement weather with a good toss off the porch steps.
The squirrels like to concentrate at this feeder, because there are more escape routes and cover. Which they needed this morning.
I was enjoying watching their antics from the window, when in a split second they all scattered for the nearby saplings. That in itself was comical – seven or eight scrambled up the same tree until there was a traffic jam which necessitated at least three of them leaping for branches of nearby trees.
There was much chucking and clicking going on, accompanied by the tail jerking movements that serve as a warning to others that something evil is lurking nearby.
At first I thought the squirrels had noticed me in the window, but these windows are coated almost like a one-way glass, and I’d been very careful to move slowly and quietly, so I wasn’t entirely sure.
The squirrel attention was focused on the ground, so I then knew what the problem was. And sure enough, there she was, slinking around the porch steps.
This is the feral cat that’s been hanging around here since last fall. This is a much more serious danger to the breeding birds – not to mention the chipmunks, red squirrels, baby bunnies, and practically anything else that is smaller than she is. The damage that squirrels cause to bird populations pales in comparison to that of a single feral cat.
Her presence has interfered with banding, and I like my chipmunks too, so she and I are going to have some problems.
I’m going to start tossing food to her, because I also have a live trap that we’re going to be setting soon (I want to wait until the nights are a bit warmer, so she isn’t too cold if I am successful in catching her). Bird Observatories and feral cats are not a good combination and so the presence of this cat here is unacceptable. She is a tortoiseshell, which means female, which means kittens. REALLY unacceptable.
I’m afraid this kitty is headed for a shelter or a cat rescue group that isn’t going to just spay her and put her back into the wild, which is what a lot of feral cat groups do. It could be worse for her – there are those around here who just wanted to shoot her, but that’s also unacceptable.
Anyone want a cat?