Still bird feeding time

The flowers are blooming, but few have produced seed, and not really the seed many of us like.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak male

So keep those backyard feeders filled! Both the birds and we squirrels will keep visiting!

But, maybe not at the same time–did ya notice that seed-cracking bill on this male Rose-breasted Grosbeak?

Welcome to a new year!

The Squirrel Nutwork blog is still closed for the winter, but we thought you might like an update on our activities. Eastern Gray Squirrel in winter

For us squirrels, today is like every other winter day here in Northern Virginia: sunny and cold. The bright light wakes us up, then it’s lots of running around to eat to stay warm. Once again to Hickory’s dismay, we are in competition with the birds at our favorite deck bird feeders.

Birds feeding at bird feeder

There is a line–roughly a line, in bird terms–in the oak tree, and today a pair of Eastern Bluebirds have joined it.

Eastern Bluebird

Tail flicks all around. We may as well collect what falls instead of risking our ears getting pecked.

Hope you humans have a great start to your year!

Thirsty Thursday

Frog Bird bath

This here is a pretty fancy bird bath. Ol’ Wally isn’t too sure how many frogs can make a leap that high to get into it, but it’s a good reminder. This time of year the animals that will be out and about this winter are scoping out the places they will get food and water.

If you humans think you are going to put out feeders for the winter, or keep a nice supply of unfrozen water–either by heating it or putting out crest everyday–then NOW is the time to set these up. Once winter hits and we are freezing our little paws off going out and digging those acorns from the frozen ground, we do not have the energy to waste going around searching for other food and water sources. Neither do the birds. You humans may not think we are smart enough to prepare, but I’ll let you in on a secret: most wildlife have a dozen or more known sources they will return to again and again. In the harshest weather, they go to a few most likely spots to refuel.

Let us make your yard one of them!

Fine, fine…Nutmeg is making me get off my high stump… When you get to be as old as this old squirrel, there’s no time for fancy talk.

Living with Wildlife–Everywhere!

Howdy!Coney the Pine Squirrel

Again, I’m Coney the Pine Squirrel, your Colorado Field Correspondent.

It’s Tuesday, one of the days Nutmeg tells me I can talk about anything I like on the blog. She did warn me not to get off topic. It’s got to be related to nature and squirrels.

That’s as easy here as it is in Virginia, even though my suburb doesn’t have sidewalks for me to run along and discover things like Nutmeg does.

Coney's Rocky Mountain neighborhood

Gravel is the surface of choice here. But that doesn’t matter to me, I stick to the trees, which there are plenty of, spruce and pine in this case.

Pine Squirrel in spruce tree with Pine behind

Those are so common around here, they get rather ho-hum, especially when it comes to eating. But once a year we have a real treat in my neighborhood.

Sour Cherries

Cherries. Every neighborhood should have cherry trees. We squirrels descend on this little grove. Unfortunately, another wild neighbor also discovered them this year, which might ruin things for us squirrels.

Broken Cherry tree

Do you readers know which wild animal it was? Here’s a closer look at clue below the broken limb.

Black Bear scat

A black bear tried to climb this tree. We local squirrels get by pretty well with the humans who have spread to living in our mountains, but the bears aren’t doing so hot. They’re big, eat a lot, and if it’s at a human dwelling, scare the residents.

You might think this is just a western problem, out where there is more wilderness land.

Nope. When I wrote to Nutmeg we’d had several bears in my neighborhood, she said some were spotted in her Washington D.C. suburbs, even getting right downtown into the city. Living with wildlife—even BIG wildlife is something every human needs to be aware of.

They might be just as cute as us squirrels, but some wild animals don’t belong in your backyard habitat. Learn how to keep the bears out of your garbage can, your cherry trees and your house on this information website by Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

KeepBearsWild

Feeding Frenzy

Hi to our readers!

It’s my first post back with you in over a week and I’m excited to be at the keyboard again. We had a bit of a snow here in Virginia, nothing by Coney’s standards I’m sure, but snow all the same, with dire preparations by the humans. Our bird neighbors got into the act as well, mobbing the feeders.

Goldfinches and House Finches at feeder

If you think that’s something, here’s more of the crowd waiting for an opening.

Finches waiting their turns

And several of the fancier birds looked a little wet.

Northern Cardinal

Blue Jay

We squirrels of course, moved at a much more sedate pace , around mid-day, to our own little stash at the table.

Nutmeg at the table

Not That Cold

We feel a tad guilty about our complaints of cold weather. A regular follower of The Squirrel Nutwork told us about a little hummingbird who is out and about getting food in our Virginia weather. Have a look at the photos she shared:

Rufous Hummingbird

This Rufous Hummingbird continues to come to a feeder in a gazebo at a local horticultural park. That’s a heat lamp to keep the nectar from freezing. We did have a mild fall, but why would a bird that regularly migrates south stick around?

Rufous Hummingbird

No fur, can you imagine? It’s nice these humans are sticking with feeding this persistent bird. We hope everyone else who stocked a birdfeeding station in the fall has kept up, too! Thanks for helping us out!

Cotoneaster

Ok, I am officially declaring this the week of the berry shrubs. That is until I can’t find one for posting tomorrow!

Many of the neighborhoods around us have plantings of cotoneaster, a member of the rose family.

cotoneaster

Cotoneaster is not native, but Miz Flora and I read the low thickets it makes and the berries are very attractive to birds, especially to thrushes. This immediately made sense to me. Thrushes are pretty secretive woodland birds, and suburbia just doesn’t offer a lot of brambly messes of shrubs for those shier songbirds to hide in. While we have only seen the shorter varieties, some cotoneasters grow into tall shrubs.

cotoneaster berries

More reading led us to decide this must be Cotoneaster horizontalis, or the ‘rockspray’ cotoneaster. I think you can see why from this planting that goes back to when this retaining wall was put in the 1970s. That’s a forty-year-old growth of shrubs!

If you have a wall, and would like to give some birds a boost, here’s the cotoneaster listing from one of our favorite websites for learning more about plants: landscaping.about.com.