Are you still feeding the birds?

Many humans feed birds throughout the year. Some only feed in the winter, when food is scarcer for the birds–and us squirrels, mind you! We have seen some humans stop feeding when grackle or starling flocks invade their feeding stations. Believe us, we don’t like the noise and the mess of those big, pushy flocks either.

One of our human neighbors is feeding the birds and has quite a variety of birds coming to visit.

Ms. Flora commented on the pleasant coo of the Mourning Dove, which I’ve noticed, but it’s so common it’s like a background music when we leap around the neighborhood. Mourning Doves are practically everywhere except deep woods, and we don’t have too much of that in suburbia.  Hickory and I thought we would look up a little bit about it. We didn’t realize that these birds are hunted! They are no bigger than a robin, so why would people want to eat them?

But they do, and apparently that led to uninteresting discovery: A dove shot in 1998 in Florida had been banded–in 1968 in Georgia. That made the bird at least 30 years and 4 months old! We had no idea these small birds lived that long–to us squirrels, that’s like forever, and something we would only have thought would be the lifespan of something as large as a hawk.

Mourning doves are kind of like chickens, in that they prefer to scratch and pick their food off the ground. We have sort of battle going with them under the feeders. They are round enough that they don’t seem to like perching feeders, but will eat off those tray feeders.

They’re mighty quick to land and take offer and do startle easily. If you haven’t heard their coo, here’s a link to a nice recording of it on All About Birds.

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Sharing the treetops!

We squirrels tend to like the treetops to ourselves–well, birds sometimes come by or move in for spring and summer nesting. But around the suburbs, we rule the treetops!

Until, uh…

In late October, our squirrel correspondents in Stephens City, Virginia discovered that sometimes we squirrels have to share. This black bear cub apparently sought shelter in their tree after becoming separated from his mother bear.

The resident humans were all in a furry–maybe on behalf of squirrels?–and alerted some kind wildlife rescue folks that scoured the area in search of the mama.

They finally determined he must be orphaned and took the baby bear to a wildlife center to be cared for until he is old enough to be freed to live on his own. American black bears are found widely across North America, and prefer woodlands that produce nuts–acorns, beechnuts and pine seeds–in plentiful supply. They also eat wild cherries, wild grapes, and berries on the vegetable side of things that we squirrels also enjoy. Like squirrels, they don’t mind feasting on insects, but then their large size takes off in directions we don’t want to think about, because they eat fish and any other animals they can capture, like–shudder–small mammals!

If they can’t find enough food in the forests, or if they learn easy pickings can be found in the delacatesin of human homes, cars, garbage, livestock food, bird feeders, pet food, beehives…you get the idea…they will move on in and take that opportunity humans are providing.

As much as it pains Hickory and I to say it–

“No, don’t!” Hickory chitters.

–please keep these human sources of food secured if you suspect black bears are nearby. They are totally into the reward of food. What squir–animal isn’t? Humans have those tricky ways of locking garbage cans and electrical fences that we’ve heard are cheap ways to discourage a bear–especially if you see the damage these big guys can do to a home!

Of course, the real reason is to keep these guys around and living safely in the world we all now share.

A friend to The Squirrel Nutwork brought this story to our attention and gained permission to share the baby bear’s photographs with our readers. Thank you, Nancy!

Thirsty Thursday

Our fall days in Virginia haven’t turned too cool yet, but that doesn’t mean wildlife don’t miss the sunshine. With the rainy weather, and still more rain to come, we squirrels took off for a run to the pond.

Eastern Painted turtles were drying off even if there is no basking.

The Lilypad Forktails weren’t flying as much on cool, overcast days.

And maybe it’s good weather for you humans to look for cold-blooded wildlife. Even we squirrels saw some critters we can’t identify! (Know what this one is?)

Still safe to visit the flowers!

After Ol’ Wally’s dramatic tale from yesterday, I decided the blog needed an uplifting moment–and butterflies seem to still fit that idea. No spicebush swallowtails or monarchs died during the time Hickory and I visited these flowers!

But we did find one juvenile hiding!

“As he well should!” Hickory chittered. “Birds. If you can’t trust them to stay out of your sunflower seeds, then when can you trust them?”