“Three feeders, no waiting,” I told George, as I peeked out my kitchen window.
I said it with affectionate chagrin. Hanging from one bird feeder, and parked contentedly in the center of two others, were three fat gray squirrels. And I was wrong about the no waiting, because two more were browsing below the feeders, hoping for fallout from the messy eaters above.
I’ve been fighting squirrel wars ever since I put up my first bird feeder years ago. My philosophy changes from day to day. Sometimes I figure live and let live, and ignore them as they wolf down sunflower seeds at warp speed. Sometimes, especially when I watch them chase away my pretty little birds, I erupt with with indignation and fly out the door, flailing my arms and brandishing threats. Even as I do it, I know they’ll just run up the tree, wait until I go back in the house, and then return to the feeders.
Sometimes, especially when it’s snowy or rainy or birds are scarce, I watch the squirrels enjoying their free handout and figure, well, they’re God’s hungry critters, too. That’s when I allow myself to be charmed by their hump-backed profiles, their sleek little pelts and their obvious enjoyment of my menu offerings.
But even when I’m in the mood to be indignant, they make me laugh. Hanging by their back feet and swinging in the wind as their front paws scoop out delicacies;
sitting upright on the deck railing and staring into the kitchen window when the feeders are empty; showing up with five young ones in tow, teaching them bad habits and getting away with it; screeching at the tops of their lungs when the neighbor’s cat shows up to hide in the bushes and wait for prey–it’s all endless enjoyment when I’ve the generosity to admit it.
I love watching the white tufts develop behind their ears as winter approaches. I like the way they lie flat on their bellies with their feet hanging over the railing as if to prove they’re totally depleted of energy and NEED those sunflower seeds. Please! Now!!
And, most of all, I love how they slowly get tamer and tamer, advancing to within a couple feet of my outstretched hand, until they lose courage and scuttle backwards, looking at me reproachfully as though I had willfully teased them.
I called these squirrel wars, but you want to know the truth? The squirrels won long ago. Not only are they allowed to forage in the bird feeders, I actually throw handsfull of peanuts-in-the-shell around the base of the tree and then sit back and wait for the squirrels to arrive, right on time.
Of course, they then have to fight the blue jays for those peanuts. That’s fair, though. What goes around comes around.