Squirrel threats, and new visitors to the garden

Female brambling
Male brambling

I spent a good deal of yesterday sending out emails to different organisations advising that my book, Wildlife and the Law, was at the printer and would be with me within a few days. The boring computer work was interspersed with long periods looking out the window. This was not for inspiration (though that was a by-product) but for entertainment. The two red squirrels had been busy at the squirrel feeder since before daylight. They now have hazelnuts at £6 a kilo, though at that price I’m rationing them since they mostly get buried rather than eaten. They’ll want me to buy them head torches next so that they can start even earlier in the morning with their nut forays and mini excavations. They must be running out of places to hide nuts without unearthing previously buried ones (or the thousands of black sunflower seeds coal tits have buried) so they have extended their territory to the vegetable garden. My wife and I now frequently meet them on the bridge over the burn en route to or from this new caching ground. They wait till we are past, then scamper across a couple of minutes later.

I’m beginning to see habits developing. They regularly take a run at wood pigeons feeding under the feeder; not because they mean them any ill will but I’m sure purely for entertainment. The pigeons lift off the ground and land a few feet behind them. I also see the squirrels rubbing their chins on the ground, especially on the grass, so they must mark territories. I don’t know if both sexes do this or only males but the answer to this might come in time.

Threats are ever present. The cat has been back, though to be honest I’m not sure if it is after birds or squirrels.  I hope it gets neither and I wish it would stay away. The buzzard also took another low fly-past the other evening just before dark. The squirrels are often still active at this time (maybe more-so once I get them head torches) but luckily none were about. They may have seen the buzzard coming before I did and cleared out; after all their predator/prey instinct should kick in. The buzzard landed in a tree and I went out to chase it off. It did fly off but only to the next tree and I’d to repeat the arm-waving and clapping performance.

A grey squirrel also appeared the other day. Though I like grey squirrels, which are here only through man’s interference, I don’t want to risk their carrying squirrel pox to the reds so it got chased off as well. I then set the catching half of a live-catch Larsen trap for the grey, baited with peanuts. Within a few minutes it had captured a red squirrel. I safely released the red squirrel, which ran off a few yards and stopped to look back at me with what I would swear was a quizzical expression. I could say it mouthed the words, ‘What the hell’s going on here?’ but you wouldn’t believe me. Within minutes it was back in the trap again, and for a third time. I gave up and haven’t seen the grey squirrel since.

Back to the present, with a welcome visit from a male great-spotted woodpecker quite early this morning. It fed for a while on the peanut feeder and I tried for a photo, but with the driech morning the light levels were too low. This is the first time I’ve seen a woodpecker since early summer, when an adult and a chick appeared for a few days. Their gaudy black, white and red brighten up the woodland as well as my day. My day was further enhanced when I looked out at the feeders at the front of the house. On the ground, feeding among a mix of a dozen and a half chaffinches, coal tits and a dunnock was a male brambling. Its mate, a female, was on a dish half-way up the feeder, intermittently joined by a coal tit, which it kept chasing off. I think the male is one of our most beautiful winter visitors, with its blue-black head, orange throat, light grey breast and black wing bars. They’re welcome here anytime.

Last night my grandson, Sam, emailed to say he was enjoying the posts (he’s teaching me website lingo as well) but could I not add in more photos.  Maybe I can; I’ll have a go.

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One Response to Squirrel threats, and new visitors to the garden

  1. Wendy Mattingley says:

    Alan, try pinenuts for your squirrels. They eat them all here and don’t bury them. They are still quite expensive but I think they work out cheaper. Any leftover apples also worth a try.

    Thanks Wendy. I do use pine nuts. I agree that they seem to eat them more than bury them, andf they are less expensive than hazelnuts. I’ll maybe increase the proportion of pinenuts to peanuts, which I believe can leave them lacking in calcium. On another subject, I note that since my last post the sequence of the posts has gone haywire, though it remains OK in the ‘control panel’. A job for my gfrandson or granddaughters I think!

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