Few people give Squirrels the credit they deserve. I have to admit that the
ones in my yard used to aggravate me. Every time I put out seed for the birds
- the squirrels would eat it. If I put out suet for the birds - the squirrels would eat it.
I made sure to buy peanuts for those little fur balls, why weren't they satisfied? And,
it seemed I couldn't outsmart them. I purchased several squirrel barriers.
All bird feeders were put on poles - the squirrels climbed the poles. Squirrel barriers on the poles?
No problem.! They jumped from the roof onto the feeders. And they ate a lot of seed.
The little birds weren't getting anything to eat. Finally, I decided that I wasn't going to
let these furry creatures out-smart me. After all, I was a lot bigger and supposedly
smarter than they were.
I have to admit, I think Squirrels are cute. Watch their little hands as they eat a peanut or admire their tenacity as they cuss out a neighborhood cat. Plus, I began to feel a little sorry for them. They had their own set of problems - the JAYS.! The word had spread quickly around the neighborhood that there were free peanuts. The Jays posted a sentinel in my front yard each morning. Their Jay friends and family would wait for the call to breakfast. With my best Audubon skills I discerned that the Sentinel Jay communicated with a loud squawk followed by a series of clicks. In Jay that means, "Here she comes, quick get the peanuts before the squirrels do."
The Jays were extremely efficient. Every morning they swoop down and literally, within seconds, the peanuts were gone. I've seen them put two peanuts and attempt to put three in their bill before they fly off. The poor squirrels didn't have a chance. Trying to help the squirrels, I would wait until the peanuts and Jays were all gone, and then II would put out a few more peanuts for them. "Squawk - click - click - click." The poor little squirrel may get one. But the Jay gang was back in a flash. Those of you that have your own Jay - Squirrel battles in your yard know, a Jay grabs quickly, hides his prize and comes back for more. The Squirrel, on the other hand, takes the time to eat each peanut before he returns. You would think the Squirrels would figure this out and learn to hide the food and eat later. But alas, they don't.
I decided to DIVIDE and CONQUER.!. The initial step
was to think of my wild life in groups. The groups were LITTLE BIRDS -
BIG BIRDS - HUMMINGBIRDS - SQUIRRELS.
The Jays and Squirrels would be fed in the front of the house
and all the smaller birds in the back of the house. I put out
peanuts for the Jays - they eat fast and furious and when the food
is gone - so are they. For the Squirrels I got a Squirrel Box. Each Squirrel.
can lift the lid of the box, poke their heads down
inside with their little furry bottoms and tails
up in the air - grab a peanut and scurry up the tree to eat it - letting the
next guy take their turn. Little kids and house cats love to watch
this process. It's like Squirrel T.V.
In the back of the house I hung bird feeders that are enclosed in wire cages - so that only small birds can get to the seed. One feeder is filled with Nyger Thistle for the Finches. Another, that is placed a ways apart, contains mix that the Tit Mice and Chickadees adore. Seed that falls on the ground is for the Morning Doves, who are ground feeders. Each feeder has a domed rain guard over it. The birds can feed in the rain without getting soaked and it helps discourage the squirrels who still try some pretty fancy acrobatics trying to get to food. Eventually, they get the message - well almost - they still try once in awhile. If you have a deck that is high up - you can put the feeders on metal bars that extend out in open air - making them even safer. I did this with my Hummingbird feeders as well.
Ever wonder why you don't see Baby Squirrels? Their parents keep them in the nest until they're old enough to be out on their own and hunt for food. If you DO see little babies that have fallen out of trees - call and take them to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum ((925) 935-1978) or to East Bay Nature, ((925) 407-1333). Both are in Walnut Creek.
If you think Squirrels have no purpose, here's a quote from John Muir about Douglas Squirrels. Muir spent hours observing and appreciating the spunky little guys.
"Nature has made him master forester and committed most of her coniferous crops to his paws. Probably over fifty per cent of all the cones ripened on the Sierra are cut off and handled by the Douglas alone, and of those of the Big Trees perhaps ninety per cent pass through his hands: the greater portion if of course stored away for food to last during the winter and spring, but some of them are tucked separately into loosely covered holes, where some of the seeds germinate and become trees"
That's right.! Squirrels help re-plant trees. Ya gotta love the little guys.!
In California we have two types of Jays. The STELLAR'S JAY…..and the WESTERN SCRUB JAY. Unlike the BLUE JAY seen in the eastern part of the U.S., the California Jays do not have the white markings on their head and wings. The Stellar Jay's head is black with a prominent crest. The rest of its body is bluish black with distinctive black markings. The Scrub Jay has no crest and has a blue head with a white throat. Its under-body is light gray, its back is olive-gray and its wings and tail are blue. Jays eat mostly nuts and seeds but will eat small nestlings and frogs. They appreciate suet in the winter. You probably know the Jays in your yard - they are the bossy birds with the harsh voice. Even squirrels and cats usually don't mess with Jays - let alone the smaller birds. They may be raucous but you can learn to love them.