Squirrel Nutkin pays a Visit

We started feeding the birds last autumn after we spotted a jumbo tub of fat balls at the local garden centre for a knock-down price.  Amazing what bargains do to one’s way of thinking.  As owners of cats over the years we have felt slightly guilty about their proclivity to hunt birds and mice of which we have plenty in our immediate vicinity, so have not gone out of our way to invite our feathered friends to feed on our door step.  But apart from the bargain aspect of the offer we felt our current feline incarnation is so grossly overweight (but adorable) we tend to think the birds have an advantage.

So we’ve also added nut cages which initially we suspended from the jasmine arch outside the French doors.  The speed with which they were being emptied, not to mention the consumption of a fat ball in 24 hours,  was explained one morning when we observed a grey squirrel, suspended from the jasmine branch, nibbling at the peanuts through the close-weave wire mesh.

The woods are full of oak, and some chestnut.  We frequently find oak seedlings in the garden and I have unearthed both sweet and horse chestnuts buried in my plant pots.  The squirrels in our woodland are not on the margin.

We moved the nut cage to the courtyard outside the kitchen.  We hung it from the washing-line, well away from a squirrel-supporting infrastructure.   We suspended a couple of fat balls too.  And we were perplexed when both fat balls and nuts continued to disappear at an alarming rate – bird food isn’t cheep!

During the past couple of weeks I’ve been at home and indoors rather more.  Laying up a lunch tray for a recuperating Nick one day, I looked out of the kitchen window and saw the squirrel suspended from the washing line by his hind feet and clasping the nut cage with his ‘hands’.  How did the blighter get there?

Thinking, ‘He’s got to retreat the way he came’, I tapped the window whereupon the squirrel dropped to the ground and scampered up the steps.  He sat there for a few seconds then climbed onto the railings, ran along them onto the fence and disappeared from view.  However, almost immediately after, I was aware of agitated movement in the Wisteria, which frames the kitchen window,  in my peripheral vision.  Quick as you like the squirrel reached the washing line and half ran, half swung his way along to reach the nuts.  Got to hand it to him.

I’ve also been indoors more because I’ve been sorting a large archive of papers: reports, folders, correspondence which relate to a job I do on a voluntary basis for the Conchological Society.  This archive was in a bit of disarray which had got to the point where I could not bear the thought of someone else having to pick up the pieces.  Well it’s sorted now, a lot is packed up for onward transmission to a facility in Leeds, other research stuff of mine is boxed – could be extracted if needed – but will eventually go the way of all things.

Of late, the garden here has received less attention than it needs and deserves.  I’m going to turn my attention to that next………..

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