Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Feathered frenzy at the feeders

It's been a busy day at the feeders. The suet has attracted a red bellied, a downy and a hairy woodpecker. The sunflower feeders have been visited by black capped chickadees, white and red breasted nuthatches, purple and gold finches, and ...? The flurry of fine flakes falling from yet another gray sky no doubt helps to account for some of the activity.

chickadees, woodpecker, finches at feeders
chickadees, woodpecker, finches at feeders
Photo by J. Harrington

Over the past several days, we've noticed that there's been a small explosion in the local red squirrel population. One of the parents, most likely "mom," has been showing five young'uns the territory. As the Son-in-Law Person noted, you can tell they're youngsters because they run across the open, snow-covered field, exposing themselves to hawks, if any are around. 
Something I don't know enough about is how the hawk population that migrates south over Hawk Ridge in Duluth relates to the Winter resident hawks I often see perched on light stanchions along the Interstate. What determines whether a hawk migrates south, and how far? There's a fair amount of information available about where to see and how to identify migrating hawks, but explanations on migration motivation is pretty general. And, as I was poking about the nooks and crannies of the Internet trying to learn what else might feast on red squirrels, I learned that the red squirrel is "the third most abundantly commercially harvested furbearing, wild animal in North America!)." Since I don't recall ever seeing a red squirrel coat or cape, I'm now going to have to try to discover what all those pelts are used for (faux fox?). Curse you Don Rumsfeld and your known unknowns!

barred owl
Photo by J. Harrington
On the other hand, it looks like there's a possibility our local barred owl(s) may help thin out the red squirrel population before the hawks return from their southern sojourn.

Squirrels

By Nate Klug
Something blurred, warmed
in the eye’s corner, like woodsmoke
becoming tears;
but when you turned to look

the stoop was still, the pumpkin
and tacky mum pot wouldn’t talk —
just a rattle
at the gutter and a sense

of curtains, somewhere, pulled.
Five of   them later, scarfing the oak’s
black bole,
laying a dream of snakes.

Needy and reticent
at once, these squirrels in charred November
recall, in Virgil,
what it is to feel:

moods, half-moods,
swarming, then darting loose; obscure
hunches that refuse
to speak, but still expect

in some flash of   luck
to be revealed. The less you try
to notice them,
the more they will know of  you.


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