Friday, December 31, 1999

1999 December

  1. The new feed has cracked corn and the larger, stripped sunflower seed, and attracts a bigger variety of birds: More Chickadees, Jays and Titmice. Also bought a 50# bag of raw peanuts. $75 on birdfeed! I must be nuts!

    The Crows are the wariest. The slightest movement of the curtain over my door window will scare them away. But they are very watchful. When I put out something interesting, they will appear within minutes - if I'm not in plain sight.

    The Blue Jays are the most watchful. If I toss out a few peanuts, they fly in out of nowhere and pick them up within seconds. They are also the boldest. One or two will take peanuts off the porch railing right by the door - with me watching in the window 3' away. I'm sure that they see me, too. It is amusing to watch these greedy gluttons when there a bunch of peanuts on the ground. One will swoop in and pick up a peanut, then hop over to another peanut and try to pick up that one, too. Unless the first peanut is small and can be half-swallowed, they cannot do this. After a couple of tries, it drops #1 and picks up #2, then tries to pick up #1, too. This alternation will be tried a couple of times, then both are dropped on the ground and the bird seems to be sizing them up. First one, then the other is picked up, then dropped. Finally, one is chosen, and off he goes. I wonder if they will learn to purposely pick a small and a large nut in order to be able to pack both at once.

    The Titmouse crowd has feeder experience. When they started coming in, they first flew to the small feeder hanging unused in the tree before dropping to the ground, where I put all the seed and nuts. Now, they don't bother with the feeder at all. Only a few have figured out the peanut angle. One is so bold that he will take peanuts off the railing.

    These squirrels apparently have no experience with peanuts. After getting them accustomed to my presence, - tossing out more seed, etc - I have had to toss peanuts right into their lap before they would pick one up! Once a squirrel tastes one, though, he seems to learn pretty quickly that these are worthwhile food packages. I'm pretty sure that I'll have a few of them eating out of my hand before long.

    Half-tail is the king of the squirrels, the obvious alpha squirrel. All the other squirrels defer to him and he will chase away any of the others. He has been too busy protecting his "turf" that he hasn't yet figured out this peanut thing.

    I have been tossing the bodies of the mice that I trap (14 so far this season) onto the feeding area. I assume that the Crows are getting them, but haven't actually seen it happen. Tossed one out this morning, while there were a bunch of squirrels around. They showed great interest, inspecting the body one after another. At first, I thought that they were actually eating it, as the first couple actually picked up the body and appeared to be nibbling or licking it. Now, I suspect that they were just licking the peanut butter bait from the mouse's mouth. Ugh!

    Chickadees usually take a sunflower seed to a nearby branch and, holding it between their feet, hammer it with their beak to get at the seed. Just watched one fly up to a horizontal limb, then fly to the underside of the limb where there is a short stump of a small branch. Clinging upside-down, he rammed the seed into a hole or crevice. Now, how did he know that was there? It certainly isn't visible from the top of the limb.

  2. Half-tail has finally figured out what peanuts are. He chases all the other squirrels away and then buries the peanuts! While he is distracted burying a nut, another squirrel may be able to sneak in to steal one, but not often. I've seen him come racing back to the feeding area to chase away a rival, then calmly walk back to continue burying his nut. Once, while Half-tail was burying a nut, a Crow landed about 5' away. Half-tail ignored him, and as soon as he started back to the feeding ground, the Crow dug up the peanut!
  3. Some birds hop, while others stride. Size is a big factor: the larger birds stride. But Mourning Doves walk while similarly sized Jays hop. Crows do both, but stride more often than they hop. Some birds scratch, while others never do. Scratchers include Sparrows & Juncoes. One reason I broadcast the birdseed is because I love to watch them scratch like little chickens.
  4. Squirrels have no interest in: celery, apple cores and parings. Juncoes are a sort of finch. Chickadees are a sort of titmouse.
  5. Saw my first nuthatch today.
  6. I'm not sure exactly what they're doing, but it sounds like the squirrels are trying to scale my front door. The first time I heard it, it scared the bejesus out of me! Now, I just heard it again, and when I looked out the door window, there was a squirrel on the porch. A couple of these squirrels are bold enough that they are very close to eating from my hand. I'm sure that if I spent a couple of hours working at it, they would. A tiny sparrow, no more than 4". Brown, strongly streaked breast, capped with two dark stripes; similar to Savannah Sparrow, but smaller, darker & no sign of yellow eyebrow stripe. A true LBJ.
  7. Not so agile, after all! As I was leaving the house today, of course the squirrels scattered. As I approached the car, I heard a thump behind me. A squirrel had failed to make the jump from the maple to the fir tree and fell to the ground! I knew that they were getting too fat!

  8. Jays usually fly away to open their peanuts. One stayed in the Maple to open his. The nuts are swallowed whole, once removed from the shell, and he did know that there are two nuts in the one shell. I was wondering about that. Chickadees and Titmice take sunflower seed and fly up to the nearest branch (must be at least ½" in diameter) and, placing the seed under a toe, hammer it with their beak to crack the shell. The seed is eaten in pieces.