Small Rodents in Paradise

Hey!” Kris whined when we returned from lunch this afternoon. We had just parked the Mini Cooper in the garage, and she’d stepped up to the potting shed to grab a bag of birdseed.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. I was trying to put away some of my camping supplies from last weekend’s hike to Opal Creek.

“Come look,” she said. She pointed to the ground.

On the floor of the potting shed was a bag of birdseed. I expected that. But on top of the birdseed was a bag of peanuts, a bag that had previously been stored on a nearby shelf. And the bag was no longer sealed. It had been torn open by tiny claws and teeth, and there was a sea of peanut shells scattered all around.

I laughed.

“It looks like some squirrel gave himself a belly ache,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Kris. “But look.” She pointed at several other objects on the ground. The squirrel (or squirrels) had managed to pull down all sorts of painting supplies from nearby shelves in an effort to get at the peanuts. They had also torn open a bag of rose fertilizer. (Did it smell like peanuts? Or maybe they were hoping to bury their peanuts there?)

As I left the garage to carry a bag of birdseed to the house, I was bombarded by acorns. One of our squirrels was above me in the oak, tossing nuts at me. (The squirrels do this all the time.) Was he protecting the bag of peanuts?

Kris and I always wonder why so many people view squirrels as pests. We think they’re cute little rodents. Just this morning I had commented on Walnut, up in his tree, chit-chit-chitting away while chomping on a walnut. But if they’re going to start doing commando raids on the food supply, we might have to re-think the “cute” label.

Nemo the Hunter

As much as I make fun of little Nemo, I have to admit he’s our fiercest hunter. Mostly he hunts his sister Toto (which makes her hiss) and his brother Max (which makes him growl). But he also likes to hunt other critters, especially baby birds.

Perhaps his favorite prey, however, is the squirrel that lives in the walnut tree. He hasn’t caught Walnut yet, but that doesn’t stop him from trying.

Just now, for example, I was sitting at the table eating my raisin bran, when I heard Walnut begin his awful racket. He sounds like a chicken. I looked out the window, and sure enough: There was Nemo chasing Walnut up the tree. What cracked me up, though, was that Walnut paused halfway up to let Nemo scoot right by him. “Psych!”

Nemo and Walnut
Blurriness is from the old glass in the window

I’m not sure Nemo is actually serious in his squirrel hunting, though. And I’m not sure that Walnut is serious about escaping. The pair of them spent about five minutes in a cat-and-mouse game (well, cat-and-squirrel, I guess), but neither seemed willing to follow through.

Walnut, for example, could have dashed up the tree at any time. He didn’t. Instead, he’d often creep closer and closer to Nemo. For his part, Nemo could have tagged Walnut during a couple of these moments — he was easily within paws’ reach — but he didn’t. Nemo and Walnut were content to jockey for position.

Nemo and Walnut
Blurriness is from the old glass in the window

What broke this stalemate? One of our resident crows* came along to break things up. He landed on a nearby branch and began to caw at the two combatants. (Or are they playmates?) Nemo decided that he was no match for squirrel and crow, so he retreated to the picnic table.

Walnut actually seemed disappointed. He came down to scold Nemo from close range. It didn’t have any effect. When the crow left, Nemo came into the house. He’s now sound asleep upstairs on the bed. (Which is where he usually is…)

* This year, Rosings Park is home to a family of crows. Or something. These crows don’t behave like any crows we’ve ever seen. They come down to eat at the feeder. They drink from the birdbath. They interact with the other birds. And, as I just mentioned, they play a role in the goings-on around the yard. (I mean, really: Breaking up a fight between a cat and a squirrel? Why?) We have no idea how long the crows will stick around, but it’s fun to have them.