BIRDS, MATING SQUIRRELS, AND OTHER CREATURES – Marilyn Armstrong

When I got up early this morning — with every intention of going directly back to bed — but I took a look at our deck and started to laugh. I have never seen that many squirrels at one time, ever. They were chasing each other in circles on the deck, chasing each other up and down the deck staircase and along the deck rails. It was very funny to see and it just ruined my morning nap.

After that, I went and turned on the coffee. I had put out new food yesterday and there were a lot of birds. Most of them were familiar. Woodpeckers, Goldfinches, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Chipper Sparrows and another sparrow that looks almost exactly the same, but has a redder color in the strip above his eye. Sometimes bird-watching gets a bit too detailed for me, Even looking at their pictures in my books, I couldn’t see a difference.

I got some pictures of the Blue Jays in the woods, which is a lot harder than getting them on the feeders, and just as I was packing up, a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak showed up. Stood on top of the feeder giving me his “good side.”

Up in the tree 1

Up in the tree – 2

A good day to enjoy the woods

I didn’t imagine he’d hang around long enough for me to get his picture, but he did. Not great views. The angle wasn’t interesting — but with wildlife, you take what you can get.

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

I really wanted him to do something interesting

He didn’t do anything interesting. He just ate.

Considering the rest of how life and the country are going, all I can do is give my thanks that I have birds and critters to help me remember that this is my planet and I have a right to be here, even if I’m considered to be too old to be worth saving.

FLYING SQUIRRELS AND RACCOONS – Marilyn Armstrong

We put the camera out last night. It was the first time in a week because it wasn’t raining. It was extremely windy which means that at least 700 of the 1022 pictures it took were just the movement of the feeders in the wind. And some of them probably were pictures of flying squirrels hiding behind the feeder.

So I deleted a lot of pictures and put the camera out tonight, but it’s going to rain, so I’m not expecting much. Supposed in another week or so, the weather might improve. We live in hope.

I got some fun pictures of raccoons sharing the feeder with flying squirrels. It’s the first time I’ve seen that. Usually it’s one or the other.

A hungry raccoon and a flying squirrel

Raccoon in a tree waiting to pounce on the seeds

Squirrel on the wing and raccoon on the feeder

Reaching inside the feeder for goodies

Flying Squirrel and his companion Raccoon

These are my fun photos of the day. There are a lot more pictures. Hopefully, I’ll get to them tomorrow. And probably the next day and a few more days after that. Even after deleting more than 600 pictures, there are still more than 600 remaining.

MORE NIGHT CREATURES – Marilyn Armstrong

MORE NIGHT CREATURES

Two raccoons, but not the usual ones. These are older, fuller coats, but their big fluffy tails are clearly marked and they have true bandit masks. Also, you can see how much taller they are, easily reaching all the way up on the feeders.

I did a variety of things to try and bring our more definition. The colors may be odd, but the definition is also there. Just oddly.

Big luminescent raccoons

Less luminescent

Two vintage raccoons

THE CHANGING SEASONS MARCH 2020 – Marilyn Armstrong

The Changing Seasons, March 2020


I suspect we will all remember this as the month during which we saw the full-throttle arrival of Coronavirus. My birthday was March 11th and we went out to dinner. The following day, they closed Massachusetts and much of the rest of the country. Interesting birthday. Interesting times.

My picture taking opportunities are limited to whoever flies to our deck to eat from the feeders … and will hold still long enough for me to get a picture.

I have pictures of lots of Goldfinches, House Finches, and a few common sparrows as well as flying squirrels and three young raccoons who come to raid our seeds every night.

They eat by sticking their paws into the holes in the feeder and pulling out pawsful of seeds, dropping about half of them on the deck in the process. This inspires all the ground birds to show up the next day to eat the seeds, though they never really clean up the mess that the raccoons make.

For flowers, we have some crocuses as well as some healthy orchids. Otherwise, we haven’t been anywhere except the grocery to pick up prescriptions or something to drink, bread, and cream cheese.

There’s no delivery here for anything. Not groceries or medication. They will mail drugs, but that takes a few days and I have a tendency to not realize I’m out of that medication until I’m really out of that medication. Garry’s even worse than me — AND our mail has a funny way of not showing up in any reasonable time frame.

Part of the problem is that even when our post office is fully staffed, there are only three or four deliverers for this area. Now, there are maybe two still working. Everything is being delivered very slowly including shipments from Amazon. I have stuff that’s been waiting for more than a month for delivery.

I am grateful to the orchids and the birds. All our Goldfinch have turned brilliant yellow, ready for mating. The House Finches are richly red and the Brown-headed Cowbirds are back.

RACCOONS AS PETS – Marilyn Armstrong

I know the raccoons we are seeing on our deck are young. They look young. Their tails are short and the coats are not the plush, rich colors that you see in adult raccoons. Their masks are incomplete.

I got to wondering how long a raccoon can live and was surprised to discover that a wild raccoon, it’s a very short lifespan — usually two to three years. Kept as a pet, they can live as long as 20 years. That’s a huge difference. Apparently being protected from other predators and being well-fed and taken to a vet as necessary makes more than a small difference in their lifespans.

They are illegal in many states, such as Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, and this state (Massachusetts) among others. There are specific laws surrounding raccoon ownership in most states too. In some states, it may be legal to own a raccoon as a pet, but it is not legal to import raccoons from outside the state.

A lot of this has to do with their being fur-bearing animals that are frequently hunted for pelts — which is now illegal almost everywhere in the U.S. They make charming, intelligent pets, too. They can be housebroken to use a litter pan (like a cat) and will eat almost anything from seeds to meat and fish. Their intelligence also makes them difficult pets. Imagine if your cat or dog had the intelligence of a 2-year-old and about the same amount of control.

You can’t crate them for very long. They are very active creatures. They go crazy living in cages and need to be free to explore. Free to decide your office need redecoration. They may not have the material for the decorating, but they are pretty good at destroying your current arrangement. They also love electrical cords and knocking things off shelves, tearing down curtains, opening refrigerators and eating anything that looks interesting — which, being raccoons, is more or less everything. If you eat, they’ll be happy to eat it.

In temperate or warmer climates, they are a much better outdoor pet but they are also tempting morsels for bigger predators. Lynxes, bobcats, mountain lions, big hawks and eagles are happy to eat young raccoons. If they live to grow to their full size of 25 to 30 pounds and sometimes more (obesity is one of their issues), they can fight back. It’s the little ones who die. Which is why most of the raccoons you meet in the wild are young.

Most people consider them furry vandals and try to keep them out of their yards. I have a problem with that because everything gets hungry. We’ve taken over so much of the world, it isn’t easy for them to find healthful food.

Hey, move over!

Raccoons live all over the country from southern California and Louisiana through the deep Ameican south up to near arctic conditions in Canada. They may not live long, but they live everywhere including Boston. We had a huge one living in our backyard on Beacon Hill. He owned the backyard which was technically ours, but I felt a lot safer letting him have it. He growled at me when I tried to go out there. He was a big boy, a happy trash raider if ever I met one.

Then there’s the issue of rabies. The most typically rabid animals are bats. Next, come skunks and after that, raccoons. During my (very) brief stint as Deputy Animal Control Officer for Millville, a tiny neighboring town, I became very familiar with rabies. They had even found rabid deer.

I got a rabies shot because no way I was handling possibly rabid animals without an inoculation. Rabies is lethal. You do not survive it. Not you or any animal. The anti-rabies shots they can give you to prevent it if you are bitten are known to be very painful. But if you don’t get the shots immediately, they won’t work and you’ll die. All of this put me out of the animal control business in a big hurry.

Pet raccoons don’t get rabies because veterinarians — assuming you can find one who will treat a raccoon — get rabies shots. They also get the same medications dogs and cats get to prevent ticks, fleas, heartworm as well as other worms and infestations.

So. That’s why your pet raccoon can live 10 to 20 years while the wild ones like those stealing seeds from our feeder probably won’t see age four. I feel bad about that, though there is nothing I can do to fix it other than pretending I don’t know they live on the seeds from our feeders.

I feel guilty about all the animals I feed. When it’s terribly cold, I want to let the birds in and so they can warm up. I’d like to have flying squirrels gliding around the house. I think that would solve my problem with ancient Chinese porcelain and Native American pottery. It would become shards in no time.

There was a period in my life when we used to raise the occasional litter of Siamese kittens. When people asked me about breakables I assured them if it was breakable, it was already broken. I’m getting too old to deal with taming wild things in my house, even if the wild things are crazed Siamese kittens.

The only pet squirrel (non-flying) I knew died by falling head-first into a toilet and drowning. It wasn’t my squirrel, but it convinced me that wild animals need to stay wild unless they are injured and can’t live outside.

I feel bad about the raccoons. They are young and I wonder, even with the seeds I provide, if they will live to adulthood. I’m lucky it’s illegal to keep them as pets. The laws are protecting me from me.

FLYING SQUIRRELS AND TOO MANY RACCOONS – Marilyn Armstrong

The big feeder is empty today. I assume that most of the food is part of our growing phalanx of flying squirrels and raccoons. The rest of it is all over the deck. The raccoons have hands and reach inside the feeder and pull out huge clumps of seeds.

You can almost see the whole squirrel!

Gliding in for a landing on the central post

Gliding squirrel folding up his “wings”

Sitting on the rail, pondering the food banks

The camera took another 1020 pictures the other night. I think this may be its maximum number, but maybe it needs a bigger SD card. I deleted about 700 of them and will probably delete another 100 or more, but I got some interesting flying squirrel pictures and some entertaining raccoon photos.

Ever busy, the raccoon did seeds from the feeder

Oh the joy of seeds

You can almost see these little ones growing each time I take their pictures

It’s sunny with floating clouds today. It’s the first sun we’ve had in a week and it is supposed to rain again tomorrow. Not our best week but rumor has it that it will be better next week.

FURRY BANDITS HITTING THE DECK – Marilyn Armstrong

The other night when the dark-of-the-night camera decided to go bonkers, it took 1012 pictures. Nine-hundred and ninety-nine of them were flying squirrels sitting on the feeder. After deleting about 600 of the ones that looked essentially identical, I got a few in which you could actually sort of almost see the little flyers.

That left another couple of hundred pictures, all of which are our raccoons.

C’mon baby, you can do it!

Two have finally gotten to the food, one on the deck …

We seem to attract the same set of three masked banditos each night. They are getting awfully fat and are having trouble clambering over the fence. I can practically see them gasping for breath as they haul their bulk over the railing.

Looking out to see if there’s any more food they are missing!