BLUE JAYS! – Marilyn Armstrong

Who says the squirrels don’t remember where they ate last year? We have dozens of them. I come out on the deck in the morning. Mind you the squirrels have been sucking the seeds out of the feeders since dawn, so they’ve had a good four hours. I figure it’s time for them to move on.

I yell at them. They don’t move. I finally open the door and walk out on the deck and the big one eyeballs me: is she serious? Finally he decides to move to the other end of the deck and all his little friends follow him.

I think there were a full dozen of them this morning. We know longer have some squirrels. We have ALL the squirrels.

Big Blue Jay

Hungry bird

Beautiful feather design!

After I got them to move, the birds came back and I finally got some pictures of the Blue Jays. Last year, we had maybe two or three. This year, they have decided we have better food. Still no finches and no doves. Will they return? Your guess is as good as mine.

Tufted Titmouse


We have quite a collection of creatures on our deck. Not only did the little chipmunk get up on the deck today, he managed to get up on the feeder, too. I have no idea how he did it. Good jumper? He can’t climb like the squirrels and he’s less than half their sign, too. Nor has he wings.

Still hungry after all those seeds!

Don’t let me interrupt your dinner

Magic chipmunk

The all year toad

Tufted Titmouse in Autumn

Golden foliage

Still got an appetite

Probably a titmouse

Rose-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Downy Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

But he did it. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture, but I was doing other things and I have learned to finish one thing before I start another. If I don’t finish what I’m doing, it’s entirely possible I won’t even remember what I was doing — much less finish it.

OUT ON THE DECK – Marilyn Armstrong

It was a busy day on the deck.

The first thing I do when I get up in the morning — even if it’s just to give a treat to the barking dogs — is to look at the feeders. At least one of the feeders usually has a tail, so I figure I’m feeding a squirrel. There’s usually a bird or three on the other feeder, one of which is a woodpecker … and these days, a Blue Jay.

I grew up in New York and Blue Jays were common birds. All garden birds were common and until I started to really look at the birds. Unless it was a hawk or a seagull, they were all “just birds.”

Our little chipmunk

A very common squirrel!

They get hungry too

Downy Woodpecker

Two birds

Wens and Titmouse

It’s funny how I’ve come to become a birdwatcher. I never intended it, but my first sister-in-law was a serious watcher. She used to drag me out of bed before dawn to hear the larks singing.

House Finch

Then, in Israel, I realized that for a week in April, every raptor in Africa flew through Jerusalem on their way to Europe or Asia. They used to come and sit on our windowsills. Some of them became quite tame … until it was time for them to fly on.

Goldfinch is back

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

It was a gradual thing. For a long time, I looked at the birds in the winter yard, yet it took years until I put up feeders. Why did it take me so long to put up those feeders?

The brightest Cardinal in our garden

Blue Jay

I don’t know. I really don’t. Maybe because I hadn’t absorbed how endangered this world was and how the beautiful birds were disappearing. I love those birds. They are beautiful, but they are also a symbol. We’ve lost 30 million birds in a decade and will lose another 30 million in five more — or less.

Big Red-bellied Woodpecker

Lady Cardinal

We all need to do the best we can to help where we can. Maybe pay a few cents more for clean energy. Buy some birdseed and feeders. Recycle. We can’t fix everything, but we can do what we can.


I know that people who feed birds tend to try really hard to keep the squirrels out of the feeders. Not only is this difficult to do — close to impossible — but really, squirrels get hungry too. I would have thought this time of year would be easy eating for the squirrels. The acorns are ripe. The trees are well grown and there are more than enough seeds to feed dozens of squirrels.

Yet they come to our feeders. Are our seeds better? Healthier? Squirrels get hungry too and they are looking a bit lean right now. They also don’t look full grown yet and I’m sure they really are hungry.

My problem is not that they eat at the feeders. I have no problem with them enjoying the food. It’s just that they don’t seem to have a “I’ve had enough, I think I’ll move on” thing happening. They eat. And eat. And eat some more. And they drive the birds away and get very protective about the feeders.

Right now they are easily scared away and just a few taps on the window or the barking of the dogs is enough to make them run for the trees. That won’t last. In a few weeks, they will be empowered and believe they have full — unchallenged — possession of the deck. Nothing short of my going outside and pushing them off the railing will make them move. I’m gearing up for it.

I knew all of this before I put up the feeders. I’ll have to find a way to work it out. The flat feeder is gone. It was a big enticement for them because they could roost in it. They have a lot more of a problem hanging on to the wire feeders which at least means that at some point, they have to let go and move on.

It won’t keep them from trying to own the deck, but I’ll just have to deal with it. The birds need food, the chipmunks need seeds … and even squirrels get hungry.

Note: I also pour some seeds on the ground below the deck so the ground feeders have a place to eat. Usually, that’s where you will see the big doves, cardinals, chipmunks, and occasionally squirrels. They must eat all those seeds because they don’t grow.



They are not the very last. We’ll put the feeder back up in November when the weather begins to get cold. And I have a lot of folders of birds with a fair number of unprocessed photographs. But now, it’s time for our cohort of squirrels to go back to the forest and rediscover the joy of squirreldom.

This morning I went out on the deck and there were half a dozen of them. Two in the feeders, another couple on the railing, and a few on the deck itself. I suppose they were all awaiting their turn. I finally went out onto the deck and physically ejected them. They apparently believe it’s their personal stash of goodies and are protecting it from humans and birds.

If I didn’t think Duke would jump the fence and break all his bones on the way down, I’d put him out there to guard the stash. Sadly, he is a jumper and Gibbs mostly wants lots of time spent napping on the sofa. Chasing squirrels is not high on his agenda.

And, I should add, with considerable determination.

Lady Cardinal in a tree

Rosefinch and Cowbird

Rosefinch on the rail

Possibly pregnant squirrel?

Now that I look at the pictures I realize I have more of them. Possibly a lot more of them. So you’ll see more. I have to process more of them too.


It seems that the more I try and discuss the eating all the food situation with the squirrels, the more squirrels show up. It used to be one at a time. Not the same squirrel each time, but it was a definite group. I could tell by the scars in their fur and the shape of their tails.

A cowbird a day keeps the finches away! And we have a lot more than one.

Now, we have two babies — about half the size of the bigger gray ones. I have to assume the big ones are their parents. Or maybe aunts and uncles. hard to tell.

This is young lady Cardinal, sprucing up her feathers because there are a couple of boys down in the bushes.

Still preening!

I’m pretty sure they’ve been told to come here, that this is where the good food is. And it seems that the more I talk to them, the less afraid they are. Maybe because I’m so polite?

Awaiting her beau

On the other hand, The Duke goes completely wacko when he sees two, three, four squirrels on the porch and when he gets to barking frantically, the squirrels tend to get a bit hinky and move elsewhere for a while.

The Mourning Dove just watches, but they are quite romantic these days, too.

Ah, romance …

But people? They just eyeball us. I swear this morning I looked on the deck and in the spot where we used to keep the stone frog (I moved it because the squirrels kept knocking it down), there was a little squirrel. Sun-bathing.

Waiting and watching in her tree …

Another was literally lounging on the deck. Relaxed, just lying there. He looked up when I said: “Good morning, young squirrel. How’s it going? Enjoying the sunshine?”

Wooing Cardinals on the deck!

He looked at me, stretched, yawned, jumped up on the railing, then grabbed the feeder and wrapped himself around it.

Meanwhile, there were a couple of Cardinals looking very lovey-dovey on the deck.

The young Cardinal

Lady Cardinal decided to go flying and right after her, flew a young red boy. Literally, right on her tail. I knew he was young because he didn’t have his full coloration. Immediately behind him flew an apparently eager, bigger, redder male.

All three birds headed into the woods at high speed. I couldn’t see them anymore, but I could hear squawking as the two males attacked each other. When those red males meet, they always fight. Very territorial — and there was a young lady involved.

Boys will be boys, even when they have bright red feathers.


SQUIRREL DU JOUR – Marilyn Armstrong

The little squirrel that seems to live on our deck (I found him lying on the deck sunning himself yesterday) is not afraid of me. Or the dogs. Or Garry.

I know he’s a baby because he’s about half the size of a normal adult squirrel. I bet he’s one of the offspring of the other big feeders. As he was growing up, mom told him where to go to get his meals.

He hangs on the feeder or does a wild swing on the flat feeder. He’s too short to quite hop into the flat feeder like the bigger squirrels do, so he has to take a long leap. The wild swings of the feeder as he enters and exits make it really obvious who has been by.

He’s a very cute little thing. I’m often torn between letting him eat so I can get some more pictures, or asking him politely (I always say “Please” when I discuss his visits with him) to move on.

He doesn’t really leave. He just hangs around on the stairs, or right under the deck until he thinks I’m gone, then he is right back up.

Garry says they have a whole station set up right under the deck. This does not surprise me. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were using drones to check for fresh food.