DEATH OF THE LAST BIG BIRDFEEDER – Marilyn Armstrong

When Owen came upstairs this morning, he looked out the window and realized the birdfeeder was missing. It’s a very big feeder and (used to) hold almost 20 pounds of seeds. We had the feeders down for a few weeks and only put them back a couple of days ago.

Not only was the feeder gone, but the bracket that held it was torn off the oak stanchion, We didn’t have the camera up, but it had to be a big racoon … or a bear. We do have bears, but so far, they haven’t bothered us. And they won’t bother us … unless we keep feeding them. They apparently habituate quickly and lose their fear of people in a hurry. These are black bears, the smallest of North American bears … but even a small bear is a lot stronger than a person.

Whatever took the feeder down was strong. I hope it was a racoon. I’m not ready to deal with bears. Both raccoons and bears not only tear down feeders, but frequently steal them entirely, tucking them under their arms and taking them home to the nest..

Aw, c’mon! That’s not fair! Feeders are not cheap!

Owen found ours on the ground. It’s pretty bent up, but at least the bracket is in one piece and he can probably straighten out the rest of it, more or less. I don’t think the birds will care if it’s bent. I’m not sure what else to do, but I’m thinking of just tossing seed to the ground and let everyone have a go at it without having to climb onto the deck.That would minimize photography, but I’ve gone through four feeders this season … and it’s only the end of June.

Raccoons are not true hibernators, but grown ones store up fat so that they can sleep through most of the winter. The problem is, our weather is getting warmer. Will winter be cold enough for bears to hibernate? Or will they be coming after the feeders and trash cans all through the year?

Sketchy Goldfinches

So, for now, since we have a lot of feed, we will put it on the ground below the deck. Everything can eat without climbing the deck. Bears are big and strong. If the Duke goes after a bear, it will not go well for the Duke.

I’ve run of money. I can’t afford more feeders. I’m worried it might have been a bear because so many have been seen locally. Bears also mean finding secure places to store trash cans. Bears can break into sheds, or for that matter, houses.With such warm winters, even a hibernating bear might not sleep soundly and come out for a midnight snack. 

AT LEAST IT’S A CHIPMUNK – Marilyn Armstrong

He is a chipmunk, but he’s a tiny little thing, maybe the size of the palm of my hand. He always comes alone, and if there are no birds or squirrels (or photographing people) around, he looks for fallen seeds on the deck. In fact, he is a “Least Chipmunk,” a rather miniaturized version of the big guys.

First I thought he was a baby, but he is the same size he was in February.

A least chipmunk

More seeds and I’m so hungry

He’s watching me doing his portrait

The last two times he visited, he somehow managed to get up onto the feeder. The big chipmunks seems to have disappeared. Possibly eaten by bigger predators? The big ones make a proper dinner, but this little guy is hardly worth the effort.

Portrait of a tiny chipmunk

Related to squirrels, flying squirrels, and chipmunks, he’s like a miniature version of a normal chipmunk.

Good meal, wasn’t it?

He sees me taking pictures. He watches me while he eats. When he fills his mouth pouches with seeds, he quickly leaves. He has figured out that I’m not a predator, but you never know about those birds!

Just think for a moment what a LONG trip it is for this tiny guy. He has to climb from the ground up the rail of the deck — at least 20 feet. Then he found his way onto the deck, then up the rail. Finally, he climbed the center rail and finally, finds a place on the feeder.

THE NIGHT OF APRIL 25TH – Marilyn Armstrong

On top of the feeder and in the air – Flying Squirrels

The flying squirrels were super active last night. Flying and feeding, closing the “wings.” They were all over the feeders until the raccoons showed up and took over. You can actually see the squirrels body in the big wings and he is definitely ON TOP!

Two Flyers, with probably more in back and on the other feeder

On the march! Foof awaits … but not much

FLYING GLIDING UP IN THE AIR SQUIRRELS – Marilyn Armstrong

SQUARING THE FLYING GLIDERS

Sorry. I just wasn’t feeling inspired today. So I’m posting my favorites and most popular from the past few weeks. I’ve been writing a lot and every now and then, it’s hard to find something to say I haven’t already said.

I spent hours last night — like three of them — searching the online world for birdseed that I thought our birds will eat. There is cheaper food, but the birds don’t eat it. They literally toss it aside to get to the better stuff. Everything is backed up for weeks and in a lot of cases, months. I finally found some things on Chewy, so assuming it arrives on a reasonable schedule, the buffet lives.

And here are today’s squares. They are flying and gliding squirrels in the light of the moon. In some, you can see their big shining eyes.

Past lives and the full moon

You can see how tiny the squirrel really is when his wings are folded … and those shining eyes

A glider and a feeder by the light of the full moon

Sketching the squirrel

Duochrome flyer on the feeder

MORE FLYING SQUIRRELS, SOME OF WHICH ARE GLIDING – Marilyn Armstrong

Many of these pictures are squares, but some are not. I hope you will forgive me, but some pictures just couldn’t fit into a square and they deserved to be grouped.

GLIDING AND LANDING FLYING SQUIRRELS!

I actually got something like form and almost details on the squirrels this time around. The camera took its usual 1020 pictures, about 650 of which showed nothing but a moving feeder or such a tiny bit of squirrel it wasn’t worth processing.

In the end, I got 250 pictures of flying squirrels and another 200 pictures of raccoons. I don’t know why I got better pictures this time, but amazingly I did.

And yes, I am going to show them to you.

I thought this was a neat way to really show the shape of the squirrel (square!)

Above, three squares, three not-squares


It does take me an awfully long to process the pictures. The quality isn’t very good and my goal is to try and extract quality when it’s essentially invisible. Even though I didn’t personally push the shutter on the camera, I did a lot of work on the pictures and figure I’m allowed to affix my name.

You can see the wings and the squirrel! Cool, isn’t it. (Another square)

But, it is a camera trap. If I wasn’t afraid of what the rain and wind might do to my better cameras — which are technically waterproof but I’m not sure exactly HOW waterproof — I’d try to do them with my better camera and lenses.

I’m not that trusting. The wind could blow the tripod over. A raccoon could come and investigate the camera and do strange and terrible things with his tiny little hands. So for now, I’ll just pass and use the cheap but waterproof trail camera.

And in honor of Earth Day, I will feed my animals until I can’t get seed for them anymore. These little squirrels eat a LOT of seed every night … pounds of it! Soon, their favorite seeds will be unavailable and they will have to make do on less yummy treats. I’m sure they will manage to adapt. I’m not sure, but I think I now have dozens of them gliding home every night.

BESIEGED BY FLYING SQUIRRELS – Marilyn Armstrong

In the midst of the madness, the flying squirrels come every night and eat at least four or five pounds of birdseed. That’s approximately 2 kilos.

You can almost see the whole squirrel!

We’ve stopped filling the feeder every night because there’s food in the forest and they don’t really need to dine at our place every night, but apparently, our food is tastier.

A few nights ago, the overnight camera went wild and took another 1020 pictures, about 800 of which were squirrels you couldn’t see because they were on the back end of the feeder. Or the amount of squirrel you could see was so small, it really wasn’t worth processing.

It has taken me several days to go through all of those pictures and weed out a few more than 800 of them. I should probably dump another hundred and fifty because I doubt I’ll ever process them. These are the best of the bunch.

MORE FLYING SQUIRRELS – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night, our trail camera took 781 pictures. That is a lot of pictures. It was windy, because about 500 pictures were nothing, just waving feeders. But after deleting the first few hundred, there were actual pictures on it. About half raccoons and half flying squirrels.

You can actually see some of their features. It’s a miracle!

This is the beginning of the eating frenzy that happens every night. By the time you get to the raccoons, a lot of seeds are gone.

And just look at the heft of those raccoons!

 

FLYING SQUIRRELS AND BIG FURRY RACCOONS – Marilyn Armstrong

We knew we’d gotten a lot of pictures last night because a lot of food went missing. About 4 pounds of food from the big feeder and maybe another two from the smaller one.

Conga line Raccoons

One-Two-Three-KICK!

Two by the feeder, one on the deck

We moved the camera from the tripod and attached it to the wall of the house. It was actually designed for that and came with a special plate for attaching it, probably because this isn’t just a trail camera but also a surveillance camera. As a surveillance camera, it’s not great.

Dive, dive, dive!

Coming in for a landing

Cute little guy found the feed

Pictures taken in the dark are black and white, which would be fine if there were also enough detail to recognize a face. I can barely recognize a raccoon and all flying squirrels are just white. If it weren’t for their cute little ears, I’d never figure out what they are.

Seeking seeds

Back a little further on the wall, the raccoons look better. You can see that they have masks on the faces and stripes in their tails. As for the flying squirrels, you only know the squirrels fly because you see them in the air, a big white strip or patch of fur without any other sign of life.

A GAZE OF RACCOONS – Marilyn Armstrong

Groups of animals have collective names that are often archaic and unique. Raccoons are a gaze.


Whales are a pod. Crows are a murder. Squirrels are a dray or a scurry. I haven’t found out what a bunch of flying squirrels are so I guess they are a dray or a scurry too since no one has a better answer.


Last night, for the first time, we had only raccoons visiting us. No flying squirrels. But last night’s raccoons were big raccoons, not the adolescent ones we’ve had earlier. I was trying to explain to Garry, who though our raccoons looked pretty big to him, were actually not big raccoons, but young ones. Not babies, but not grown up either. Short tails, incomplete masks. Nor fully furred.


These two were a lot bigger, darker in color. Longer, darker striped tails. Real masks. They show up better in the photographs too. The little guys didn’t come by because they didn’t want to be a fresh snack for the big kids. Those big masked guys might just decide to eat them.

DEFINITELY OFF OUR FEED – Marilyn Armstrong

The pictures from last night look just like the pictures from the day before. Apparently every night, a conga line of raccoons take over the back deck. You can see the flying squirrels, but they seem to glide in from the woods and they don’t trigger the motion sensor because they are behind the feeder and post. I saw one last night, but by examining the timestamps, he (and probably his family) were there for a couple of hours. But they are hard to see.


If you look at the top of the pole in the first picture, it’s flat. Look at the second one. Ah! There’s the flying squirrel on top of the pole. They are gliding in from the back, so they don’t trigger the motion sensor.

To make up for that, I got some nice bird pictures today. Both Garry and I aren’t feeling well. Not coronavirus but very likely sinus infections. Our doctor has learned that if one of us has something, the other of us has it too, so we have two prescriptions of everything and I hope it works quickly. I’ve had a headache for a week and laryngitis for even more weeks. All I really want to do is sleep.

HOW CAN I CATCH A FLYING SQUIRREL? – Marilyn Armstrong

Let me start this by saying I did not take any of these pictures. I don’t have the right equipment but hope to get some. In the meantime, these are pictures from various habitat sites. 

Owen had a friend over today who was quite the expert on flying squirrels. He said not only do we have two kinds of flying squirrels in Massachusetts, but we have three. Except that the black one only lives in the far western part of the state.

Which is actually only 75 miles from here because Massachusetts is a small state. Not as small as neighboring Rhode Island or Deleware, but small. You can drive from Boston to the far western border of Massachusetts in about 4 hours. Less if you put your pedal to the metal.

 

So when I said the far western part of the state, it’s not all that far from here. It just seems that the black flying squirrels prefer fir trees to oak trees and there are more conifers there than here.

He also pointed out that flying squirrels are extremely friendly and make great pets. My brain went into overdrive. I had a mental image of The Duke trying to chase down a flying squirrel and the wreckage which could result from this combination. Or, maybe he would fall madly in love with flying squirrels. I know I’m madly in love with flying squirrels. They are incredibly cute and I was wondering how you catch a flying squirrel so you can tame it.

Owen went online and confirmed it. There are many articles about how tameable flying squirrels are. I went into “How can I catch one?”

Owen and Garry immediately went into  “No, Marilyn, you cannot have a flying squirrel.”

“How about two flying squirrels?” I asked. “They could glide together around the house. And feeding them is easy. They love bird seed, especially black sunflower seeds. Of which we have pounds.”

Men always band together. These two were clearly against my developing a relationship with one or more flying squirrels. Owen said it was a bad idea. Garry nodded, but I think he’d really love having a flying squirrel. I think it would be tons of fun and I’m still trying to figure out how to catch one. I simply won’t tell anyone until I have acquired one of my own.

Who could refuse if I brought a couple home?

SUPER SQUIRRELS – Marilyn Armstrong

I bought a new feeder to replace the one which broke. I knew I needed a different feeder anyway because that small feeder went completely empty every 24 hours. It held 2 pounds of feed and I was a bit baffled as to how that feeder was emptying out so much faster than the other two.

Up in the air I go flying again! Up in the air, and down.

We put up the new feeder last night. It’s huge and holds a full 10-pounds of seeds. You can put in two different kinds of feed because the feeder is divided into two sections. It’s rather heavy, so over the weekend Owen is going to install two new, braced wrought-iron brackets.

Right before bed last night, I turned on the light on the deck, just to see if the new feeder was still on its hook and hadn’t pulled the bracket off the post.

No one was more surprised than I to see lots of furry white animals leaving the feeders. There had to be a dozen of them at least. First, I thought they were squirrels because they didn’t look feathery. They looked fluffy. And very light gray. Almost white.

But then some of them seemed to fly away, so I said “Birds? Big white birds? At night? Birds don’t feed at night unless they are insect eaters like owls. But owls won’t go near the feeders. Not their kind of food — and none of the seed-eating birds will eat at night. As far as I knew, neither do squirrels.

I was right. And I was wrong. It turns out, they were squirrels. Flying squirrels. I had no idea we had flying squirrels in New England. Apparently, we have not one, but two different kinds of flying squirrels here and most people never see them and don’t know they exist in this region. I certainly had no idea.

Not only do we have them, but we have a lot of them, both the northern and southern types. Both these species are small. There are a few (who don’t live here) that are the size of normal gray squirrels, but these are about 6 to 7 inches long and very light grey to nearly white.

On a bird feeder

They live in big nests of up to 50 at a time, are entirely nocturnal, and love birdseed — especially (yummy!) sunflower seeds which comprise about 1/2 of the feed we put out. They aren’t picky and will eat any of the seeds, including nyjer.

We had a flock (are a bunch of flying squirrels a flock?) all over the feeders. Obviously, I didn’t get pictures. It was dark and I wasn’t expecting to see anything. It was a real shock. Especially when they flew off the feeders. We don’t have flying squirrels, do we?

Gliding on the waves of air

Nothing will keep them out of the feeders, either, because baffles people put up to keep out gray squirrels? The flyers just glide in under the baffles. They were all over my three feeders. Of course, as soon as I turned the light on, they fled. In any case, we don’t have baffles. What seems to have happened is that the gray squirrels eat early in the morning and the birds get the rest of the day … and the flying squirrels chow down at night.

Hot pink flying squirrel in ultra-violet light!

Flying squirrels have been around for longer than humans. Their big eyes make seeing at night easier and for some unknown reason, they also glow a fluorescent pink at night. No one knows why.

FEATHERED FRIENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

UPS is very slow delivering this year, so all the birdseed I have left is black-oil Sunflower seeds. It’s healthier to mix them, but the other two bags of seed haven’t arrived. They are weeks late. Just one seed isn’t the best I can do, but at least it is food and they like it.

I think it’s two birds having a little tiff. Hard to tell but that’s my best guess.

Owen shortened up the feeders today. The wind has been pretty strong and the feeders were blowing around like mad. He was afraid they would just blow right off the hooks — which they have done before.

Goldfinch

Nuthatch

He’ll have to feed the birds until he puts the long hooks back because neither Garry nor I can reach the feeders at that height.

Goldfinch and a bird in flight Probably a Titmouse (going by feather color).

Cardinal in the snowy branches

These are interesting pictures with birds in flight and in one of them, at least two birds mixing it up in the air. I think they are Titmice, but it’s hard to tell just a swoosh of feathers.

Goldfinch and Chickadee