Sunday 29 May 2016

Squirrel Nutkin goes a roving and a pillaging ...

The other morning I had a troupe of acrobats in my garden. They really ought to have been performing in a circus. 

As I poured my first coffee something caught my eye. I glanced out the window to see the peanut feeder arcing through the air as though it had been catapulted out of the laburnum tree. Slinky Paws and his missus sat high in the branches, watching me, watching them and wondering whether they could safely harvest their bounty on the grass.

Now how exactly does this thing work?

If I could just get my nose down to those nuts ...

... life would be so good ...

Yes! To the Victor the Spoils!
You see Old Slinkers has form …  He and I go way back. He’s been a constant in my garden for as long as I’ve been feeding my little feathered friends. Slinkers feels that it’s decidedly unfair and anti-squirrel to focus on the birds to the exclusion of him and his kind. And to be honest I’ve got a certain amount of sympathy with that view; everyone’s got to live. 

But he is a squirrel and squirrels do like to squirrel things away. And so Slinkers has made off with any number of fat balls, coconut shells filled with delicious cholesterol-packed winter sustenance and other nutty goodies that had been intended for all of the little animals, furred and feathered, who stop by my back garden to share.

From time to time I’ve been exasperated by his acquisitiveness, and this has lead me to adopt drastic measures such as hanging my birdie bounty at the very end of thin, bouncy branches that dance around when he tries to slink along them. But old Slinkers has kept up with the game, and has perfected the technique of pulling those young branches back as far as he can, and then letting go so that they literally catapult their goodness onto the grass and into his reach. The other day he even got his missus to lend a paw and when the joint operation had achieved its desired result he sent Slinkers Junior, this year’s baby, along to hoover up the left-overs.

There was a very distinct pecking order within the Slinky Clan. Slinkers was definitely the cock-of-the-walk with first dibs and an insatiable appetite. After he’d fed to the point of almost bursting, his missus was allowed to partake, and, finally, Junior, a small sweet chap of very thin dimensions, appeared on the grass.

It took each of them a moment or two to figure out that they had to put their heads into the tube to get to the peanuts. Junior in particular struggled a bit with this notion. Maybe he felt a little bit vulnerable, because, by the time he appeared, there were a number of pigeons also trying to muscle in on the action.

Each time the squirrel family withdrew to regroup or give their stomachs time to expand sufficiently to allow further ingestion, some other rascally peanut-chomping character would turn up.

There was a magnificent magpie, who sucked up multiple peanuts into his splendid beak as though he’d just inhaled them. If someone hostile had shown up I had a vision in my head of how he’d have assassinated them, machine-gun style, with a forced exhalation.

Then the pigeons got in on the action. Again they had a strict hierarchy, and this big handsome fellow was the first with his beak in the bin. It took him a while to figure out how to get it into the feeder, but once he’d got it sorted he was on fire. 

Junior came back in the middle of the pigeons' picnic and raced around in a fury trying to scare them away, and then, when he realised that they were intent on waiting him out for what remained, he hit upon the brilliant wheeze of burying all the remaining peanuts in the long grass under the laburnum tree. That was the point at which I intervened and pulled the plug on the peanut party. Much as I love all of these little chaps I’m not a huge fan of the local rodent population, and I really didn’t want all those lovely peanuts being left lying around for the rats.

What's all the fuss about?
And then, just when I thought the floor-show was over, I saw this chap who’d come in on his morning rounds. Honestly it’s standing room only out there sometimes!

All the best for now,

Bonny x

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