We had a kerfuffle break out amidst the yard residents during the last twenty-four hours.

An unusually aggressive gray squirrel arrived yesterday mid-morning, dividing its time between ordinary hoovering up of seeds and rather aggressively attacking any other birds or squirrels that came near the spilled seed under the feeders. Squirrels often chase birds away from the spilled seed, but it’s not really a big deal. This squirrel, however, was unusually aggressive.

Then it escalated, jumping on top of one of the cottontails when it came near the (plentiful) seed under the feeder, scratching and biting the bunny furiously. Uh, oh. The bunny (most likely Tad) was injured, badly enough that it left a trail of blood drops as it fled. We never saw a squirrel do that before. Mr. Squirrel spent the rest of the afternoon and again this morning chasing all the ground-feeding birds and squirrels away from the feeders. It was even running up into the bushes and chasing the birds out of the bushes.

Young Grumps (the dominant bunny) showed up mid-afternoon today to take her place under her favorite bush.

Mr. Squirrel decided that he couldn’t allow that, and zoomed across the yard to roar into her from behind, the way he did the other bunny yesterday.

Big. Mistake.

Young Grumps isn’t her momma’s daughter and the dominant bunny for nothin’. She met him just as he took his flying leap at her, jumping up and kicking back, basting him squarely with her hind paws. The squirrel was knocked backwards, tumbling head over heels. She whipped around, ears flattened and dived into Mr. Squirrel. He took off and barely beat her — running for his life — escaping up into the bush. She sat on the ground right under him until the squirrel got up enough courage to leap out of the bush and flee the yard at top speed.

He hasn’t been back.

The yard is back to normal, full of ordinary squirrels and birds and bunnies.

Just … wow

What snazzy markings on this female red-headed woodpecker

Off and on today I watched red-bellied woodpeckers fly back and forth to our suet feeder, and marveled at how glorious they look against the sparkling snow. They are such large birds compared to most other birds that come to our feeders, and so beautifully colored with the scarlet markings on their heads, handsome black and white checkered feathers, and rosy colored tummies.

As horribly cold as it’s been, and snowy, I wouldn’t want to live in a place where I couldn’t see these birds framed against the snow and red branches of our native dogwoods. When I see them like this, my reaction is just … wow.

Arctic Blast

I was hoping for a mild winter.
Yeah. Right.
This is what greeted me from the Weather Service when I checked the NOAA website this morning:
21 Below Zero--what the ...?

“Another arctic blast is expected to move across the area late on Sunday … with the coldest temperatures expected Monday into Tuesday. At this time … it appears this arctic blast may be one of the most severe since the arctic outbreak of February 1996. The combination of the frigid air and persistent 10 to 20 mph winds will cause dangerously low wind chill readings in the 30 below to 50 below zero range at times Sunday night into Tuesday. Wind chill readings this low can cause frostbite within 15 minutes. Wind chill warnings will be likely needed Sunday night into Tuesday.”

The high — the high — on Monday will be -14F … fourteen degrees below zero … with a low of -21F.
That’s nuts.
The black bears that disappear into caves every autumn to snooze until spring have it right.
Winter is for hibernation.
Black Bears got it right--sleep through the winter!(Bear Photo by Greg Hume)

Saint Francis and the … Chipmunk?

If you’re a saint, somewhere someone’s made a statue of you. If you’re Saint Francis, there are a whole lot of statues of you, mostly in gardens, often holding a bowl that gets filled with bird seed. We have an older statue of St. Frank given to us by relatives that was truly lovely in its youth. Sadly, it hasn’t weathered well, probably due to the harsh climate extremes we have here. Currently, its nestled next to an ancient heritage rose bush amidst some daylilies and we like it there.

Apparently, we aren’t the only ones who enjoy St. Frank’s presence. This summer a rather bold chipmunk (is there any other type?) has taken to roosting on St. Frank’s head. Every time I see it there, it makes me laugh. I think it’s because something about it strikes me as a mashup of Chip and Dale with a Disney Davy Crockett Coonskin Cap. Remember those Coonskin caps?

Behold: The St. Frank Chipmunk Cap. In “living” color.

St Frank Chipmunk Hat!

St Frank Chipmunk Hat!

Grump’s Easter Surprise

Most people think “Oh, how SWEET” when they imagine a bunny rabbit. Especially at Easter. You know the drill–”Easter Bunny” evokes the image of a fluffy long eared cuddly bunny with a darling expression, just chalk full of buttercups and sunshine.

They haven’t met Grumps.

Grumps the bunny rabbit Easter portrait

She sits like this, staring in the window at me, just to make sure that I know that the servants (aka Michael and I) have once again failed to provide her with a suitable assortment of fresh apples to go with the generous dollops of black oil sunflower seed she’s just hoovered up from underneath the bird feeders.

“Sweet”? Hah! Not.

She’s got so much personality, though, that I love her to bits. A few days ago a chipmunk came barreling up and whacked into her flank underneath the feeder. That’s the usual tactic chippies use to drive off the rabbits. HAH! She just lifted one big ol’ fuzzy hind foot, planted it very deliberately in chippie’s tummy and slowly PUSHED him away. You’ve never seen such a dumbfounded chipmunk!

For Easter today, the “servants” made sure Grumps got her very own fresh apple, which was tossed to her from our back porch.

Wish I’d thought to have my camera ready to record the moment. She hopped over to where it had landed, took a big ol’ chomp and then …

She smiled. Cross my heart!

May your Easter be filled with equally pleasant surprises!

(disclaimer: No, Dan, we aren’t encouraging an even bigger explosion in the local bunny population by feeding them apples daily … we only put out apples on Christmas and Easter. Honest!).