Kerfuffle!

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.

Winter Visitors

Our property has been filled with visitors during the last week. All of our visitors have been of the furred or feathered type, with the exception of this rather adorable little jumping spider which is no larger across than the eraser on a mechanical pencil.

Jumping Spider

I tried to get a good shot of her, but she never stopped moving! She’s rather bristly, instead of furry, and hops across various surfaces (including artwork, floors, walls, even window glass) at random intervals, in bounds that are startlingly large for a creature so tiny.

With the constant snow, and our sometimes intense cold (tonight we have wind chills of -45F, with an actual temperature expected to bottom out around -15F), I am amazed at the hardiness of the wild creatures around us.

At times we have entire flocks of finches, pine siskins, sparrows and juncos in the yard, zipping to and fro between our spruce and our bird feeders, so many that the airspace around our house resembles a miniature version of O’Hare on the day before Thanksgiving.

Junco on rain gutter

Individual birds often perch on the rain gutter by my kitchen window. This junco flew back and forth between a spot on the ground underneath a feeder and this vantage point where he could eye me while I watched him for almost ten minutes, enjoying how neat and trim he appeared, as if he were wearing formal attire.

Female cardinal on feeder

This female cardinal is a daily visitor, along with her brightly colored mate. She drives all other birds from whichever feeder she chooses to alight on, although she will share the space with the male cardinal if he chooses to join her on ‘her’ feeder.

Female Finch on rain gutter

This finch (or is she a pine siskin? Hmm – nope. That beak says ‘Finch!’) likes the same spot the junco uses. I’ve never seen the juncos and finches squabble over any particular roosting spot or site, unlike the cardinals and many of the other birds we see.

Hawk hunting birds

When the activity at the feeders suddenly stops, I know that a hawk like this one perching in the back trees has arrived. This particular hawk stayed for almost an hour, but left hungry, to the immense relieve of the songbirds.

Stewart the Bunny's tracks in the snow

While travelling between our house and his little backyard workshop, Michael has almost stepped on Stewart, our yard bunny, several times this past week. I haven’t seen Stewart myself, since I’m unable to be out in the yard when the footing is the least bit snowy or slippery, but Michael assures me that Stewart is as bouncy and self-assured as ever. From looking at his tracks, Stewart likes to hop along the pathway that Michael keeps shoveled between our house and Michael’s shop, which makes imminent sense to me. Why struggle hopping through the deep snow when the homeowner will shovel you a nice path?

Thieving Squirrel

Of course, we have squirrels all year round. This rascal looks cute and innocent and completely oblivious to our bird feeders, but rest assured – he’s not. When I took this shot (which is a tad blurry – sorry about that!) he was sitting on top of our old clothesline pole, calculating if he could jump from the pole to a nearby bird feeder.

He couldn’t… but that didn’t stop him from trying!