Thursday, April 8, 2010

Snakes, Birds, and Squirrels

I was outside filling the seed dishes and the little golden squirrel was sitting in the tree chewing on a corn cob. He watched me work, but he didn't run off, or even stop eating. I think the workers on the roof are making so much noise that the squirrels are getting used to the constant disruptions and actually adjusting to having humans around while they eat!

As I was leaving this afternoon, I saw a snake slithering up the driveway. I was afraid it might go under my truck tire, or worse yet, into the wood pile and bite one of the construction workers, so I gently guided it with my shoes and hands back into the forest. It was very docile. Not the least bit threatened. It took a little help to identify it, but I think it was a Regal Ring-Necked snake. It was about a foot long, maybe longer, a shimmery silver color with a yellow band around its neck and a black head. I took some pictures, but a few people on facebook responded just from the description. Apparently, there is a similar snake called the Northern Ringneck that lives, of course, up North
There is a flock of teeny, tiny birds in the oak tree at the foot of the front steps right now. Their song sounds like a high-pitched chirp. I had to stand beneath the tree for quite some time before I could actually see them. They are the size of hummingbirds. They have cream-colored bodies and dark wings and heads, and when they fly from branch to branch it looks like they're hopping and skipping on the air.

The mustang grape vine is filling in on the den patio and the baby sparrows--who are obviously a year old now--are still hanging out in the vines, but they're not eating as much as they used to. In fact, they seem to prefer the back picnic table, perhaps because the construction workers are on the den patio so much of the time. I haven't seen the hawk since I put the fake owl on the fence.

Mrs. Toady was not in the garden shoe today. It looks as if she buried herself in a pot of mint on the patio, but I didn't dig around to check. I think she is also a little disturbed by all the noise. She does hide in the plant pots quite a bit, though, even when it's not noisy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ring-Tailed Cats and Rock Squirrels

We were visited by the ring-tailed cat again, but this time it was at dusk instead of in the early morning hours. My husband walked out the back door and saw the cat sitting in the tree, watching him. It is a fascinating creature with a head like a chihuahua--including the big, pointy ears--body like a cat and long, raccoon tail.

My husband spoke softly to the cat and the cat sat and listened. He didn't seem the least bit afraid. My husband stepped back inside the house and called for me to join him, and when we returned to the yard, the cat was still there, watching us. I talked to him for a good long time and he seemed to be enjoying the conversation, even if it was rather one-sided. After awhile, he simply stood up and made his way back into the forest.

My husband thought he had seen the cat come down from the roof, so I sliced some apples and put them on the roof along with sunflower seeds and corn kernels that I feed to the squirrels. The next morning, the apples were gone. He must have enjoyed the feast. I read online that miners used to keep them as pets. They would cut a hole in a box and keep the box by the stove. The ring-tailed cat would sleep all day, then climb out at night to eat the mice and rats in the cabins. Unfortunately, raccoons will hurt these cats, so I am hoping they don't cross each other.

The animals seem mildly disrupted by the roof construction, but I think they're figuring out a schedule. They know the workers come late in the morning, so the squirrels and birds have been showing up at the food dishes earlier and earlier. This morning, I heard them outside at sunrise. I checked the dishes and they were completely bare--not even a shell, which means the ring-tailed cat showed up last night. He's the only creature that doesn't even leave a shell. So, I filled all the dishes and shut the door, turned around and the squirrels came scrambling down from the roof to eat.

We had a rock squirrel in the window a few days ago. It was a small baby and I think he was looking for a bird to eat. He was in our bedroom window. My husband and I spoke with him in soft voices and he turned and scratched on the window, which was unexpected. Chewy the chihuahua ran through the house and out the back door, then straight for the window. Suddenly, he stopped, turned, ran down the stairs and stood quietly on the front lawn. I think he realized that if it came down to a battle, the rock squirrel would probably win! I went outside to get the dog and the squirrel ran between my legs, down the stairs, down the driveway, across the street and into the forest that faces our house. He will be back, I suspect, like all predators. Now that he knows we feed the birds, he also knows our house is a good source for food.