Garden Gymnastics

The fascination of a treed private garden as we have here in our Calgary, Alberta, home is what comes to visit through the various seasons. We have what might be called a walled garden in that there’s a six-foot-high fence all the way around. This sorts out the large from the small as in deer cannot get in, but birds, squirrels, and even bobcats can. It is possible also that a skunk might intrude as well yet I dare not even entertain that idea.

Pine siskin readies for a drink

Birds and squirrels keep me intrigued at present as I work away here in my garden studio. I try and keep my focus on the keyboard and the ceiling (looking for stray ideas) avoiding the gymnastics at the bird feeder, the plays under and around the feeder and the gaiety at the birdbath.

The weather has a definite autumnal feel. Do I dare this thought? Good grief, schools do not return until Tuesday!

Back to gymnastics. Last week the sparrow population increased rapidly, and I think the rain has caused the pine siskin population to explode making it difficult for the more resident chickadees and nuthatches to get their nourishment at the sunflower seed-filled

Pine siskin crowd the feeder

feeder. We get the special chickadee and nuthatch mix from the Wild Bird Store. It works for these other fellows as well like today’s visit by a large flicker who hung by his boots and tried to peck his way into the portholes. Trouble is he was too heavy at the ports locked down. Last week a downy woodpecker got his fill and we’ve also been visited by a great cloud of grosbeaks. You can see, it’s a fun time.

It is the antics of the pine siskin

Waiting his turn

though that keep us amused, whether at the feeder or their splash pool. They duck and dive, challenge each other, perch on any available wire, twig or garden ornament to get what they want.

Underneath all this are the squirrels. I do not have a strong liking for the black and grey squirrels yet as I look out the window right now there are three blacks and three greys vying for the spillage from the feeder. Harrison, our resident red squirrel (at half their size) has all but given up chasing these interlopers from the yard. For several days he has chased them up the oak or cherry trees and across the house roof. They return five minutes later via the spruce trees and wooden section of fence. Acorns a ready for eating on the oak and we hear the blue jays raucous calls throughout the day. They have tried their luck at the feeder but hanging on and accessing the portholes is a bit of a challenge.

Harrison, guardian of the garden.

 

 

The last laugh

Two days ago I took the bold step of discouraging our resident red squirrel from his single-track connection between his house under the writing studio to the fallout area beneath the bird feeder.

Lois and I had tried several different combinations to divert young Harrison and encourage alternate routes to prevent the highway in the lawn. He was not persuaded and remained laser-like in his quest to stock the winter larder with maybe a hundred or more trips a day.

Yesterday I staked his pathway with bright yellow caution tape. He kept an eye on the whole operation from the nearby oak. Once I’d completed the rudimentary barrier, he bounced across the grass and inspected the new barrier to food. I sighed that smile of victory when I saw him take the long route, across a couple of gardens, patio stones and back again. He sure is busy. And all day long.

Digressing a second here, the blocked highway was the same one Henrietta (his mother, I presume) used over the past five years. Henrietta is not with us this year. I assume Harrison is male simply because there is no visible sign of motherhood — yet. I must say that our experience with these critters is for the most part positive. They aggressively banish the twice-the-size black and grey squirrels who dare to stop by for a free feed.

Back to my story. Imagine our surprise this afternoon as we note the faint beginnings of a parallel track forming one foot south from the caution tape.

Oh well.