While I’m tucked in the cozy, warm house with my cheerful Buddy by my side, I can’t help but wonder how my feathered and furry friends at Council Point Park are faring? Every time I open the fridge I see 1½ long loaves of “duck bread” spilling over the middle glass shelf. A tote bag filled with grab-and-go Ziploc bags, chock-full of peanuts for the squirrels, hangs from the cellar way railing so I won’t forget to take it as I hurry out the door for an excursion to the Park. One minor detail – there still is no walking for me to the Park. I thought about a short walk this morning, but I’m still reluctant to tackle the ice and snow on the sidewalks for a trip that is nice, but not really necessary. And, as we head toward the shortest day of the year, the sun is getting up later and it is not hardly worth it on a weekday to get bundled up, and perhaps even strap on my trusty Yaktrax to thwart the ice, for a measly two-mile trek. A round trip to the Park and one lap is 3 ½ miles and that takes me about 50 minutes. I will try to visit the Park this weekend, when I can walk in late morning and it is lighter out and I can take my time. I might wear boots and swap them for my shoes once I get there since I am told by the avid walkers that the City shovels the entire path very early in the morning whenever it snows. It’s an idea on paper for now since snow is predicted Friday night into Saturday morn. Well I shan’t whine about myself anymore, but I do feel for the critters. Sure, they survived before I started going there nearly daily with my bags of food and treats, and they will continue to survive, but once you start feeding the outside critters they stop foraging for natural food like nuts and berries and start to rely on the handouts … when the handouts are not there, they must rely on what precious little food there is available to eat. The trees and bushes are bare at the Park now, so hopefully they’ve built up a cache of food and they will be fine. My little squirrel who follows me around is not as chubby as his counterparts so hopefully he has stashed away some of those extra peanuts I kept tossing him.
I fed the birds and squirrels in my backyard on a daily basis for decades … that is, until the advent of rats in 2008 then I ceased all food and water. On any given day, I’d walk out the side door to find a fence full of birds huddled together and lined up in a neat row waiting for me to fill the feeder. The squirrel, whom we nicknamed “Sammy”, was sitting on the gate, looking ready to pounce down as soon as I opened the door. Lucky for this 2013 generation of neighborhood critters, my good-hearted neighbor, Marge, feeds “her” birds with the traditional seeds or suet, plus she doles out stale bread slathered with peanut butter for “her” squirrels – they just love it. But, hey … who amongst us doesn’t love peanut butter?
For years I subscribed to a combination garden/birding magazine called “Birds and Blooms”. As the title suggests, this magazine was filled with pictures of birds, some butterflies and beautiful flowers, and all the images were snapped in readers’ gardens. These home-grown photos would rival the finest work from any top-notch photographer. The magazine often gave hints on gardening in general plus the best flowers to draw birds and butterflies like magnets to your yard and what particular seeds to load in your birdfeeder depending on the birds you wanted to attract. One issue in late Fall concentrated on the best treats for your backyard friends during the Winter months. After reading the magazine, my mom and I decided to treat “our” backyard critters for Christmas one year. We made natural popcorn in the microwave and then strung it along with fresh cranberries onto button and carpet thread and I wove it all along the barberry bushes at the side of the house near the backyard. We imagined dozens of colorful birds munching on the treat-laden garland with a snowy backdrop – perfect for picture-taking. We also purchased a couple of loaves of cocktail bread, and, as the articles suggested, spread an inch-thick layer of crunchy peanut butter on each piece and spaced the treats atop evergreens and low bushes along the fence line. Of course, while making up the treats I had to keep sampling them to ensure they were fit for critter consumption, and, as to the peanut butter sandwiches, I can still hear my mom saying “stop eating the squirrel’s sandwiches – there won’t be any left for him!” … soon they were done and I packaged up everything on an old tin foil plate and ran them outside. Then we stationed ourselves, one at each window, and I had my camera handy as we awaited the arrival of the beautiful cardinals and blue jays and, of course, the cute chickadees to sample our Christmas treats. We also hoped to get a look at “Sammy the Squirrel” and his look of delight at his unexpected peanut butter sandwiches and to watch his antics. We were disappointed when the birds didn’t go right to the garland, despite them giving me a watchful eye from their perch on the cyclone fence as I threaded it through the barberry bush. I was all primed to take an award-winning photo of Sammy as he “pigged out” on the peanut butter sandwiches. Well, that rude squirrel came nosing around, and picked up each slice of bread, promptly licked the peanut butter off the bread then cast the slices into the garden uneaten and ambled over instead to gorge himself on the birds’ cranberry and popcorn garlands. The birds were blasé about the whole affair, preferring the simple seed from their feeders, and the blue jays didn’t even bother to chatter at Sammy for invading their territory. It was the first and last time for that “let’s-get-up-close-and- personal-with-the-wildlife” endeavor since, obviously, the “Birds and Blooms” editor had backyard critters with way better table manners than ours.
"Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled."~ Dostoyevsky
You can catch up on my blog posts before I started blogging at Patch on August 10th by going here: http://lindaschaubblog.net/