Backyard visitors reappear anticipating annual treats

By JEFF NORTH,

Maybe they possess some sixth sense or something innate told them it’s time to check it out. I suppose it’s entirely possible they watched my activities this past Saturday and from past experiences knew they could expect what was to come. Sure, it could have been pure coincidence, but I really don’t think so. Maybe the autumn-like temperatures urged them to begin looking and preparing. Regardless of how they knew…they knew.

I am a creature of habit. For most of the year, aside a few weather changes that may speed up my activities or perhaps delay them just a bit, I am quite predictable. If I were a buck, I would probably be harvested on opening day due to my set routine. I guess this behavior is due to, in part, my lack of willingness to adopt change. If you think about it, change is not good most of the time. I guess I should really state that it may just take a while to fully accept change to the point of where we can embrace it. Think about change at work, or in any other connotation you may come up with and see if you don’t agree with me. I feel like I am rambling just a bit so I will get to the point.

When the work season is over and my tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers have given up, I take a few days to clean out my garden and flower beds for the arrival of winter. Shrubs and ornamentals are pruned, and weeds are pulled from the beds. The dried remnants of better boys and early girls are dragged from the soil. Stakes, electric fences, and cages are packed away until spring makes its way back onto the scene. It takes some time, but eventually my home looks occupied once again. I bet the homeowners association was sealing the envelope on a nasty letter as my clippers and rakes went to work. During my recent activities of “cleaning” my lawn, I noticed a gray squirrel sitting on top of the fence in my backyard. I didn’t think much of the sighting and continued my endeavors. It wasn’t long before I had a load delivered to the back of my truck and as I returned to resume my chores, I noticed a mourning dove sitting in the exact place the squirrel was a few minutes earlier. I really didn’t think any more about it until the next morning.

Before church, I was having my coffee at the breakfast table gazing out into my backyard. I love my quiet time in the mornings and when I saw my little gray friend with the bushy tail, it dawned on me that it was possibly more than coincidence why he was sitting there. You see, each fall when the insect season and gardening season is over, I begin placing morsels of sunflowers, millet, thistle, safflower and other delicacies that songbirds and squirrels literally crave on top of my back fence. As I sipped my java, I began to wonder if the squirrel and the dove associated my fall clean up as a signal it was time for the buffet to be set? Have they imprinted to the point where they know and expect these offerings each fall? Am I giving them too much credit for waiting all summer to show up and the first day I resume my activities at home they’re back? It is possible, for I haven’t seen them since I stopped feeding them this spring.

After church I stopped by my local market and picked up a variety of songbird mixes and a large bag of sunflower seeds. As soon as I got home, I laced the top plank of the cypress fence with an assortment of goodies that would make a full stocking on Christmas morning envious. I had a few fronts to catch up on, so I retired to my study for a bit of work.

My curiosity got the best of me and I just had to check on the fence to see what it may possibly hold. Not surprisingly, it was already rich with some of the neighborhood locals. Three squirrels sat there gorging themselves, while a lone dove was picking up the extras knocked to the ground by the scampering bushy-tails. It took less than an hour for them to find the small seeded treasures. From the way they were ravaging the line of offerings, you would think they haven’t eaten all summer. Maybe they realize it’s time to fatten up for the long, hard winter that will be upon them in the coming months.

Of course, if they can deduce it was time for me to start supplementing them again, maybe they will also realize that a wide array of delicious, protein, fat, and fiber enriched grains will be there for them until the first buds of spring emerge from the tips of branches and twigs. I may have to acquire a loan to pay for it, but it will be there for them.

Nothing provides more enjoyment and entertainment for me throughout the fall and winter as my feathered and furry friends do. My mornings are complete with the lively commotion and antics from these little critters. Add to that the steaming coffee and biscuits with preserves, and I’m sure you’ll agree there’s no better way to start your day. Pick up a bag or two of seeds, nuts, and berries and create your own little squirrel and bird sanctuary. It may take a little time for them to find it, but I assure you once they do word will spread quickly to the rest of the gang. You will be amazed at the number of species that will arrive to partake of your generosity. You may find yourself totally captivated by what comes to your home this winter. Build it and they will come.

My mom loved watching her birds and through my love for nature, the legacy continues. Think of the help you’ll bring to the birds and squirrels as well by providing them with nutritional needs throughout the winter. Lord help us though if someone detects CWD in one of our redbirds. Ha, I think we’re safe from that for now.

Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.

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1. Before she began working at Premier Fabrics, she was a teacher. 2. She is a life-long resident of Jackson.