Squirrel Appreciation Day

In 2001, wildlife rehabilitation specialist, Christy Hargrove, founded National Squirrel Appreciation Day in Asheville, North Carolina. It was to be a day for creating a loving environment for our furry tailed friends by setting out food and water for them. Hargrove encouraged people to allow the squirrels to eat at the bird feeders without chasing them away. This wildlife specialist knew that the existence of squirrels both in urban and urban areas is beneficial to everyone and they should not be seen as rodents that cause disease. Not only do they bring us joy as we watch them but they are busy planting seeds which eventually will grow into trees. Hargrove said that squirrels are “natures gardeners”! They actually know to plant the seeds in the brambles where the young trees can grow undisturbed until they are strong – a fact known in the rewilding communities of the UK.

There are huge challenges for squirrels in an urban setting. At present, our City is removing old trees – trees planted more than 125 years ago that are not only home to many birds but also provide nuts and seeds for the squirrels. This is especially true of the Maple trees in my neighbourhood planted in 1902.

Dyson, Little Red and all the gang hope that everyone will be kind to all the squirrels especially as people continue to take over their habitat removing their food sources. Every Day, according to Dyson, is a day to celebrate how much joy (and bother) he brings to me.

Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day from Little Red and Dyson!

Dyson has his full winter coat and he is happy that the cage holding the suet has been removed so he can ‘sleep and eat’ on his favourite seed cylinder!

In this photo, Dyson’s fur is starting to get thick.

Dyson was slim and trim in the summer. Notice how his fur gets thicker as winter cold creeps in.

Happiest of Holidays to each of you

We live in what is defined as ‘downtown’ and yet, my garden is full of life. Four households have created a bit of a corridor for all the birds and animals so that they can wander from garden to garden. As a result, we support more than 350 birds daily along with the various squirrels that live on each of our individual lots. There is the occasional racoon that wanders over from the river and once a peacock fleeing from the zoo found its way to the top of my neighbour’s roof. I am grateful every day to have these fabulous creatures in my life and I feel privileged to be able to care for them in some small way. I am also grateful to each one of you for the love and joy you have shared with all of the birds this year, for the nights when we should have been asleep but were up watching a nest with anticipation or worry, or for the times when we all collectively grieved.

There was soft gentle snow dancing around Little Red. He is anxiously awaiting his Christmas Eve bowl of mixed nuts. This tradition began many years ago when my dear neighbours brought over a container of non-salted cashews for him. I don’t imagine Little Red has any idea that those nuts are a small reward for all the joy and laughter he has brought us through the year.

Dyson & Co have been out finding seeds buried under 10 cm (4 inches) of snow. We can always count on Dyson to clean up everything. No worry about seed sitting too long with our squirrel-vacuum.

Sharpie came to visit early. It is always a relief to see him.

Junior was also here early but we have not seen Mr and Mrs Blue Jay for some weeks and we are imagining that they migrated and Junior decided to stay and keep their home safe.

From all of us on the Canadian Prairies we wish you all of the blessings of this holiday season – good health, friendship, family, and the joy of the birds.

We are on pip watch for Harriet and M15. I am hoping for a Christmas hatch! Take care and thank you for joining me.

Mary Ann & the Gang

Saturday in Bird World

Are you having Peregrine Falcon withdrawal since the Collins Street kids and Yurruga fledged? Did you know that there are a pair of falcons living in Baltimore, Maryland that do not migrate? Their names are Barb and Boh. Barb will lay her eggs in March (normally) but for now the camera is live every day! The history of the scrape is located on the web cam page.

Urban hawks are very fascinating as are the amount of wildlife that exist in the very large urban parks such as Central Park in NYC. I always recommend this site. There are some good videos on Cedar Waxwings and the Peregrine Falcons as well as the RTH’s. The blog is run by Bruce Yolton who is extremely knowledgable. Check it out if you are interested in how wildlife survives in some major cities like New York.

https://www.urbanhawks.com/

There is also an Osprey streaming cam in Maryland that you should have on your radar. It is the home of Tom and Audrey 2 on the property of The Harrison Family.

This Osprey family, Tom and the original Audrey, were the subject of a book full of wonderful images, Inside An Osprey’s Nest. A Photographic Journey through Nesting Season. The images and text are for year 2015 when Tom and Audrey became adoptive parents – twice! The story is as good as the images showing the arrival of the two chicks to the nest and then, a little later, another chick lands on the nest and wants to be part of the family.

The eggs of Tom and Audrey are determined to be non-viable. The eldest two nestlings are removed from a nest with four chicks. Imagine Audrey’s surprise when she returns to her nest from a break to find not three eggs but two chicks and an egg. It is a very heart-warming story!

One of our readers asked if I would share some information from that big book on Australian birds of prey – and the answer is definitely yes! It is too difficult to find that volume and too expensive to purchase but, oh so wonderful to share! We will work our way through Australian birds of prey!

The latest news on two peregrine falcons that we are watching – Grinnell, the mate of Annie at UC-Berkeley’s Campanile – and Yurruga, the recent fledge at Orange is no news. The last posting from UC Falcons is that the interloper male appeared briefly on the ledge and was greeted by Annie. It was raining in Orange. Diamond and Xavier were about but Yurruga was not seen. He could be in the trees staying quiet out of the weather. Perhaps he will be spotted today.

The boys at the Port Lincoln Osprey Barge are doing fine. Bazza decided to be a little aggressive when he received one of the morning fish deliveries from dad. Afraid that Ervie might steal his late breakfast, Bazza decided to mantle and then thrust himself at Ervie just to make sure Ervie understood.

Bazza was very quick to protect its fish and mantle Ervie. The mantling is not the problem it is that beak. They can do a lot of damage to one another if they decide that is what is necessary.

Bazza finally settles and goes back to eating his fish.

Later. All is forgotten. Simply beautiful fledglings. Falky is on the right, Bazza with his great crest is on the left and Ervie is behind with his sat-pak.

Someone said that Falky had a wing or feather injury but I can see nothing to indicate that in these images. Falky is definitely one beautiful elegant bird. He has really come into himself in terms of flying. I also hear rumours that Ervie is trying his hand at fishing. Wonderful!

Just beautiful. Sometimes I just stare at these three boys. What joy they gave to us this year. I wish each had a sat-pak because we get so attached to them and then – poof. Nothing. What happened? Rather than think things are well, I like to know. If something happens, then we need to deal with it. Like Solly’s electrocution. Put the protectors on the poles. It is simple.

As we prepare for Bald Eagle season, I want to stop and say that there are so many many nests. You have your favourites and I have mentioned mine in the last few days. Some of the first eggs that will hatch belong to M15 and Harriet at the SWFlorida Eagle nest in Fort Myers on the property of the D Pritchett family. Those eggs are set to hatch from the 25-28 of December. They are an experienced family with little trauma – the GHOW being the exception. If you are after an eagle family to watch, SW Florida should be your first go to this season. There are three cameras. You can find the others on YouTube.

Ithaca, New York is the same temperature as the Canadian prairies today, 0. Yes, it warmed up and the sun is out! Ferris Akel’s tour is live at the moment. He is on Wildlife Drive and it is snowing but he did find some beautiful swans.

If you are reading this at the right time you can still join the tour. On Thursday Ferris found Big Red and Arthur on the Cornell Campus. Maybe he will do the same today!

I am also happy to report that so far, knock on wood, Dyson has not found the new feeder for Little Woodpecker! Yippee.

Take care everyone. Thank you for joining me today. I hope you have a marvellous Saturday. See you soon.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: Port Lincoln Osprey Project and Ferris Akel.

Blame it on Dyson

According to all of those pop-ups on the computer that can drive you mad at times, today is Black Friday. The Friday after Thanksgiving to kick off a season of buying – all those things we want but don’t need, everything to put a smile on someone’s face for the holidays, etc. I said that I would not buy anything on a Black Friday sale. Famous last words?

Dyson is our resident grey squirrel with the ‘good tail.’ There are 2 others, another small one with a weird tail and the big grey one. Dyson got his name because he can suck up more bird seed than all of the birds in our garden together and in record time.

Dyson was regularly coming to take the corn cob away from Mr Blue Jay.

For several days Mr Blue Jay, Mrs Blue Jay and Junior thwarted Dyson’s attempts. And then Dyson got clever. OK, he is clever he just worked faster to get that cob out of sight.

The little grey squirrel would push and pull until he got the cob off the deck. He had to move it over cinder blocks and flower beds before getting it on the grass. Then he pushed and pulled and got it about 5 metres away. Then the cob disappeared.

Where his winter’s supply is, we do not know.

From the corn cobs Dyson advanced to the hanging tray feeder where he could sit or pancake himself eating all the glorious nuts and berries. That was until Little Red explained to Dyson that the hanging feeder is ‘off limits’.

Little Red cleared Dyson out of the hanging feeder in no time. I wonder if he has a silent alarm that lets him know if someone steps on that feeder?

Little Red enjoying a nut in the hanging tray feeder.

Dyson then discovered the ‘new’ chipped peanut and sunflower seed feeder with accompanying tray. No effort at all, just sit and vacuum out the goodies! I am certain the man at the birdseed store was laughing as I left the store the day he sold me that tray!

So, word of warning. If you have a persistent squirrel around that you love – and I mean who wouldn’t love Dyson? – don’t put a tray on your feeder so the seed won’t fall to the ground. All it does is act like a squirrel platform! Dyson has even be caught napping between meals on that tray!

Even though Dyson has found the ‘gold mine’ of feeders, he does not like to share his space with Little Woodpecker – and, yes – Dyson has figured out how to get at the suet cylinders, too! I went off today to see if there was ‘something’ for the woodpeckers that Dyson would not like. And that is how it happened.

I walked into the door of the seed store and was promptly met by the cheerful owner who put a bag in my hand and told me that it was their Black Friday Sale and everything that would fit in the bag would be 20% off. Dyson!!!!!!!!

Tomorrow’s challenge for Dyson will be the new wire mesh feeder with the chopped peanuts mixed equally with the Bark Butter Bits for Little Woodpecker. The owner smiled and said, ‘Make sure you don’t put a tray under the feeder!’

From Dyson and all the gang in the garden, we hope that you have a wonderful weekend!

Mr Blue Jay outwits Dyson!

Yesterday I revealed how we had finally figured out who was stealing Mr Blue Jay’s corn cobs. After several days of the cobs disappearing, we were able to catch the small Grey Squirrel in the act yesterday! We just had to look all over the garden to find the little thief!

To take the cob of corn, Dyson had to drag it for about 2 metres, pull it down steps and then 2 flower boxes. Once on the ground, he had moved it about 3 metres out of sight of the Blue Jays – and us.

I had no idea that these little squirrels were so strong. Persistent, yes, when it comes to food but, strong? The corn cobs are heavy when they have almost all the kernels on them. And this cob had only a few bites taken out of it before Dyson started moving it.

The Blue Jay family could not figure out what happened to their corn.

The real question was how to stop this activity. Dyson has lots of food – year round. Him and the other two grey squirrels have been coming to our garden for many years – 2016 for one of them. We have learned to identify them through different markings on their fur and we do keep a log. I have no idea how long urban Grey Squirrels normally live but having a penthouse (our shed) and readily available food, the vet told me she bet these three could live to be ten years old. They have no real predators other than the neighbourhood well-fed cats. The hawk that visits the garden is a Sharpie and him and his mate only take a small bird or nestling. So to cut to the chase, Dyson does not need to take Mr Blue Jay’s corn!!!!!!!!! There is never any chance that he would starve – he is just being a squirrel.

As all of you know, Blue Jays are part of the Corvid family, like Crows. These oscine passerine birds include crows, Mr Blue Jay and Company, Ravens, Magpies, Rooks, Jackdaws, Choughs, and nutcrackers. Most just say Crow Family.

Corvids are super intelligent, problem-solving birds. It seems that Mr Blue Jay was figuring out how to stop the squirrel, too, and he devised a very good method! I believe this is how it worked as I watched with camera in hand today for nearly three hours.

One of the three Blue Jays would land and watch the corn from the lilac bushes, about two metres away.

In this instance, Dad is watching from the lilac branches. He is ready to fly at Dyson if he comes near the deck where the other two are eating the corn.

Two of the Blue Jays would go down to the corn. This is Mum and their ‘baby’. Mum is nearer the corn cob.

When Mum finished eating, she flew away.

Junior went over to eat the corn under the watchful surveillance of Dad who remained in the lilacs.

While Junior ate, Mum was watching to make sure that Dyson did not come up on the deck, too.

When Junior finished, he flew off with Mum.

Would Dyson try and get the corn cob?

No way! Dad flew down to eat off a second cob of corn that I had put out. He was hungry too!

Junior flew back down to work on the other cob at the same time. Mum watched from the lilacs.

Sometimes Mum would fly down to be beside Junior and eat some corn, too.

They shared the one cob while Dad claimed the other.

There was no way that they were letting Dyson get their corn if Mum had to stand on it all day!

All of a sudden the pair become alert! They stop eating. Do they hear Dyson coming?

They look around.

Mum goes back to eating but Junior seems to think that Dyson might be coming up the other side of the deck. He seems to be listening and looking.

Junior turns all the way around.

Then all of a sudden Junior flies off.

It happened so fast I could not get a picture. Dyson had crept up to the other corn cob after Dad had left and had grabbed a kernel. Junior flew at him and sent him through the flower box over the edge of the deck.

Dyson did not come back all afternoon!

The Blue Jays were able to finish their corn cobs in peace. They figured out a wonderful way to get to eat their corn working together – way before this human came up with a plan. It was quite amazing to watch over several hours. I was truly impressed.

Wonder what will happen in the garden tomorrow?

Thank you for joining me this Friday. I hope that you are all well. Be happy. See you soon!

Raptors really are the solution to many things!

I promised myself that I would check on the Red-tail hawks living in New York City after the sadness at the Estonia White-tail Eagle nest.

“Watching Pale Male or Attack On 5th Ave.” by LarimdaME is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
“Central Park foliage photo-walk, Nov 2009 – 50” by Ed Yourdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As it happens, hawks and falcons have always been my first love. It was an encounter of closer than 15 cm (or 6 inches) with a female Sharp-shinned Hawk that changed my life and it was a fondness for a bonded pair of RTHs raising a family on a ledge of the Bobst Library of New York City University that cemented my bond with these amazing birds. Sadly, the female died in March 2020 from rodenticide poisoning. The University appears not to have reconnected that camera for 2021 for the Washington Square Hawks. Indeed, there are few streaming cameras that I can find. To get images of the birds now, you need to go to one of a few blogs. One of the best was Roger Paw who reported on many of the nests in the urban area. During the pandemic, they relocated outside of the City. Laura Goggins is a photographer (see below) and she has a web site as does D. Bruce Yolton. I note that Bruce is very quick to answer my questions if I have any and his photography work in the Central Park area is lovely. Check him out.

https://urbanhawks.blogs.com/urban_hawks/about.html

Pale Male was the first celebrity ‘bird’ I was introduced to by friends. Look at that cute face with those very dark adult RTH eyes.

“Pale Male” by jamescastle is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Pale Male got his name because he does not have the typical rich brick red plumage – he is rather ‘pale’.

“File:Palemale.jpg” by jeremy Seto is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Pale Male is 31 years old and he has raised hawklets to fledge in his Central Park Penthouse for many years. The address for the nest is 927 5th Avenue right across from Central Park! I told you it was a penthouse – one of the most expensive and exclusive buildings in the city of NY. There was a movie made about Pale Male and the fight to keep his nest on this iconic building. You should watch it as it is extremely inspiring! If you are feeling low, check it out ——- and if you are looking for an interesting movie to watch, check it out.

https://www.thelegendofpalemale.net/

Sadly, for the past two years Pale Male’s mate, Octavia, brooded eggs that did not hatch. This year she has not laid any eggs at all. It looks like it could be the end of twenty-five years of Pale Male raising hawklets to fledge. Hawklets or not – to watch the daily lives of these amazing urban raptors is a privilege.

Bruce Yolton, an avid photographer and the chronicler of the city hawks, took some footage of Octavia on the nest. The couple did not bother with bringing in sticks and building up the nest this year. The stainless steel spikes were put there especially to hold the nest material for this famous Red-tail hawk couple.

To compare, here is an image of the nest when Octavia and Pale Male were raising eyases:

“Food Drop on Pale Male Nest” by jamescastle is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As you can imagine, there are many challenges for hawks and falcons in an urban setting. One of those is rodenticide put out to keep the rats and mice at bay. Of course, anyone that knows anything about these designer poisons realizes that they kill many other animals other than rats! That includes our beloved hawks and falcons but also domestic pets such as cats and dogs who eat or play with the mice and rats. Many do not like pigeons and put poison out for them and, one of a Peregrine Falcons favourite meals is pigeon. Load the city with hawks and falcons, ban the use of rodenticide and other designer poisons, and let the birds do their job.

Of course, there are other obstacles to living a long healthy life and they include the tall buildings that are built close together, window strike, vehicles, and drones to add to the list of things that might injure or kill a hawk. Oh, and hawks chase birds into window wells – the narrow space between skyscrapers – and not able to get out!

One of my favourite pairs of Red-tail hawks is Christo and Amelia who have their nest in Tompkins Square, New York City. Their daily lives are monitored by Laura Goggin, a wildlife photographer who lives in the area. She has produced a short video on the pair and the three eyases for 2021. It is only a minute long.

If you are tired of hearing about wildlife and domestic pets being killed by poison rats and mice, go to this site. They have educational materials and can give you all of the background information you need to fight this issue with knowledge and facts. Go to Raptors are the Solution – RATS. What a fabulous name!

It is a gorgeous sunny 18 degree C day on the Canadian prairies. I have quickly checked on a few of our raptor friends. Iris is asleep in the sun at her Osprey nest in Missoula, Montana; Tiny Tot let sibling #2 have the first part of the first fish arrival at 6:55:18. Tiny knew the best part was later and that mum would feed him! And that is precisely what happened. Maya was feeding the Two Bobs their tea while Legacy is waiting for a food delivery. So, right now, everything seems to be alright in Bird World.

It sure is nice to see the Two Bobs without any injuries following the fish incident on 14 May. My goodness who would have thought a headless fish could have wrecked so much havoc.

16:52 Tea Time for the Two Bobs. 15 May 2021

Thank you for joining me! Grab your popcorn and watch The Legend of Pale Male tonight. It will certainly lift your spirits if they need it.

Thank you to the LRWT and the Rutland Osprey Project. That is where I got my screen shot of Maya and the Two Bobs.

The featured image is Pale Male and this is the credit for that image: “Pale Male and stashed rat” by jamescastle is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0