Winter refuses to depart and keeps leaving its calling card behind. Like this morning, when I went outside and it was 22 degrees F (-5 C) with a northeast wind making a “real feel” in the teens (-10 C or so). That bit of ugliness, along with 1½ inches (3.8 cm) of snow made me know that March exited like a lion, just like it arrived.
Because the traffic reporter mentioned much slipping and sliding, I figured a walk was out of the question and I’d just hustle in and out to run the car in the garage. But, when I opened the door to feed my “porch pals” the pavement was clear and dry, although ice was on the porch and snow was on the grass.
I made a spur-of-the-moment-decision to head to the Park, packed up some peanuts and layered up (but not enough) and decided to head out.
But, first I needed to tend to my furry and feathered pals out front.
Hail, hail … the gang’s all here …
… or most of them anyway.
The “porch pals” have provided some smiles and plenty of fodder for my blog. Those of you that have been following this blog for a while, know that one morning last Fall, I returned from walking and had two peanuts left in the Ziploc bag. A cute gray squirrel caught my eye and I offered him the remaining peanuts. He was too timid to approach me, so I tossed them onto the cement and that met with his approval and he scrambled over to eat them. I went into the house, but little did I know this would cause a routine that has existed for nearly six months and kind of snowballed.
The next morning I found this cutie pie on my porch. I had taken the car and run some errands and was later than usual and there he sat on his haunches, obviously waiting for me. So, how long was this poor little squirrel waiting? Of course, I gave him peanuts, even extra ones to reward him for his wait. Soon he was there like clockwork every morning, rain or shine, snow or sleet – he is like the mail carriers.
I called him Grady the Gray Squirrel and just like it is hard to keep a secret without someone discovering it and seizing the info, Grady soon found himself sharing peanuts with a Fox squirrel (like Parker), who was twice his size. For a while I put the peanuts up high on a brick ledge, thinking Grady was more agile due to his small size, but the Fox squirrel soon learned to scale those bricks just as easily.
But, it was not just the two squirrels that beat a path to my porch. As Winter settled in, soon a pair of cardinals and a pair of jays were helping themselves to peanuts as well. Now, we have also added a couple of black squirrels to the mix in the past few weeks.
It’s been fun and a break in the monotony of Winter to open the front door every morning to see four birds in my neighbor’s tree and squirrels slinking down from their nests and racing over to grab some peanuts. The squirrels do their share of pacing if I am later than usual (like yesterday), but the jays simply don’t tolerate tardiness. They may be singing when I open the door and immediately start screeching, which I’ve not decided if that is berating me, or calling to their peers that breakfast has just been served. The savvy birds have mastered the art of “swoop and swipe” and usually grab the biggest bounty of peanuts much to the chagrin of the poor squirrels.
Transparency is good … most of the time.
One of the buzzwords floating around these days is “transparency” and this morning, when I decided to capture some shots of my porch pals for today’s post, I realized transparency was not working to my advantage at all.
I opened the door and tossed out about a dozen peanuts, just as I do every day. I lay them on the ledge near the door and also under the door stoop. That way the porch pals can disappear into the bushes if any danger looms, like a hawk.
So, I watched and waited, camera in hand for the gang to show up. Unfortunately, the storm door glass started frosting up almost immediately. I had to run into the kitchen to grab a paper towel to wipe it clear. When I returned, not more than 30 seconds later, I saw a flash of red, blue and black … the male cardinal and blue jay did a fly by, each with a peanut and the black squirrel was hauling his booty away.
I called out: “Wait a minute – come back here! What about my photo op with you guys?”
But my words fell on deaf ears. The cardinal was already munching his peanut high up in my neighbor’s tree.
Then he, and the female, (whom you really couldn’t see as she blended in with the background), proceeded to stare me down, waiting for me to close the door, so they felt safe. They, of course, did not realize that glass separated us. I figured that little gem out after standing there for about 15 minutes.
I also took note of Grady and one black squirrel watching me from afar, although the black squirrel had raced down, grabbed a peanut and took it back up to his tree to enjoy.
Finally I shut the door, a little exasperated, and got ready to go out. By the time I went around the house, just a couple of peanuts remained, but, even with my camera handy, there were no takers. “Well that’s a bummer” I thought and went into the garage to get the car. When I went to close the garage door, the black squirrel, who I’ve named “Soot” came around from the side, thinking I was gone. I wish I had captured the look of panic on his face – it was “OMG … I thought you were gone already!” I purposely stood back and urged him to go to the porch. He did, even though I am sure his heart was still pounding a mile a minute. He got a pair of peanuts and I was lucky to get a pair of photos of him. Check out the two-fisted peanut eating.
Poor Soot has “mange” and is missing a lot of his fur, but he sure was lively.
The jays were missing in action, as was the Fox squirrel. But what WAS hanging about, much to my dismay, was a huge hawk that glided ever so slowly overhead as I was backing out of the driveway. I’ve not seen any hawks in a few months and now I’ll worry about my porch pals being targets for the hawk. They can just drop down into the bushes in a second.
There was fresh snow at Council Point Park as well.
I’m no fan of snow, but this kind of snow is fine with me. The snow only covered the grass at home, and at the Park. Surprisingly, with all the rain we had yesterday, there were very few slick spots. I forgot my flip-up gloves, so I figured I would only pull the camera out if something cute or interesting came along.
Well … the camera spent more time out of the pouch and my fingers were nearly frozen as I snapped pictures of Parker and a few of his pals … that is Parker in the header photo by the way. He was frolicking in the snow when he first spotted me. He ran with his peanut over by the tree. He may look shy here – he is not shy in the least. You must see the priceless look when the Red-Winged Blackbird stole a peanut from under his nose.
Midnight, the black squirrel that I see very occasionally, showed up today and must have really been hungry. The black and gray squirrels are much smaller that the Fox Squirrels and more skittish. But, he came right over to me, so I traded peanuts for poses – isn’t he a cutie?
The male cardinal at the Park often flits from tree to tree when he sees me feeding the squirrels. That beautiful bird will study my every move to strategize when to pop down to the ground and snatch a peanut. Well today, with only one walker around, I had the trail to myself.
I watched him.
He watched me.
He finally made his move.
I feel lucky to have seen two beautiful cardinals in one day.
I whined about the rain yesterday and was not happy about the snow either. The sky was dark and looked more like dusk than mid-morning. I took these two shots of the first loop of the pathway.
Sure enough, about five minutes after I tucked the camera back in the pouch, flurries filled the air, and, not wanting to get in a snow squall, I cut my walk short. The last squirrels benefited big-time as I gave them the rest of the Ziploc bag of peanuts. I’m happy I got out and got some miles walked and some cute shots to share in this post.