… and that’s likely because he had a big green sugar cookie shaped like a Christmas tree in his paws and was nibbling away at it.
Season’s Eatings – 2019 Style.
The past few years I’ve taken some extra treats for the squirrels and birds for Christmas and left those items there for them to enjoy while I was walking and for afterward. I usually do this on a weekend, when I can monitor who is enjoying (or discarding) what treat, on each successive lap around the Park. I also check out the progress of nibbling the treats in the days to come (if they last that long).
I’ve never taken Christmas cookies before and this year I parted with six “Voortman Bakery Assorted Festive Cookies®” out of my package. (I tore the bag when I opened it, so I’m borrowing this photo from Voortman’s website.)
They were all sugar cookies and I was thinking the squirrels might just play nice and share them with the sparrows, who watch me every morning, hoping for a morsel of food that they can enjoy. Unlike last year, when I lumped everything together on one of the picnic tables under the pavilion roof, (click here to see their food fest I left them), this year I decided that the birds would actually get a chance to enjoy their bird seed bells, without the squirrels misappropriating them like they do any kind of food, whether at home on the front porch, or at the Park. The squirrels can be piggy sometimes, especially the Fox squirrels (like Parker and Stubby).
So, I took along some long pipe cleaners, (a/k/a craft chenille stems), and hung the two feeders up in a tree near the end of a branch, where a clever squirrel might not feel secure venturing out on such a narrow perch.
But, I’d barely turned my back to start arranging goodies on the picnic table, when I heard the unmistakable noise of claws scratching on bark … I whirled around and there was a squirrel crouched down, contemplating his best move to reach the bells. Perhaps the noise I heard was the gears clicking in his head as he planned his attack.
The rest of the goodies I had toted with me, I then proceeded to spread along the picnic table. I like dates or raisins plus shelled sunflower seeds in my morning oatmeal, so I took along some dates and seeds and mixed them with some peanuts. I also took along two berry-flavored suet cakes which I had speared with a knife at home to “start it” for the birds. Those treats were ostensibly for the birds and they were welcome to nibble on the sugar cookies as well, if the squirrels didn’t glom onto them first. Before leaving home, I swabbed peanut butter on the heads of the two snowmen cookies and laid them with red and green sugar cookies along the picnic table. Just for laughs, I picked the table with the graffiti, and in particular, to show the scrawl that said “do yo squats” (a subtle reminder as we ease into the holiday fare, so we can still ease into our clothes). I’ve taken different shots, including up close, so you can see the array of goodies.
Every picture tells a story …
I was wearing cumbersome gloves and unfortunately I dropped one of the snowmen cookies onto the cement floor, still in its plastic bag. I had put each of the cookies with peanut butter into separate Baggies, so the peanut butter would not make a mess on my gloves and I could just slide the cookie from the bag onto the table. Before I had time to retrieve the bag from the floor, a black squirrel darted over and took the Baggie containing the cookie which had now broken in two. He grabbed the bag between his teeth and beat it up a tree. The picture is not clear, but he hooked the bag onto a twig and pulled out what he wanted and soon was happily chomping away on it, leaving the rest for later (or maybe his mate)?
Then, I began walking on the perimeter path, an open bag of peanuts in one hand, the camera in the other. It was very cold and blustery that morning and a few snowflakes were skittering along the pathway, as well as landing on my jacket. The squirrels were nowhere to be seen on the path the first time around, even though I jiggled the cellophane bag to announce my presence, just in case they missed me (even though I think I’m fairly easy to find).
Soon I had walked the 0.9 mile first loop where all the critters are, without a single one stopping me to beg for peanuts. There was not a single Blue Jay either. As I neared the pavilion area, I saw Parker dash over to see me, but he made a U-turn when he saw the Blue Jay flying toward the picnic table. Never one to miss out on a hub bub of activity when it involves food, Parker climbed up onto a seat at the picnic table to check out the offerings.
“Hmm – don’t mind if I help myself” he thought, then he hightailed it over to scope out the treats and gave a cookie the sniff test.
Forget the sensible snack, i.e. peanuts, Parker grabbed onto a green cookie and scrambled up the nearest tree, the cookie sticking out of his mouth sideways.
As you see in the picture way up top, there he sat on his perch, nibbling away, not even mindful of the bird seed bells in such close proximity. Here’s a few more shots since he posed so nicely. Check out his gleeful face. Hey … who does not like cookies, whether you’re human or a squirrel?
But wait – there were four more cookies – so would they be saved for later and the nuts noshed first, as is done when I take apples, mini pumpkins or even Nutter Butter cookies? Hmm – was he partial to the green cookie due to the color, or the fact it was shaped like a tree, admittedly his favorite hangout spot? Well, I’m no squirrel mind reader, but likely it was just due to an appealing scent, as squirrels are colorblind and they don’t hang out in evergreen trees. When I stopped at the goodies table after my second trip around the perimeter path loop, I decided Stubby and Parker were determined to keep this table of treats “find” all to themselves.
I peered again at the picnic table top … okay, one snowman cookie was gone, but the nice Jif® peanut butter that I had swabbed on so generously as a special treat for my favorite furry friends had been removed. No, not licked off and enjoyed, but left behind in a sticky gob. Nice goin’ guys, making a mess like that! Hope I don’t get fined for littering!
I looked around the area – surely the cookie culprit did not go far, although admittedly, it takes me about 15 to 18 minutes to make that trip around the first loop, especially with no critter interaction. Ah, there was the little rascal … it was a gray squirrel gnawing on what remained of the snowman’s body.
I turned on my heel to go and noticed Stubby had just arrived and he made a beeline up to the table. I wanted to chide him and say “you’re chubby enough Bud – maybe just stick to peanuts.” But, in the blink of an eye, just like Parker, another squirrel also snatched a green sugar cookie and took it to go, but up in a different tree. Well, I was still chasing after my mileage goal, so I stepped away onto the perimeter path once again and let him be after snapping this picture.
I walked at a brisk clip, the wind racing up my sleeves and whipping around my neck, its windy fingers slicing through my wool scarf and making me shiver. Although I attempted to keep my parka hood up over my head and hat, the wind kept pushing it back down again. While hitching that hood up one more time, I discovered he had moved with his treat over near the Creek. I guess he was subtly telling me he was done with our photo session, because as I inched closer to him, he shot me a rather exasperated look like “Really?!” …
… before fixing his attention on the remainder of that prized cookie.
By now the Park had come alive with squirrels scurrying back and forth along the path and climbing onto the picnic table. The sparrows circled around, with a renewed interest in the offerings, especially sunflower seeds and cookie crumbs. Even the cardinal was looking for goodies, first pausing at the table top to grab a sunflower seed, then he was wise enough to realize several of those seeds had slipped between the cracks of the picnic table, so he might as well grab them off the floor before the other cardinals discovered them. No … birds should never be labeled “bird brains!”
After walking several loops and gleaning a lot of shots of my Park pals enjoying their grub, I was ready to head home, and wrap my freezing fingers around a mug of coffee and enjoy some sugar cookies.
P.S. – When I returned to the Park a few days later, both bird seed bells were empty, and only the center sticks were left dangling from the tree branch. The two trays of suet were frozen solid as we had some brutally cold weather move in. I had driven that day to give the car a run. I went to the car and got something to break the suet apart and when I returned Thursday the empty trays were on the cement floor upside down, and only crumbs remained. I’m sure it was the squirrels that helped polish off the suet.