Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wildlife, Wild Woman Living in the City

I am not a fan of feeding wildlife, especially living in city limits.
Squirrel, standing on garden statue, coming from the copper water fountain birdbath.
Over the years, I have learned that if you put bird feeders in your backyard, you're liable to get unwanted visitors, depending on the feed you select.  I used to place wild bird feed mixture in feeders nilly-willy, only to see squirrels looking like they were auditioning for Cirque du Soleil off of them to reach the seed.  Then, I wised up and got the squirrel proof feeders that shut the access by the weight of their landing.  Then the squirrels looked like yogis, doing headstands from the top of the feeders, trying to reach the feed.  I also attracted pigeons and grackles ("the motorcycle gang" black birds, as one friend calls them) that swarm wild bird seed.  Now I only use niger seed tube feeders for the smallest of birds, as well as a squirrel proof feeder for black oil sunflower seed to attract mainly cardinals (adjusted so bluejays are NOT welcome).
In summertime, I take down the niger tube feeders, and replace them with my hummingbird feeders.  That's it for summertime feeding.
If you'll remember my Fall display on my porch (below), I knew when placing it that the squirrels would eventually find the corn.  That is the extent to which I will feed the squirrels, and it was unintentional.  The first couple years I used Indian corn, the squirrels never bothered it, but now it's a bet as to how long it will take them to discover it and make their mess.  This year it took six weeks (I always thought squirrels were fairly low on the animal kingdom intelligence ranking, based on their obvious bad decisions in crossing the streets).
Here's a progression of the porch display since late October, after the squirrels discovered the corn:
October 29 - first discovery 
And no, the squirrels didn't eat the other pumpkins & mums.  Those were taken for props at my daughter's wedding the week prior, and the bale of hay went bye-bye when we were having our brick pressure-washed the week prior to the wedding.
Nov 1 - cleaning up (screwdriver is for the corn in the concrete cracks)
The squirrels are picky - they eat the heart of the kernel and then leave the rest for me to clean up.
Nov 8 - the grand finale
And that's the extent of my feeding the squirrels. Period.
I don't put out suet cakes because woodpeckers like to eat more than just suet - they like to attach themselves onto your house and eat holes right into soffit and fascia - no thanks!

Deer - I thought I'd never see deer in my neighborhood, as I live between a river and a four-lane state road. The deer have to come down from the hillsides and cross the four-lane in order to get here, but guess what?  They're doing it!  And one neighbor told me the other day she stood at river's edge and watched a deer cross the river (it's wide enough for two cargo barges to pass each other!), and run up the bank on the other side!  That's insane!  Or, maybe it was smart - it could've been a doe running from a buck; after all, it is 'rut', or peak mating season.  I do not feed deer, and they better not ever come into my garden.  Dang deer.  I see rabbits, but they've never done damage in my garden (I don't do vegetable gardening, maybe that's why).

And then there's the mocking bird.  Mockingbirds are nothing but bullies of the backyard birds that I do welcome. They're scaring away all the birds in my yard that I try to feed this time of year. I'd like to see a take-down between a bluejay and a mockingbird. They're so busy trying to be something they're not, I had to look it up to know what their real sound is - and it's annoying - no surprise there.
I wish my super-soaker water gun would reach the chimney like it does the d#@n Canadian geese, or that I was a better aim with a BB gun. Oh, those Canadian geese....this is where the wild woman comes in.....
See that area in the background of the photo above?  That's what we call the beach...there used to be a boat dock just beyond that area (you can still see the posts in the ground that held a walkway, long gone.  It was built by the former owner, and we had it taken out when we did our renovations ten years ago.  The best boat is someone else's was our mantra).  Anyway, that's where the d#@n geese come up, out of the water. I spend an enormous amount of energy keeping them away from our property, even the neighbors'.  I even string hologram ribbon along those posts on the beach to deter the geese from coming up (it works!), but it only works on my property, and there are several other neighbors with similar beach-like riverfront.  Here's what the geese do...
Clowns to the left of me....(just after neighbors reseeded their grass).
Jokers to the right
Stuck in the middle I am.  But I am armed, and I become a wild woman when I see these geese!  I use a super soaker water gun, and literally go out and chase the geese anywhere from my property and the two on either side of me - year round.  My family, on Labor Day, thought it was so funny, they video-taped me chasing the geese, shooting at them.  It's really not funny.  Especially when you see them reproduce in Spring - each pair can create its own gaggle of up to 10 or 11!  They are disgustingly nasty with their droppings, and I don't know of any natural predator they have in our area - or anywhere, for that matter.  Crows, turkey vultures, red hawks - none of them seem to want to have anything to do with them in our area.

If you live in the country, much of what I'm writing about is second nature for you, but not for city folk. Wildlife moving into the suburban areas is definitely more freakish.  As my husband and I walk most every day, we've seen some strange citings along the riverbank in our neighborhood the last few years.  Remember, we are land-locked in WV.  We are the northern-most southern state, and the southern-most northern state.  So, to see large turtles along the riverbank in WV, as well as blue heron.....
Large turtle, perched on rock at river's edge
Blue heron, in shallow waters of river's edge
Well, it's just plain weird.  That turtle remains in the water, even with recent freezing temperatures at night. Where does he go?  And we're only seeing one of his kind - so far.  The blue heron used to be a singular, but this year we're seeing a pair, as recent as this week.  I can only hope they will be competition to the Canadian geese!

I guess the good news is our water and air must be cleaner than it was in the past.  We live in a valley - a chemical valley at that - including DOW, DuPont, Monsanto, Bayer - to name just a few.  So, I suppose the glass half-full optimist would say our ecosystem is improving such that the wildlife is migrating here.  But the wild woman realist in me is saying, "go play in your own backyard, somewhere outside of city limits".  

I'd be happy if the geese would go away, or at least diminish.  And one thing's certain:  one item you WON'T see me decorating much with at Christmastime are geese.  If you ask me, the best goose is cooked goose, and I don't even like those!  And I used to have life-like, natural twig & rope deer in the landscape as holiday decor, but they're gone now.  I don't want the deer getting any ideas of my yard being party-central.