… and S for the squirrel as big as a horse.
(That last bit might be an exaggeration, but the squirrel doesn’t think so.)
I have a bird feeder hanging from the plum tree outside the window of my home office. It holds large cakes of seeds and corn designed to feed blue jays and squirrels alike, though I’m finding that smaller birds enjoy the seeds too.
I used to feed only the birds, but my yard is populated by three or four remarkably acrobatic grey squirrels who never seemed to get the memo that the seed wasn’t intended for them, and in the end I decided the little guys worked so hard to the food that I might as well feed them too.
Yes, I’m a pushover for cute fuzzy things. Always have been. Always will be.
As a rule, jays and squirrels do not get along. We’ve owned our house for almost seven years. During that time three scrub jays (a little like blue jays without crests) and two pairs of grey squirrels have waged a constant turf war over the yard. I’ve seen squirrels throw acorns at the jays from the top of the garage, and watched the jays launch aerial attacks on unsuspecting squirrels sleeping on the back lawn. (For the record, a jay can knock a squirrel completely over, and squirrels have terrible aim.) Once in a while they reached a temporary truce but eventually instincts flared and the squabbling started anew.
Since hanging the feeder six months ago, I’ve noticed a change in one portion of the yard. Elsewhere the border wars rage as fiercely as ever, but the feeder changed the garden to neutral ground.
I expected exactly the opposite. The jays and the squirrels had squabbled over the rose bed since day 1, especially in summer when the plums were ripe and tasty. Both sides wanted to claim the purple fruit, and I witnessed a number of clashes in the tree (which fortunately injured only the loser’s pride).
The jays found the feeder the first day I hung it up. (Surprising, because most birds take time to discover a newly-placed feeder, but I think they kept such a close eye on the garden that they noticed the change at once.) The squirrels moved in the next morning. To my surprise, the jay feeding on the seed block when the squirrel arrived did not attack or shriek as usual. He hopped away to another branch with a couple of seeds in his beak and ate them while the squirrel took a turn. When the squirrel finished the jay returned, and they continued to trade off for the next ten days until the feed block was gone.
I have no idea what caused it.
My guess is that the sudden appearance of plentiful food eliminated the need for fighting. Despite the jays’ greedy nature, they seemed to sense that the feeder was large enough to share. (Not normal behavior for jays by any means, but I can’t argue with the facts.)
The rest of the yard remains as disputed as ever, but within the walled rose garden the truce remains. Months later, it still seems strange to see jays and squirrels sharing space. They don’t get along perfectly even on neutral ground, but there is no fighting and yelling among the roses.
Spring came to Sacramento in force this week. Our rain dried up, the tulips and daffodils bloomed, and I hung a new seed block on the feeder. I’m looking forward to a weekend of writing and watching the jays and squirrels tear into the feeder that brought such unexpected peace to the yard. In a busy and often too-stressful world, it’s a nice change of pace.
* A special welcome to all the new readers stopping by during the A-to-Z Challenge. If you leave a comment, I’ll be glad to hop over and return the favor at your blog. And if you’re not blogging or not here for A-to-Z, I’m glad to see you here too. Hop into the comments and say hello.