I keep a set of bird feeders up year round to attract birds to my yard. They do remarkably well in that endeavor, and I’m excited when I find a new species of bird for my yard list. But feeders also attract other things to the yard and I enjoy them as well.
Of course, feeders always attract red squirrels, eastern gray squirrels, and eastern chipmunks, the latter of which look like furry vacuums as they suck up seed and fill their cheek pouches. And it appears that a local fisher has been helping me save money on seed by catching a few of the squirrels – my neighbor has seen a fisher in his yard. White-tailed deer also eat the seed when things are lean in the winter and I’ve moved my garden into buckets on the deck given their penchant for eating it.
I’ve even observed short-tailed shrews in the winter coming out from hiding, grabbing seeds and then scurrying back into cover. And of course I have mice coming as well – which attracted a hungry barred owl to the yard a couple years ago.
Last summer a family of flying squirrels lived in the patch of woods across the street and Wren would occasionally bark or sit up with ears perked when they were on the deck eating seed. I watched them a few evenings climbing the paper birch tree in my front yard and even gliding from tree to tree in the shadows. It was very cool to see. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the flying squirrels this year. Instead, this year I have seen a red fox a few times – although it is less interested in the seed - as well as a gray fox which my neighbor says comes regularly to his yard.
But it is the family of raccoons who are my regular feeder clientele this summer. I started noticing small holes in the yard dug by their clever hands and the muddy water left in the bird bath from being used as their wash basin. Sometimes it was dumped over in their efforts. It took a little while for me to catch them in the act though, and it was Wren who finally helped me see them. She is often the one who alerts me to their presence by suddenly rousing from sleep barking, or by jumping up and pacing the floor or looking out the window.
Several weeks ago I noticed the mother raccoon with two babies feeling their way through the grass for bird seed which they scooped up and ate. A few days later I had a quick sighting of one baby raccoon. Then on one evening there was the mother with four fuzzy babies! They were very cute as they rooted around for seed and nosed the bird bath for water. The raccoons generally come at night, but just today I saw them at twilight – the earliest I’ve noticed them. One young raccoon stood on its hind legs to get a drink from the bird bath before the mother scooted them all into the bushes when I came to the window hoping for a photo.
And while sometimes raccoons can make a mess of the garbage, I’ve had no such problems – partly because I never leave garbage out of the trash can. All they seem to want is the bird seed and water and I’m happy to share. My biggest concern is to avoid any conflict between the mother and Wren and I always go outside with Wren when I take her out in the yard at night. So far there have been no problems.
It is one of the great things about living in the Adirondacks. Wildlife is all around us and we can see it whether out in the woods or just sitting at home. And it makes each day an opportunity to see something cool. After all, I’ve got bird seed to spare.