29 May 2016

Garden birds and daft squirrels

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.    Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

I think this time of year may well be my favourite – long days, warm sunshine without humidity and excess heat and with pristine new foliage and plants emerging with all the summer ahead of us. I love that point, usually in mid-May, when the natural world just explodes into life.  There’s often a period of warm sunshine and spring showers and that combination of light and water seems to conjure up some magic in the things that grow and we go from the hint of things about to develop to being surrounded by lush bright green foliage and an increase in bird song and insects buzzing.

I have several bird feeders in the garden and when I fill them and the clean the bird bath (just what do birds do to get the bottom of it full of grit every time I top it up?!) I make a point of standing still nearby until the birds return to them, so that they’re used to me being there and associate me with the supply of food.  I decided to put this to the test by taking my camera outside one day when the area was in sunshine and hoping that they’d tolerate me taking some photos and many of the frames below are as a result.

One particular supposed ‘squirrel proof’ feeder has been in use for many years and the lid long since became dis-attached –  a combination of rust and persistent efforts by the squirrels to remove it.  I’d had it wired on and this necessitated unraveling the wire and replacing it tightly each time I filled it.  On a couple of recent occasions, the lid was either loose or had been completely removed and I wasn’t sure how a squirrel could get it unwrapped so easily.  Until I saw him in action – his technique comprised getting his nose under one edge of the lid and using brute force to lever the lid back, away from the opening.

I walked past the kitchen window the other morning and something moving outside caught my eye, but took several seconds before my brain could compute what I was seeing.  This supposed ‘squirrel proof’ feeder was swinging violently and there was a mass of grey fur protruding from the top.  The silly squirrel had only entered it nose first to get at the seed, which was quite low in the feeder and had seemingly got stuck.  He extracted himself after a struggle and as he stayed put on the adjacent branch, I grabbed the camera, hoping that he’d find the proximity of the seeds too tempting, which he did.

He just shimmied into it until his mouth met seeds and proceeded to eat until I took pity on him and took him some seed of his own out.  He again had a heck of a job backing out of it and then sat on the branch above, not three feet from me, looking at me as though everyone tackled their breakfast in the same way, so what was I laughing at.  I love how squished his ears are and I wonder where his front legs are, as he’s only seemingly hanging on by his back legs.  I’ll need to wire the lid on especially tight, as I don’t want to be responsible for him getting stuck in there.


You can click on any of the photographs to see a larger version and then run through them in sequence.  There are captions to accompany each photograph.

17 May 2009

Squirrel with an identity crisis

We were eating a somewhat late and leisurely breakfast yesterday, as is our habit at weekends and I spotted this chap out of the kitchen window.

We have a handful of grey squirrels that visit our bird feeders regularly and we put food for them in their own box too. He must have been having his own breakfast when something caught his eye – I suspect it was a neighbour’s cat, as later he went up a bit higher and was swearing quite profusely at her sitting in the garden beneath him.

Despite seeing squirrels daily, they don’t often stand upright in this manner in the trees. He’s obviously seen meerkats doing this and thought it was a pose with some observational value. I love how his left hand is holding on.

Click the photo to see a larger version.

I only had my small camera to hand at the time, set ready for some jewellery photos I was working on and the light was much darker under the trees than it looks, so it was zoomed to the max (380mm @ 35mm equivalent) and I could only manage 1/20 second – hand-held, that’s somewhat of a big ask for even my steady hands. I wish I’d manually dropped the exposure a little though and avoided blowing the white fur catching a patch of sunlight on his chest.

By the time I’d upped ISO, the moment had passed and he was back on with his breakfast. My very dirty windows didn’t help either, so the photo has had some work.