Friday, November 14, 2008

The Stunned Junco, the Crow, the Squirrel, and the Orange Danish.

Finally a few of the little birds showed up today. It was a dim day in the 40's but at least it only drizzled on and off. Dark-eyed Junco is making up for lost time.

My daughter Sam is here to see her Grandmother for the weekend so we're continuing the goodie stump experiments. Today's choices were Culver's french fries, a half a chicken sandwich with seeded bun, and an orange danish.

A moment before a squirrel was on the stump enjoying a crinkle cut french fry. Then squirrel left and was on his way back to the stump when this Crow flew down to the lawn. Did two circuits around the stump while keeping an eye on squirrel, as per the Crow manual abut food that looks too easy to get, then hopped up on the stump.

Then grabbed the top half of the seeded bun, where the seeds are, so fast that I missed the shot. Crow took off to the north.

A second Crow handed in the yard, the other was most likely somewhere being the sentinel, walked around the stump examining it for danger and hopped to the goodie stump. And took a pause to examine the choices. I decided I wasn't going to miss the grab on this one so didn't set the timer.

He checks the house.

Leans in for a closer look.

And grabs. Honestly that orange swoosh is the orange danish. I told you they were fast. He flies up to the nearest tree, and squirrel sees her chance and she hops on the stump and has some more french fries.

Crow begins to scream from the tree.

Squirrel keeps an eye on him but doesn't give an inch. Crow keeps screaming until suddenly he flies away. Squirrel has a few more bites and then she scamper off at high speed.

Most of the Juncos have headed for the Spruce. This male might be a sentinel. And everyone who is left in sight is looking north. I try to see what they might be looking at when poof! BANG! The few remaining birds zip off. Unfortunately one of the little Juncos flies into the house, bounces off, hits the ground, then in an attempt to fly off again, flaps her wings, which causes her to spin in circles on her back, until one wing catches under the bottom of the glider. Where she lies upside down, little feet in the air, panting. (No time to take a photo.)
I run out, pick her up, and notice hear the squirrels whining. There is definitely some predator out here. Likely something with wings from the angle of the squirrels. I go back in, look Junco over. No blood, nothing bent that shouldn't be, no puffed up places, but she doesn't look good. I grab a box, line it, and once again the second bathroom is put into service. She's plopped over on her side again, so I try to prop her upright in the lining.
Her eyes are down to slits, and she's quite limp. I make sure the heating register is open, take one photo, put the flaps down on the box, turn off the light, and resist the big impulse to check on her in another two minutes.. She needs warmth, and rest as she looks pretty shocky. I'm not optimistic.
I return to the bathroom in two hours, dreading that I might find a very dead bird.

But look who has gotten out of her box and is standing on top of it.

She flies to the towel rack and perches. Good thing I put it back together after Pyewackit the formally stray cat disassembled it.

I leave to get food and water for her and when I return with it, she's not on the rack, or anywhere else I can see. Back in the box? No.
Ah ha, there she is reflected in the mirror, hiding behind her box. I put the seed and water on the floor, Junco being a ground feeder and leave. If it had still been light outside I would have released her immediately, but it's dark, so tomorrow morning will do just fine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Diving Robin and Paying Back the Cat

R. of Illinois discovered this screen saver from Birds and Blooms. The highest Robin truly does look like he's ready for the big dive with all his cohorts looking on. Too bad for the guy he's standing on. In reality, he's probably making a landing. I find this unusual as the birds who visit my bath try all sorts of tactics to get the bath to themselves. Perhaps these Robins were traveling and everyone really needed a drink.

I missed the shot but when I first looked down at Pye and the squirrel, squirrel was sitting right in front of her, leaning on the glass, eating sunflower seeds. Pye had her paw up patting the glass. Squirrel wasn't fazed though he looked at the paw and just kept on eating.

Pye really wants to grab that tail.

This is the optimum squirrel spot because hanging from the eaves is a large bird feeder.

Note the squirrel is looking at Pye, but just keeps coming. Part of it is they're pretty sure she can't get them but also it's Fall and the squirrels are in the throes of hyperphagia-- putting on fat for winter--so they take chances for calories.

One squirrel climbs the screen door, jumps on the feeder, paws through the contents looking for the highest calorie bits, while the rest falls to the ground, available for multiple squirrel foraging below.

It's been raining for two days and the day before these two, it was extremely cold. There have been virtually no birds at the feeders. Not even the juncos. ???
If you look at the squirrels in this piece carefully, you'll notice that they have lost their necks and their legs are shorter--it's an optical delusion caused by fat.

The Crow Candy Wrapper Ruse

There are four Crows.

All Photographs:
Donegal Browne

Monday, November 10, 2008

Predators in the House

From squirrel rehabber extraordinaire, Carol Vinzant, who says--
Apparently they all survived more or less ok. I got these from my friend Vicki who got them off a discussion on

(Could Mom's eyes get any wider? Also see the open mouthed shock on her part? Who says squirrels don't have facial expressions? D.B.)

Let's hear it for feisty moms!
And goodness, does that not look like a public park? And why isn't doggie on a lead instead of being allowed to molest the wildlife by his owner?

Speaking of molesting the wildlife, Pye may have been thinking about it. But honestly non--native predators, such as cats, really and truly should be kept in the house. According to the research they do very much adversely impact wildlife, particularly in the songbird area.
Pye's vocalizations are very helpful in letting me know something interesting just might be out at the feeding area at night. She alerted me to the fact that Sleek the Opossum had arrived early the other evening. She cured me that he was out there by making an unusual meow combined with a staccato vocalization.

Though as the curtain happens to be closed this evening, Pye is spending this evening snuggled in for an extended cat nap.
Which brings us to a comment left by rehab volunteer and birdwatcher, Sally of Kentucky--

What a beautiful kitty Pye is! Is she missing her jaunts outside? My parents, in their 80's God love them, recently adopted a stray from the neighborhood and this cat is insisting on being outside, pacing and meowing at the door and windows and sometimes getting agitated enough to go up to my Mom and nip her leg to say let me out!
She is not content to sit at the full-pane patio door and mew at the birds outside as my cats do. I say she will get over it if they ignore her meowing, play with her and give her lots of toys. I've told them how bad it is for both cat and wildlife to let her out but, they are insistent that she is meant to be outside.

Any suggestions? I suggest my parents are more stubborn than the cat but then I don't want them bitten either.

Well like most of us, cats originally evolved and hunted outside as there wasn't much in the way of an inside but then they hooked up with humans and adjusted in a variety of ways. And it is likely that your parent's cat may yet adjust to the comfy indoor life too, if we can come up with the proper behavior modification techniques.
First off, when kitty is working herself up about going outside, do we know the real reason?
Does kitty just want to go outside to have fun and games by going after the wildlife?
Does kitty have free feeding or is she fed twice a day and on occasion she gets a little peckish before mealtime and wouldn't mind a sparrow snack?
Or as kitty was a stray, she had a territory carved out for herself in the neighborhood and therefore if another cat happens to wander by it will make kitty hysterical to get outside and run it off?
The peckish problem can be rectified by free will feeding and a nice big bowl of cat chow. Which you remind kitty is there if kitty wants out.
Some cats just have idiosyncrasies. My daugher adopted a cat who would become hysterical, he'd pace and yowl, if he could see the bottom of his food dish. Cover the bottom and he'd be fine. He also become hysterical if you turned the bath water on and left the bathroom. Either turn it off or go back in to stay and he'd be fine.
A cat in the yard, one just has to live through, as kitty isn't going to be distracted. Unless, of course you keep the view covered and you don't allow kitty to see it in the first place. Or you're willing to chase extra kitty off yourself.
But most likely kitty wants to go outside and commit homicide for the pure fun of it. Predator's can be like that. And the meowing, pacing, and nipping have all been reinforced by eventually getting her way. So she'll keep doing it until it doesn't work anymore.
It's possible that kitty keeps up her routine if ignored until she nips, cats being marvelously self-centered, because she thinks the people in her life are a little on the dimwitted side and just don't "get it" so she has to get serious and nip them to get their attention. And it's worked.
When kitty starts in, the first thing is a "no". Then there is the pointing out of the food bowl.
When Pye asked, I distracted her with the bowl and she went, "Oh yeah, I can just eat that!" Crunch, crunch.
It's also very handy to have a stash of high quality cat nip. Pye has already learned where I keep it, and when my hand goes to the top shelf, she knows, comes hustling over, and forgets about most anything else she was thinking about previously.
Pye wasn't really all that difficult to retrain. The food is good, and it's warm inside. She's no dummy. She knows how cold Wisconsin gets at night.
Now she follows me around the house, sits either on me on beside me when I sit, and whenever I eat, I give her a little plate of whatever I'm having. A first she'd eat just about anything, now she's becoming more selective.
Why do I do that? It keeps her interested in my activities instead of what is going ON outside. And now she'll watch the outdoors and that is good enough. If she went out she might miss something.
Pye doesn't know the human/cat toys and games as yet, and to tell the truth isn't all that interested so I couldn't use that as positive reinforcement but perhaps it's a distraction option for your parent's cat as you suggested.
Does their cat have a cat box? I too once had this issue with my mom. She kept saying that cats should be able to run around outside-- they were supposed to be out there. I eventually figured out she didn't want a cat box in the house and that was the real issue.
And there is always the noise aversion system. I'm not partial to it as I prefer positive reinforcement but you roll up a newspaper and smack it against something (besides the cat) It makes a sharp noise and kitty doesn't like it. Then while kitty is distracted you give kitty a treat, remind her about the cat chow, play chase the small piece of crumpled aluminum foil or whatever works for that particular cat.
And when all else fails and they don't get to go out, they eventually get bored with trying and you're off the kitty hook.
Also remember, don't reinforce kitty's bad behavior by letting her out after she nips.