Sassy Sue wows the bark park visitors with her catching and retrieving.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cardinals and Sassy

Cardinals got me to purchase a serious bird-feeder, a squirrel proof bird-feeder from Duncraft. Bruce Church had a pair of cardinals feeding at his home in Michigan. I thought that was ideal. Cameras never capture the amused look of a male cardinal feeding. They cock their heads and seem quite pleased with themselves.

Two factors have increased business at the feeder, which is a few feet from my computer, just outside the window.

The first is cold weather, reducing easy access to the bug population while increasing energy needs.

The second is using single variety of seed. All the blended seeds promise a lot, but they use a lot of filler like millet. I threw the blend on the ground where it was eaten, sunflower seeds first. When I replaced the blend with safflower seeds alone, the feeding soon became constant.

Many use safflower because squirrels are not keen about raiding a feeder for that particular seed. The seed is rather expensive, so I was looking for a large bag of black oil sunflower seed. Walmart in Jane, Missouri had a 25 pound bag. Another bird watcher was looking over prices when I was. Safflower was over $1 a pound in seven-pound bags. Black oil sunflower was about 28 cents a pound in the large bag.

I am using the rest of my mixed seed for the planter near the front door and the window sills of the bedroom. The squirrels are welcome there, and the small birds alternate with them. When I scatter seed in the sheltered, dry rocks near the front door, small birds glean whatever they find.

Conversion to 100% Sunflower Seed
The least expensive and most popular option is sunflower seed. No other seed has so much nutrition, a combination of protein, oil, and minerals. I will use that for all locations soon, with the assumption that squirrels will stop by the low security zones (window sills, flower box, rocks). The bird-feeder has a bad reputation in the squirrel community. They do not even try it now.

Our three-legged Sassy watches out of one bedroom window, where I put the seed on the sill. She goes on full alert when the squirrel is inches away, eating seed. She is blase about birds. We are regulars at the doggy bark park, where she is famous for shagging balls while alleged retrievers sit around and look dumb. Some retrievers wait several seconds to start and amble toward the ball, but Sassy tears off immediately, her back bent with the effort.

Sassy is quite the hero now. Everyone loves to watch her catch high pop fly-balls. The strangest trick is pulling it out of the air as she runs to catch the ball falling away from me. Planting herself under it and catching like a pro is impressive enough, but no one can figure out the running catch, since she cannot watch the arc of the ball. When the ball is deflected off a tree branch in our yard, she adjusts and catches it.

Sassy relishes her fame and munches on the ball extra times. She hands it back into my hands or rolls it to the feet of her latest friend. That is one of her signs of approval, letting someone else throw her ball. Recently we were ready to go home when a little girl showed up with her dog and mom. Little Annabelle threw the ball for Sassy until our wonder-dog was trying to rest on the way to the car.

The evolutionists like to say certain traits are bred into dogs like German shepherds and Australian cattle dogs - she is both. But Who instilled those traits in the original DNA?

One moment Sassy will sing the cattle dog blues with me. The next she will bay like a German shepherd. It is as if she is taking books out of the Sterling Library at Yale.

Sassy was looking at her favorite throwing and chewing ball at the bark park. Chris is in the middle.
Norma Boeckler, our artist-in-residence is on the right.

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