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

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Donkey Poem, Reprise

The Donkey -

a poem by G.K. Chesterton

WHEN fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will,
Starve, scourge, deride me I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools, for I also had my hour,
One far fierce hour and sweet,
There was a shout about my ears
And palms before my feet.

From Norman Teigen

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mr. Squirrel Gets Artificial Corn

I was going to write about early spring feeding when the blizzard hit, 24 inches of snow in the Sunny South, Arkansas!

To keep my costs low and the suet available, I buy the little blocks of suet at Walmart for 90 cents each. They have prices that go up to $1.30 for each square, but those have delicacies in them, like blueberry chunks and seed blends. The lowest cost ones have a little bit of cheap seed, probably millet.

I loved the huge blocks of peanut-enhanced suet from Duncraft. Sassy Sue (the wonder dog) followed me around and licked them before I put them up. The last two were stolen in less than 24 hours, so I gave up on them. Previously, they attracted lots of birds, including bluebirds. I also give them credit for attracting the pileated woodpecker, which I saw twice.

My favorite view window now has two little baskets of suet on the left side, one hanging from the other. In the middle is the squirrel-proof feeder from Duncraft, full of sunflower seeds (about 50 cents a pound, Walmart). On the right side is a reconstituted corn cob on a squirrel feeder.

I bought the reconstituted corn on a whim. A bag of two cost $7, about the price of a bag of crumbling field corn cobs, while last only a few minutes on the feeder. I have two spiked feeders, so the package looked reasonable if they lasted.

Mr. Squirrel was not happy about the change from all-natural to Portland cement. There were some initial tastes but not much action. After about a month, the tasting turned to feeding. My wife asked, "What is that gnawing sound?" Mr. Squirrel was chewing the corn away, slowly. I figured it was good for his teeth. So far both corns have lasted a long time and served the tree rodents well.

Before the corn diet started, Mr. Squirrel used the suet basket as his personal ice cream cone. The weather was still quite wintery. To get some extra calories, he held one basket in his paws and licked it for a long time. Yesterday I found him on his back, licking the basket from the bottom. How did he keep his balance? He hooked one hind paw into the screen, which made him quite secure.

Suet is very popular and thrifty for pleasing a lot of birds, not to mention squirrels and raccoons. We have birds feeding on the suet all day long, and a 90 cent block lasts around one month. Many species eat suet. We see a few starlings, various woodpeckers, and bluebirds.

I was looking into mealworms for bluebirds, whether live or fried or cooked into suet. Duncraft has confused mealworms with caviar, charging the same price for them. A container of live mealworms is around $40. When I dye my hair blue and go to Paris every spring, I will spend that much on worms. Until then, no dice.

We no longer have four male cardinals feeding at the same time, as they did during the last blizzard. But we are seeing a male and a female around the feeder. Cardinals are claiming their territory by singing. That is one of the benefits of God's Creation. The males claim territory with their beautiful songs, which translate into English as, "This is my yard. This is my mate. Come close and I will fight you off."

The male cardinal will feed the female from the sunflowers as part of the mating ritual. It is quite a sight.

The variety of birds is improving as they get used to a steady supply of dry, fresh sunflower seeds. The bird seed companies charge far too much for millet, which is either wasted or eaten up fast as a junk food. Black oil sunflower seeds need to be cracked open.

The cardinals open the seeds by chewing with their powerful beaks, so the birds stay on the perch and eat, with a droll expression on their faces. Chickadees and other small birds need to peck the seed open, so they usually carry the seed to a branch, hold it in their claws, and hammer down with their beaks to open and eat.

Sassy Sue always go out to feed the birds with me. She usually plays tag with the neighbor's dogs, but yesterday he went over to greet another neighbor. She is so friendly and smiley that everyone loves to see her and pet her.