Other Hungry Visitors
Looking at who visits our garden in winter can tell us how bad the weather is. The Pine siskin came down from the boreal area in a flock this winter. The birds alternately tucked their feet up or just puffed up to a ball of feathers and down without legs when it’s so cold out. But it’s not just the birds that brave the cold looking for food; squirrels, deer and rabbits are the critters I see during the day. The possum, skunk and raccoon just leave their paw prints on the snow to let us know that they are around nocturnally as well. They look for anything they can eat above snow, even things that they don’t usually eat.
White-tailed deer are common in our area. Five or six of them at a time frequent the garden at dusk and late night. At this point they eat anything they can get their teeth on: Hydrangea branches, Yew hedge and Rhododendron. Last year they chewed our Blueberry bushes down to the stumps so we netted them this year. They also learned to shake the green bird feeder to knock the seeds out.
We have plenty of wild rabbits as well and we let them be when they behave. That means when they eat only weeds on the lawn. This rabbit came to eat dry mint on the patio. Yes, mint…one of a few plants that neither deer nor rabbit eat in general. Then he moved to the bird feeder. After munching for a few minutes, he relaxed to soak up some sun near by for a couple of hours and then returned to munching seeds. He had no fear of me even when I was a couple of feet away. We wondered if he’s the same young rabbit I rescued from the swimming pool last summer.
I rescued this young rabbit (always has white mark on the forehead) from our swimming pool. I found him swimming laps one morning. Fished him out, washed chlorine off, pat dry and held him in a towel until he stop shivering then let him go back to his mother. After this episode, we found a rabbit that acts like he owns our garden. He would just step out of my way but never run and hide. So we wonder if he’s the same one who came to eat on the patio.
Our yard may be the last resource for grey squirrels in the area. They know they cannot get to the feeders in the yard because we put them far beyond their reach and with squirrel guards on each. They are at the mercy of the birds that rake seeds out looking for their favorites. But they also take a chance in coming to the patio when we have feeders out. We only allow feeders on the patio when we’re home so we can chase the squirrels out. I chased the one above as he flopped into deep snow after leaping off the fence. He stayed by the feeder in the yard but kept his eyes on me in the hope that I would go back in the house. We have a love-hate relationship. I admire their intelligence but don’t like their destructiveness.
These are just the daytime visitors this winter. The nighttime visitors like possum, raccoon, skunk and foxes I just identify by their paw prints or what they left behind to let us know that they came by.
A couple more weeks before spring comes, I hope the weather acts accordingly.