Wildlife Wednesday: December

grackle in the sumac

My neighbours have two amazing sumac trees. This one blazes red and orange. The other is yellow and gold. Thanks to whoever planted them so many years ago.

I really love the colours of autumn. Added value: when tromping around in the bush the poison ivy becomes spectacularly visible. No dripping oozing wounds for me this month.

Fox Squirrels

It is breeding season for the fox squirrels. They are normally solitary creatures but lately I typically spot them in twos and threes leaping across the road and twirling up tree trunks. How do they run along the electrical wires? They seem fearless to me. An emblem of freedom.

resident squirrel2
fox squirrel

I hope a couple will turn our squirrel box into a nest this year.

I also hope fewer will die on the road but I know that is not likely. Every year the road gets busier and even though I live in a residential zone there will always be that guy who thinks his hurry is more important than the life around them.

Cars are the prime predator for fox squirrels. I take some consolation in knowing that each death probably means a meal for a vulture or other scavengers but it is small comfort really. There is a new carcass on the road near my house and when I pass it I wonder if it was one of the new squirrels I saw grow over the summer or one of the older tougher survivors. I have an image in my mind of one of the wee ones who gorged itself silly on mulberries this spring. I laughed when I saw it later at the bird feeder. Its mouth was all stained purple like lipstick gone drunkenly wrong.

Northern Cardinal

I know you probably don’t even believe I do have a bird feeder but it remains in its stupid place that makes taking photos nearly impossible.

Anyway this next photo does not show one of the many cardinals who visit the feeder as far as I know. I spotted him on a walk along the creek. Actually I saw a little bit of red that was just a bit TOO red to be a leaf — at least in these parts. He was nestled in some very thick brush on the ground. I had to really stretch to get even this crummy shot. If anyone saw my contortions they must have had a great laugh!

Northern Cardinal

Obviously he saw me too. His little crest is up showing his anxiety. Plus he looked directly at me. He could have flown away but instead he just remained perfectly still.

And I marvelled that cardinals are so successful in urban environments. Even my dim eyes easily spotted the red. Surely they are beacons to real predators.

Which I suppose might be the point. He is there to distract danger away from the little ones. Any male that can survive for any length of time must be clever enough and quick enough to make an excellent breeding partner.

But what about remaining still? I looked it up and apparently it is a better strategy than I thought. The brush was thick enough to deter a cat pounce. But more importantly, a lot of predators are designed to spring out at a moving target. As long as he remained steady he would remain quite safe.

Felis catus

Which reminds me an indignity I recently suffered …

feral cat
feral cat

I frequently see a few cats regularly prowling around the creek. Most are fat house cats — the kind that mew pathetically and rub against my legs hoping for a tasty bit of salmon. But I think this one is feral.

The other day I saw him walking ahead of me on the path. He was about 500 feet ahead of me. He passed a certain point and a single white-winged dove screamed and fluttered away. When -I- passed the exact same point eleventy billion white-winged doves screamed a hullabaloo loud enough to alert every living thing for miles and took off like they saw Death itself.

Come on! Do I not feed them every day!?!?!?! Am I really seen as more of a threat than a feral cat? Sigh.


If you don’t know me by now ….
You will never never never know me

Thanks to Tina for hosting Wildlife Wednesday each month at My Gardener Says.



22 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday: December

  1. Interesting thoughts on Cardinals. Makes sense, especially when you consider that the females are much better camouflaged. But does that mean that the males have a much higher mortality rate? In which case, shouldn’t they get some kind of medal?


    1. They do seem to get all the glory. Who ever photographs the drabber females? But yeah, I agree. Let’s give those little guys some recognition.


  2. Sweet critters except feral cats although I still blame humans for allowing cats to roam and get out of hand. But the squirrel is sweet. My birds squawk to high heaven too….I guess we are seen as enemies and who can blame them.


    1. heh I do understand their point of view but I was dismayed/amused that it was directed at me. Plus, after all that racket I knew there would be no photo ops for that day’s walk.


  3. Looking at the fox squirrel, I am not convinced it is the one in my post. They look similar, but the ones I pictured are smaller than the normal gray squirrels, not larger. One reason male cardinals are successful is they let the female cardinal approach the feeders first. If no danger is present, then they fly in. Another reason is the cardinals have more than one clutch of eggs per year, increasing if they lose one family, that another survives. They do have quite a few strategies to keep them numerous.


    1. I have seen cardinals feed each other from the feeder! You are right. I think the fact that they are year round residents helps. They don’t have to expend a lot of energy in always relocating. They will always know the area just a little bit better than birds that fly in from somewhere else.


        1. The adults are marginally bigger but the babies can be quite little — I’ve seen some that were just barely bigger than a chipmunk. I know we get two breeding seasons here. Maybe they breed twice up north, too. They really are beautiful creatures by any name. I love the colour of their fur.


  4. Wow – there is a lot to like in here, starting with the gorgeous photos. That grackle in the sumac (I kept hearing “turkey in the straw” there) is absolutely iconic.

    I am sorry to hear about the rise in street fatalities for your neighborhood squirrels. They are so intelligent. If traffic is consistently on the uptick my money is within a generation or two they’ll become much more savvy about the road and how to avoid being hit.

    Mr. Cardinal! That dark bit by the eyes always makes me think they look slightly cross. His beak is practically dripping with seed bits. I’d just read a piece about cat vision and it is true – they are hard wired to spot motion in low light situations when they are most likely to hunt but a still bird in bright light simply isn’t going to draw them. Thankfully.

    Danged doves. They irritate me more than they should but they are so sloppy and such seed hogs and so mouthy! They are the only birds I was ever tempted to ask to just HUSH. Apparently they are ungrateful on top of everything else. Doves – Jerks of the Bird World.


    1. =D Jerks of the Bird World!!!!!!! That is just too funny (and ahem a bit true). I will never see them the same after hearing that! Thank you.


  5. The bird silhouette against the tree leaves is stunning! I am hoping for more squirrels but I fear the hawk has eaten them all : ( We just put down rye grass seed for fun but I think the birds are going to eat it all before it sprouts. Too bad about the silly doves…they don’t know how good they have it!


    1. Thanks, Laurin! My fingers are crossed for your grass seed. The doves ARE a bit silly but I suppose that is part of their charm. haha


  6. Curses upon those doves! It is worse than I even hinted. This spring the community got together to plant milkweed and that particular flock methodically worked nearly around the clock to eat every last seed. haha Those of us with bird feeders couldn’t believe any could possibly be hungry enough to ruin our efforts … and yet … the belly of a dove is bottomless.

    I love squirrels. Even though they ate all of my Chinese cabbages. =) I decided to pretend that I was just making sure they got their green leafy veggies. But next year …. the gardening cloth is going up!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So much humor in this post! But aren’t sumacs the best, best for fall color? I love squirrels. I know many people don’t, but I love their resourcefulness and intelligence and their humor–they are funny animals. I like your description of twirling around trees–they do that. Twirl.

    And your Cardinal is beautiful—I like it when allow photos.

    Those white-winged doves aren’t very appreciative, are they?

    Thanks for participating in Wildlife Wednesday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tina! I have heard people say bad things about squirrels but really … wouldn’t life be diminished a little if they all disappeared? I love Wildlife Wednesday and the chance to hear about other people’s experiences. Thanks for being a superb hostess.


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