Animal Tales: Something squirrelly is evident in these backyard Olympics
For the next few weeks, the sports news will be primarily about the 2012 London Olympics -- the trials, the biographies, the upsets and adversities overcome.
However, let it be known that you can have almost the same degree of entertainment if you observe the Cheswick squirrels as they exhibit amazing strength, flexibility and strategies. And yes, they even appear to have tons of fun while displaying their talents.
This all started several weeks ago after I put up two bird feeders. Finches, cardinals and sparrows became regular visitors. It was just a matter of time, however, until the intruders invaded.
One day while eating lunch, I looked out the dining room window to check on the avian visitors, and a huge, bushy tail was all that I could see. Closer inspection showed that a squirrel had finally found his free meal ticket. I became obsessed with him and his buddies and thought of ways to "squirrel-proof" the feeders.
I recalled long-time birders relating stories of attempting to outsmart the critters with no success. Despite being upset with them, you had to marvel at their ability to shimmy up a pole. As if that wasn't enough of a challenge, they then had to figure out a way to hang on the horizontal bar holding the feeders and then access the netting that held the seed.
In addition to admiring their physical abilities, you also must like their spunk. As they were directing all of their energy toward the bird seed, they were being squawked at and on the receiving end of "fly-bys" that the birds hoped would chase them away. They were fearless, however.
When I tapped at the window, which couldn't have been more than eight inches from the squirrels, they appeared oblivious to my efforts. I tapped louder ... nothing. Finally, I opened the window and waved my hand to chase one away. Eureka! It worked ... for about 30 seconds. Then the little rascal was right back at it. I gave up for the time being.
That evening, while sitting at the dining room table again, I looked out another window that offers a view of my backyard. About 150 feet from the house is my large vegetable garden.
At the far end of the garden is my raspberry patch. Every year I attempt to make it bird-proof because the birds will devour all of the fruit as it ripens. This year seemed to be a success, as I hadn't seen any birds inside the netting.
As I looked out the window this time, however, it seemed as if a bird had gotten into the patch. This usually means that they can eat as much as they want, because they never seem to be able to find their way out. As I looked closer though, it became apparent that it wasn't a bird, but a squirrel on top of the netting, trying to find a way inside.
As the rodent walked on the taut netting, his weight caused a bouncing effect and it looked as if he were performing stunts on a trampoline. I swear that he performed a round-off! Not exactly a 10, but probably a 9.5 in squirrel points.
I watched him for about 10 minutes as he bounced around on the netting, mere inches from the raspberries. It was as good as any spectator sport could be.
So don't bother spending thousands of dollars to travel to London to watch the events first-hand, and don't devote countless hours to watching the sports from there on TV.
You can save yourself a lot of time and money and receive the same entertainment value by observing the Cheswick Squirrel Olympics.
First Published July 27, 2012 12:42 am