Feeding times

There is a thief in my midst. And I plan on catching him red-handed. Or, actually, probably, fur-pawed. But I will catch this thief.

I have five feeders set up in my yard. They are primarily squirrel feeders, despite the more common name of bird feeders.

For the past several years I have had a hard time getting birds to come around to my feeders. My first thought was the pair of nesting barred owls that we hear all of the time. And then my thought was, “Well, then why are there still squirrels?” To which I answered because squirrels can clearly spontaneously replicate, and an eliminating one makes two appear. It’s a never-ending battle.

But this year, I noticed the squirrels had been joined by a collection of birds. Nothing to exotic, but it’s been nice to see timouse, chickadees, cardinals and bluejays flitting about. We have seen some bluebirds in the neighborhood, so I’ve been putting out mealworms for them, as they supposedly love them. However, I have yet to lure any over, but I have found that the broad-headed skinks at my front porch really love them, and I have taken to feeding them on a regular basis. Generally, it takes about 10 seconds tops for one of them – usually Big Boy, Scar or Mama; yes, they have names, and your point?) to appear and chow down. (Click here to see video of Mama having a snack, and Big Boy running her off: https://vimeo.com/421790749)

I had been making sure to keep the feeders full, and even added a couple of suet stations. In a matter of a couple of days, two downy woodpeckers began to appear and peck away at the suet, and it has just occurred to me that I have not given names.

One day recently, after the suits were fairly depleted, I replaced them both as I refilled the feeders (after first feeding the skinks, of course). It was nearing dusk, so I knew it would probably be morning before the birds and squirrels hit the buffet.

The next morning, I awoke and went outside to enjoy my morning coffee. And I glanced over at one of the suets. Nothing there. Empty. Completely gone. 

I hoped this was just a one-off, and vowed to replace the suet the next time I went to the store.

The next morning, I came out again for my morning coffee. I looked at the other suet holder. Empty as well. Two nights. Two thefts. 

Now, I know how long the birds and squirrels take to work away some suet, so I know this is not their handiwork. And I have a fence around my yard, so it’s doubtful some wandered through my backyard and took it. You know what? If I DIDN’T have a fence around my yard I would be doubtful someone wandered through and took it, because that would be exceptionally weird.

So now I plan to catch the thief in the act. I have replaced the suet, and have also mounted a wildlife camera on the fence, facing directly at the suet. And when that thief returns and steals my suet again, well, I will have pictures, probably of a raccoon. But at least I will know for certain.

If the culprit is confirmed, I haven’t decided if I will leave it out overnight and continue to enjoy the visits, or bring the suet in each night and return it the next morning. That’s a decision to be made later, and one on which I will consult with a handful of my nature experts, as they are really into the outdoor feeding stations. Their names are Big Boy, Scar and Mama.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at scmgibbons@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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