Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kahless the Cardinal

The northern cardinal is a favorite of backyard bird watchers in the Northeast but how many people realize just how brave they are?

I have been feeding my squirrels and birds for a while now and am fortunate to have a couple of cardinal families in my backyard. In my last post I mentioned how appreciative the cardinals are when they receive their peanuts. Well early last week one of the cardinals began to exhibit a new behavior.

One of my Squirrels with a Peanut

It started one evening when I returned home from work. I had just closed the garage door when I heard a lot of loud “cheeping” and looked up. There on the edge of the garage roof stood a bright red male cardinal that began to sing as soon as I looked at him.“Oh, I know Mr. Cardinal. I’m sorry but all the peanuts are inside. I’ll come back in a little while”
I said as I began to walk to the house. Well to my surprise the cardinal began to follow me to the house, flying from tree branch to tree branch, and stopping atop the fence that encircles my pool.“Just wait right there Mr. Cardinal, I’ll go in and get you a peanut.”
I told him as I went inside. To my surprise he was still waiting on the pool fence when I returned. He immediately let loose a magnificent cardinal song in anticipation of the tasty legume.

I threw the peanut and he immediately swept down next to it then sang his appreciation. Apparently the peanut was a very large one and I had to giggle watching him trying to get a good grasp of it before he flew away. Now I wondered what he was going to do with the peanut. I haven’t seen the females much lately and wondered if he was bringing the peanut to his mate sitting on a nest of cardinal eggs.

The next morning, as I went outside to get the newspaper, I was greeted by the very same cardinal, patiently waiting for me on the pool fence. This has become a pattern and this one cardinal apparently knows my schedule very well.

Last night I stopped at the supermarket on my way home from work so the cardinal was not on the garage roof waiting for me. I did not think anything of it; I arrived home an hour later than usual so I put away the groceries, gave my cats some treats, changed my clothes, then settled down in my living room.
No sooner than I was comfortable in my favorite chair, I heard a lot of very loud chirping and singing coming from the window behind me – yes it was “my” cardinal and he realized I was home. My cats all ran to the window scaring him off to the pool fence but he continued to chirp and sing to get my attention. Of course this prompted the “human peanut dispenser” to restock his sweatpants pockets with plenty of premium in-the-shell unsalted peanuts and proceed to the backyard.

Now I have heard that cardinals are very aggressive but had not witnessed this until this morning. As I poured the water into my coffee maker I looked out the kitchen window to see the cardinal near the pool. Shaking my head I continued on my routine before filling my pocket with peanuts and going outside to get the newspaper.
When I did there was no sign of the cardinal but one of my “regular” squirrels came running over to me for a peanut. I threw the peanut and no sooner than the squirrel picked it up the cardinal swooped down in a sharp fast descent, landed next to the squirrel and began chirping at the squirrel in a very annoyed aggressive tone.
It was like he was saying: “Hey you stupid bushy-tailed rodent – that was MY peanut!!!”

I called out to the cardinal and held up a superb extra large peanut. The cardinal quickly lost interest in scolding the squirrel, flew over to me and collected his prize. He struggled with the size of the shell and pecked at it a few times to create a handle before flying off with it. I then thought I should name him. Considering his aggression and willingness to take on a much larger squirrel, his displays of honor and appreciation, his proud songs, and his leadership amongst my backyard cardinals, I’ve decided to give him a Klingon name. Therefore my cardinal is now Kahless.
MajQa' Kahless! (LOL, I'm such a geek)

Kahless on my garage roof.

Kahless on a tree following me

Kahless immediately after landing

Kahless with his peanut getting ready to fly off

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Bunny Mystery

One day last summer a young rabbit came out from under my pool deck and stared at me.
I was a bit surprised that it came so very close but I stood still and spoke to it in my best soft friendly voice:
“Hello Mr. Bunny, how are you? Are you curious about the human?”

This would happen nearly every time I walked into my back yard in the early morning or evening and each time the young rabbit would come to about five feet of me and stare. Now I began to think that the young rabbit was just curious about me and wondering how to get some food.

This all started with my niece quite some time ago. She started leaving “treats” out in the yard for the squirrels and was particularly fond of one that lost its tail. Well one day there was a squirrel on my back steps that didn’t run away when I was going to work. I went back inside and got some unsalted roasted peanuts for her. I named her “brave squirrel” because she wasn’t afraid of me and would be on the steps when I returned from work as well.
The mystery of why she was so brave was solved by my niece when she noticed that brave squirrel was a new mother.

Brave Squirrel on my Back Steps

Soon the other squirrels learned of the human peanut dispenser and my friends would laugh when I walked out to the back yard followed by quite a few of them.

One day, as I was filling the bird feeders and throwing peanuts, a blue jay flew to a low branch above me and began squawking. Apparently he wanted a peanut as well so I obliged him.
In short order all the neighborhood blue jays knew of the human peanut dispenser. A couple of weeks ago, one of the blue jays actually “sang” for its peanut. I had heard that they can sing but until then all they did was squawk. Now I demand that they sing and will not throw a peanut until they do.

The cardinals are very funny. They will come to a nearby branch and start chirping and singing which of course activates the human peanut dispenser. The cardinal will then swoop down next to the peanut and start singing while looking at me. When he finishes his song, he will pick up the peanut then fly away. It’s as though they are singing “thank you” before taking the peanut and flying off. I’ve found that cardinals are quite polite and respectful ;)

So I just thought that the young rabbit was interested in a treat but he didn’t seem interested in a peanut. I tried baby carrots but without success. Still the young rabbit would come out and stare at me. Last week, the young rabbit once again came out from under my pool deck.
”My goodness, you’ve grown there Mr. Bunny”
I said as I reached for my iPhone to take a quick picture of him.

As I got closer to take the picture; the young rabbit ran off but didn’t go very far. I was puzzled until I looked down by my feet and saw a tiny baby bunny. It was a little over 2-inches long and staying as still as it possibly could to avoid my attention. I leaned over and took a couple of pictures with the iPhone and then thought:
“I really need to get my Nikon!”

I ran inside my house, grabbed the camera and got to my back porch when “The Bunny Mystery” was solved. Just under the pool deck was the young rabbit sitting up with two tiny bunnies nursing. “Mr. Bunny” was actually a Momma Bunny. One of the tiny bunnies was upside-down on its back and kicking its tiny legs as it suckled.
“Ooh, if I get this shot it will make the front page of “Cute Overload” for sure!”
I thought as I stealthy stalked my photo opportunity.

To my dismay Momma Bunny saw my approach and ran about ten feet away. Not to be deterred, I continued to advance on the two baby bunnies for a close-up. I forgot that the camera was in “auto-mode” so when I pressed the shutter button to focus the award-winning shot, the built-in flash sprung open and the tiny bunnies scurried away – “NO, damn it! I want to be on Cute Overload!”

So “the Bunny Mystery” is solved. Momma Bunny’s warren must be somewhere under my pool deck. She wasn’t curious about me – she was trying to decoy me away from her babies.

I’ve started putting a bowl of rabbit treats out near the pool deck and keep my Nikon at the ready. Hopefully Momma Bunny will bring out her babies soon and I can get on the “Cute Overload” front page after all!

iPhone picture of one of the baby bunnies.