Squirrel avoids being Owl Dinner

Bloged in Nature,Pacific Northwest by mark Thursday January 25, 2007

We’ve had that damn tray bird feeder hanging from that Cedar Tree just off the back deck for 9 years now. It is rotten and held together by ropes. We’ve had to rake piles of seed remnants from under it many times. It has fed thousands of meals to little birds, and for years now, hundreds of meals to the night’s flying squirrels.

In truth, Our little back yard has become its own micro ecosystem. Starting with the invisible bacteria breaking down all the remnant pieces, and we move up the scale. Insects and grains feed birds, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons (when they’re here unnoticed). We HAVE seen little birds become the meal for hawks upon occasion. The biggest catch by a hawk (that we actually saw) was one stellar jay.
stellarj
We HAVE had the thrilling luck to see owls in the yard about 3-4 times at night when we got lucky. You must be out at the right moment. We know they have been nesting in a big hole in a giant maple next door for some years now. We were truly fortunate one night a couple summers ago to watch the fledging of the baby Western Screech Owls.
nestling
*yep, a web pic, but ain’t the baby cute?
There was SO much hooting going on we went to see what was causing the commotion. The sounds led us under that big old tree, and there they were. 3-4 little screech owls out on the branch wondering just what they ought to be doing……… We were glad Mom was out looking for a meal or four.

We have KNOWN from reading that one of the owls favorite meals (since they’re both nocturnal) are flying squirrels. We have thought at times that perhaps our little flyers “might” be at risk to be out in that old tray feeder at 11:00 PM in the glare of a nightlight all exposed. In fact, many of the flyers do not like being exposed and do not just sit still in that feeder. When they come, they jump onto the tray, get a mouthful of seed and jump back onto the back dark side of the trunk…..eat, then repeat that little step until they’re full. They often come in family groups….2-4 at times. Then, there are the “calm” ones that DO just simply sit in the feeder and munch. We’ve never seen anything happen.
rocky3
Well, two weeks ago after becoming all annoyed at two raccoon pups that were trashing the feeder every night, Mark rounded up a couple pieces of old rusty fencing to try to block entry to the feeder from the tree side for something as big as a raccoon….that worked for the most part until a couple nights ago and the ‘coon learned he had to climb up the front side in the light to get to the feeder. We learned last night we have to take the fencing down.

Here’s how the feeder would look…..and imagine it’s night and a gorgeous little flying squirrel is calmly eating its meal on this tray feeder:
screen
screen

For some reason we looked out about 10:30 and a huge splash of tan/beige feathers had splashed into the fence…..the owl’s face was back a few inches but plainly visible……… This Western Screech Owl……
flyscreech
had honed in on the squirrel and was coming from the dark yard side into the light with intent to grab the little guy and silently fly off into the night for his meal. It was ASTOUNDING…………..an OWL caught completely by surprise by this fence. What did THAT tell me? This could NOT have been the owl’s FIRST time flying through that small clearance to “grab’ a squirrel………….. WOW! How many times has a meal been made because WE have a light on while our beloved little guys eat!!! What a SIGHT to see the owl in complete frustration sitting against the fence…… he slowly gathered himself and flew off into the night.
screech2
Needless to say we didn’t see any more squirrels last night. Whew! Ah, but this would exactly be why we love our tiny speck of woods here in the great Northwest. Perhaps, dear reader, you understand why others may consider our lives boring…….. I guess it’s a quiet life it is.
forestroad

3 Responses to “Squirrel avoids being Owl Dinner”

  1. Ur-Spo says:

    Oh dear, another set like Doug/Leon? one of each of these two is quite enough thankyouverymuch.

  2. DougT says:

    What a great post. Our lives our boring in much the same way yours are- and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Through our online conversations, I’ve gotten the impression that you and Rodger lead lives that, in many ways, resembles Leon and mine: family, gardening, animals, an interest in nature.

    On another note, this post has elicited a pang of jealousy. I’ve never actually seen a flying squirrel myself, and have long wanted to. They’re suypposedly fairly common here in northern Illinois- but pretty secretive.

  3. UrSpo says:

    I love owls; what a thrill it would be to have them so close by like you have. Thanks for the photos.

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