Squirrels & Their Buried Acorns

Squirrel on the Ground
Squirrel on the Ground

Here in Maryland, we are currently about a week past a blizzard that dropped about 30” of snow on the yard. The snow started on Friday afternoon and as you would expect, the birds were very active all day. I topped off the feeders several times as the birds where busy filling up with more food than usual, to give them the energy stores to last through the storm. The snow continued all night and then all day Saturday and into Saturday night. The birds were out in the worst of it, continuing to eat (and I was out in it too, continuing to top off the feeders.)

But lately we’ve had at least fourteen squirrels in the yard. So where were the squirrels during all this? I saw them Friday as usual but they seemed to have holed up in their nests during the blizzard itself because they were not in evidence during the storm. It wasn’t until afterwards that they made themselves known and boy, did they make themselves known!

Squirrel Eating Suet
Squirrel Eating Suet

The squirrels behaved like little furry mad things. They tried to get into every feeder repeatedly, even the Squirrel Buster Plus feeders (Brome Bird Feeders on Amazon) and the feeders on the pole that they had not succeeded in getting into in the past. (They still couldn’t get into them but their repeated attempts spooked the birds trying to eat in them every time.) They got into the ground feeders full of safflower seed even though it isn’t their favorite food and dangled from every suet feeder, even though they were filled with Hot Pepper Suet that they are not supposed to like. They also were doing repeated straight-on runs at birds on the ground to scare them away from the ground feeders and any seed on the ground and chased each other all around the tree trunks and branches where feeders hung, again scaring away the birds repeatedly.

The squirrels have always made a pain of themselves but this was on another level. It wasn’t until yesterday, as the snow started to melt that it dawned on me what their craziness was about. In the fall, the squirrels had buried tons of acorns all through the yard. With 30” of snow covering almost every bit of the ground, they couldn’t get to their stashes. So, being hungry, they were going after the normally unappealing safflower seed and the less tasty suet.

Squirrel in Feeder
I Fill This Feeder with Sunflower Seeds for the Squirrels

I actually do have a bird feeder right up next to a small tree trunk in a different part of the yard that I fill with sunflower seed for the squirrels and also a squirrel feeding station with compressed corn and nut product to try and entice them to eat that instead of getting into the birds’ feeders. And while that doesn’t keep them from trying to get into the bird’s food, it has helped take the edge off it. What I wasn’t considering was that with less of their own stash available, they were relying more on the food I was putting out for the birds to fill in the gap.

As the Snow Melts, the Squirrels Dig Out Their Acorns
As the Snow Melts, the Squirrels Dig Out Their Acorns

Today, there are larger patches of grass opening up where the snow cover is melting away, although there is still a good bit of snow on the ground. The squirrels are around but they are back to their usual level of annoyance and aren’t harassing the birds nearly as much.

Next time we have a big snow like this, I’ll have to keep this in mind. I’d like to come up with a snow strategy to keep them busy elsewhere so they are not harassing the birds. That probably means putting more food out for them. Sigh. Of course, I must admit that I’d not be adverse to a Red-Shouldered Hawk coming through to dine on a few of the squirrels. Fourteen squirrels on a one-acre lot is more squirrels than I really want to deal with or feed!

Nancie

Brome Bird Feeders on Amazon

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Squirrel on the Ground
Squirrel on the Ground

2 thoughts on “Squirrels & Their Buried Acorns”

  1. I’ve had two Brome’s for several years. They were the best investment I’ve made. Now that I’m near 70, I moved them and 3 other feeders within an arm’s reach of my porch railing. From my computer, I get to watch the birds dine on their favorite seed (also stored in an aluminum trash can on the porch). Yesterday (in CT), during our snowstorm, a small hawk (don’t know the species) perched on my rocker. I couldn’t grab my camera fast enough! They have come close before, especially when my cat is playing with a mouse or mole! I wouldn’t trade living here in the country for all the birdseed in the local grain store.

    Thanks for sharing your stories and knowledge of birding!

    1. I love my Brome feeders too. If I had to pick only one feeder for my yard, I’d pick a Squirrel Buster Plus feeder. : ) I’ll bet the small hawk was either a Cooper’s Hawk or a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. They are the small hawks that are most likely to hunt at bird feeders (although I’ve had the much larger Red-Shouldered and Red-Tailed Hawks hunt in my yard too, so you never know who will turn up!) The FeederWatch site (Cornell Lab) has a good page on telling the Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-Shinned Hawks apart if you are interested: http://feederwatch.org/learn/tricky-bird-ids/coopers-hawk-and-sharp-shinned-hawk/

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