The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Squirrels ain’t stoopid

Breakfast Club at Chez Deb's.We have a dogwood tree in the corner garden, and one of its branches finally grew to within Gray Squirrel jumping range of the roof. That was fine for a fairly long time – until one particularly ambitious fellow decided to launch himself at the bird feeder suction cupped to my studio window.

The first few times, he skidded on the vinyl sill and fell the 12 feet or so into the shrubbery. Undaunted, he kept trying until finally he figured out the correct angle to skid himself into grabbing range of the feeder, and pulled himself in to the feast.

I don’t mind feeding the squirrels but they are greedy little devils. Left to their own devices, one of them can devour seeds that would feed the resident Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals and Gray Catbirds for at least days. Something had to be done.

So I pruned the limb, as in nipped it plumb off the larger limb from which it had branched.

The look on his face was both priceless, and painful. There are people among us who think critters of the non-human variety do not have facial expressions. Clearly, they have never messed with the branch between a squirrel and his access to a bird feeder.

What actually had forced me was Mr. S finally knocked the feeder loose from the window, an event I unfortunately witnessed. He rode it to the ground – and cleaned up the seeds. In the time before I made up my mind to stop what I was doing to clean the window glass and remount the feeder, one of the Blue Jays came back by his usual circuitous route through the dogwood, then flew at the place where the feeder had been. Almost to where he would have landed, he veered off, back to tree limb, fly at the missing feeder, veer off and repeat.

Compare with the squirrel, obviously smarter than the Blue Jay. Realizing the feeder was absent, Mister S did not return until I had replaced the feeder and filled it with seed. He began mapping various routes, walking out to the edge of each remaining limb that was pointed in the approximate direction of the object of his desire. He stopped often in his quest and looked at me through the window, his eyes full of sadness at the level of my treachery.

Finally, he jumped down on the fence, walked out to the birdhouse on the farthest post, climbed slowly onto the roof and turned to face me, his chin halfway over the roof edge, his face bearing that look we have often seen from our dogs – sorrow that we have somehow betrayed them.

Some people think critters cannot have emotions. Some people are wrong.

Squirrels ain’t stoopid. They are persistent. I once found myself in competition with a Red Squirrel who found seed we had stored in a plastic paint bucket. I placed a cover on the bucket and he pushed it off. I planted a rock on the cover, and the next time I saw him was peeking out from the hole he had chewed between the cover and bucket.

So, too with my gray friend outside my window. Back and forth he walked, measuring the range from various of the remaining limbs. Eventually, he tried, and failed, several times to launch into the feeder. I don’t know how many times he attempted the jump, but finally, as I sat watching, he ran up the tree, out his chosen limb, and jumped – into the middle of the feeder.

Now, he’s daring me to cut down the whole tree.

Thanks for coming along, and thanks for your support. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share.


  1. Oh no! The squirrel won. What are you going to do now?

    This is the reason I had to get rid of my bird feeder. The only place I had to put it was on my back porch rail. That was food without work for the squirrels. They’d empty the feeder in “no time.” I couldn’t afford to buy a new bag of seed every day.

    PS: I used to follow your stories, but life got in the way. You appeared on the LinkedIn notice that pops into my email box, so I’m connecting again.

    • The squirrels always win, but it’s fun trying to reverse the trend. And they’re so cute when they come to the window and hold their hands out in that “What the heck” sign. But when the little fellow takes the feeder down, I usually take a few days to put it back up.

      Thanks for reconnecting. I hope life is at least a little smilier.

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