Wildlife report

Three migrating swans flying south along the river today. You’re late, fellas. A few cormorants are staying all winter, though a couple of flocks of them rose up in raggedy flight and left. At least one pair each of Gadwalls, mallards, and black ducks look like they’re planning to stay, plus another male Gadwall hanging with the pair. Sometimes all the Gadwalls and the mallards hang together, depending how good the eating is on this stretch of the river. This verges on what Mr. Sibley calls a “mixed flock.” Canada geese are all gone, Brants and buffleheads have arrived, though personally I’m expecting more buffleheads, and maybe a loon or two.

Cardinal pair in the backyard, and a newcomer, a bluejay. Some years we have them, some years we don’t. Hope he finds a mate, come spring. Lots of mourning doves, and something whose call I don’t recognize.

Now, I’ve been asked for a squirrel report. This goes hand-in-hand with the Evil Neighbor report. The blue house on the next street, whose yard I face (along with half-a-dozen other yards) turns out to be occupied by Evil Neighbors. I don’t know them and I’ve never been bothered by their existence before, except that they go outside to smoke and they talk on the phone while they do it. But the phone conversations never last longer than the cigarette, or more precisely, they go back inside with the phone when the cigarette is done. This should have been a clue: these people, though they have a house and a garden, do not like the outdoors.

A couple of weeks ago their garden was suddenly busy with arborists, gardeners, and another guy. They ripped all the jasmine off the fence, lopped off tree branches (including a large curving one from the neighbor’s catalpa and the top of an ailanthus in our yard) because they were hanging over their yard, cut some branches from their own flowering cherry — and then the other guy set out rat traps. And I got it: they’re trying to squirrel-proof their place.

Now, squirrels are too smart to fall for those go-in-you-can’t-get-out traps, so I’m not worried. But the catalpa limb and the jasmine were beautiful! These fools don’t give a damn, though, as long as Squirrely Jr. and crew can’t climb all over their yard, throw shells at them, and chew on their wires. Now, I get it that squirrels can be a nuisance. But you know what? So can people.

Squirrely himself is long gone, either banished by Squeeze after this last litter or just vanished of old age. But the nest that first attracted my attention a couple of years ago has been rebuilt, possibly by Squirt, who is now Squirrely Jr. Or, whoever’s in the nest is now Squirrely Jr. He has a mate, and on rare occasions they’re visited by the black squirrel who lives on the street side on the building. The Evil Neighbors have made it harder for these guys to get to the juniper and their other favorite dining spots, but believe me, they haven’t done away with them.

And I went out and bought peanuts to put on the fire escape. This is war!

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