Thom Smith | Nature Watch: Caught on Camera: Bear alert! Time to take feeders in!
— Carol, Hinsdale, Mass.
Q A few weeks ago, your Naturewatch column did a brief mention of feeding Milk Bones to squirrels. How is this accomplished? Mini bones, small broken -up pieces, other? Would this be cheaper than peanuts?
A As I recall, I used to put out Milk Bones for the squirrels years ago. Irrelevant now, as none that I put out in early February were taken by the gray squirrels this year. I don't know how the price would compare. The squirrels do take the peanuts that I get where bird seed is sold, (shelled and broken up, they are expensive, or when I begin getting concerned for them, and I have a bag of peanuts in shell, I will offer them a few.
Besides dry acorns that you can gather in the autumn along with native nuts, my suggestion is drying ears of corn to offer them in the colder months. Or purchasing dry ears of corn sold, usually by the bagful, where bird seed is sold. You can also try a small bag of whole corn.
If you have a specific place you feed squirrels, you can also offer fruit. Apple is a good choice, but I have offered them strawberries and raspberries that were past their prime. I have thought of putting out a hard-boiled egg (shell removed), and chicken, turkey or other leftover bones. Having forgotten just how messy striped sunflower seed can be to clean up in the spring, I bought a 40- or 50-pound bag the year before last. I am still putting it out a little at a time behind our shed for the squirrels, but away from the bird feeders.
PINE SISKINS REDUX
Q After writing to you on Sunday about identifying pine siskins, my wife pointed out to me that they looked more like finches.
As I look out my window I still believe they are pine siskins!
We live in Richmond and are now playing roulette with our native bears, knowing full well they will be out and wrecking my feeders to get at the seed. They, too, are beautiful, but seem to be out of hibernation earlier and earlier every year. When they arrive, I am reduced to pulling in all the feeders at night until the bears start coming during the day. Then the winter feeding season is over and we look forward to spring and summer with hummingbirds and hopefully a few Baltimore orioles.
— Matt, Richmond
A My way of telling a goldfinch from a pine siskin (in winter plumage) is that if it has a streaked breast, it is a pine siskin.
Q: I'm so glad I saw your article in Sunday's Berkshire Eagle. I have seen the pine siskin at my feeder this past week. I live in Dalton.
MONARCH BUTTERFLY UPDATE
Here at the Xerces Society we like to focus on the positive. It's not that we're naive; we just like to share the wonder and fascination of invertebrates, to suggest practical actions you can do that will make a real impact — but sometimes the news is not great. The current state of the monarch butterfly population overwintering in California can't be sugar-coated: It's at a five-year low and that is despite having more volunteers looking in more places.
Keep track of butterflies and other pollinators by visiting www.xerces.org.
Thom Smith welcomes readers' questions and comments. Email him at Naturewatch@live.com or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.
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