The smoke from the wildfires burning hours away is building up and giving the sunlight a warm, resinous tint, like it was Golden Hour all day long.
It looks pretty, but it gets less so when you realize it might come courtesy of someone’s house or barn, and it’s not easy on the lungs; even mild physical efforts leaves a little burn in the back of my throat.
It doesn’t seem to bother the hummingbirds, eight of which (it’s hard to know for sure) fight constantly for absolute domination of our two feeders.
It’s like the Battle of Britain is playing out in miniature over our back porch, and I can say that little in nature equals the insensate fury of a hummingbird who has been dissed.
Unfortunately, every time I go to the window to see the battle, the ten or so ground squirrels who are swarming our backyard take off for the treeline. I can’t remember ever seeing so many in one place. They’re digging out every rock and railroad tie and finding their way onto all three porches.
Turns out we’re not alone in this; I read somewhere that coyotes are slowly driving foxes out of whole swaths of territory, but it’s the foxes who are the most interested in eating ground squirrels.
The result is a ground squirrel population explosion, and plenty of our local friends report the same.
If it gets any worse, I either start shooting a high-powered airgun or we build the equivalent of a highly desirable, million-dollar fox den and hope someone hungry moves in.
As little as a year ago my cat would have helped out; she used to kill a couple of juvenile ground squirrels every year, but last fall she was eaten by a mountain lion that had developed a taste for housecats and little fear of humans or their porches.
A month after our cat disappeared, the mountain lion grew too bold, moving right into town and swooping in behind a woman who had just walked out her door to retrieve her newspaper.
The mountain lion took the woman’s cat right off her doorstep, and when the police showed up, they found the mountain lion sitting on the neighbor’s lawn, contentedly munching the cat, apparently unafraid of the humanoids in the car.
They put three rounds into it with an AR15, hit nothing vital, then plowed another 13 into it with their .40 caliber service pistols before they killed it (a tribute to marksmanship).
Absent the unhappy ending, the Stellers Jays are playing a similar game on our porch; apparently frustrated at being unable to feed from the small songbird feeder, they’ve taken to flying into it at speed, upsetting it enough to spill the seeds on the ground, where any old bird — regardless of size — could eat it.
Through all this, the odd deer wanders through, and even Wally the Wonderdog has grown jaded enough that he won’t chase them unless he’s got a clear shot (and he’s not sleeping).
Basically, shit’s happening pretty much every minute up here, a kind of payback for the long winters, where all you really see are downed trees and a few tracks in the snow.
Still, I’ve been doing more than sitting here idly staring out the window. Two articles are almost ready to fire, including the rare gear review and the not-so-rare rant about people basically making things up in order to get a little media attention, and the media that seems all too happy to comply.
See you watching things happen, Tom Chandler.