Squirrels outwitted humans, again

Published 9:48 pm Sunday, April 21, 2019

One day I noticed that bees were whizzing in and out of the bushes of my blooming azaleas. They sipped sweet nectar and moved on to visit another blossom. I stepped a little closer to see better, but retreated in a hurry when one of the busy insects zipped too close to my head on its way to a bloom. It reminded me of how bees looked fat and intoxicated after sampling my Confederate Rose bush in bloom.

For years my husband and I watched birds and wildlife in our back yard from our sun porch. Some unusual things happened I never would have believed if I had not seen them with my own eyes. We especially liked to watch the beautiful but aggressive humming birds competing with each other for a spot at the feeders. One day I noticed a bee buzzing around the little yellow plastic blooms on the feeders. The flowers encircle the tiny holes where the hummers poke their bills to draw out the sweet liquid that helps sustain them. A few minutes later I saw a hummingbird fly close. It did not stay to sip. It looked to us like the second it realized the bee was there it flew away.

In just a few seconds I saw another humming bird fly in and hover a few feet from the feeder. As it approached the feeder, a bee flew toward the bird. Instead of giving it a big stab with its powerful little bill, the humming bird retreated. To our surprise the bee flew in pursuit of the bird for a short distance. What was happening? A tiny bee had bullied the hummingbird. I had to see that repeated before I convinced myself it had really happened. It did a few days later.

I learned something: Both the bees and the hummers were persistent.

The hummingbirds kept returning. So did the bees. I resolved that the next time I bought a hummingbird feeder it would be one with a bee guard on it if there was such a thing.

For years two woodpecker feeders hung on my clothesline. They were attached to the plastic line with heavy cord. Occasionally my husband used a piece of wire to secure one of the feeders. Loaded with sunflower seed, the feeders not only attracted woodpeckers. Titmice, chickadees, finches and other birds visited them too.

Bold squirrels invited themselves into the yard to raid the feeders. We saw one squirrel hanging to both feeders at the same time. Surely it frustrated them but they clung to the feeders and dug the seeds out of the little holes. That rough treatment caused the feeders to fall to the ground. It was hard to believe the squirrels untied the strings and unwound pieces of wire. Yet the evidence was right there on the ground. Close by we sometimes saw squirrels sitting nibbling on something. They stared at us, reminding us humans they had outwitted us.

Nina Keenam is a former newspaper reporter.