I have often seen the nighttime visitors to our bird feeders.
While we ate dinner we often watched two does and two fawns from the dining room window. I offered cracked corn for them to share with the blue jays in large bowls that were oil pans in an earlier life. They gladly ate the corn as well as the sunflower seeds out of the tray feeder my dad made. They even used their agile tongues to coax seeds from the small holes in the pole mounted tube feeder.
I also saw them before the dogs made their early morning rounds outside. Since hunting season I haven't seen them as often. However, they leave evidence of their visits every night in the snow, and more than once I have stood that tray feeder back up in its stand.
My in-laws didn't know who was visiting their suet cage and seed feeder each night, though. We spent a few days and nights there over the holidays. The first evening we turned on the outside light for the dogs while we were playing cards. Before long we noticed a squirrel frantically leaping from tree to feeder and back.
This squirrel was different than any they had seen, however, and my husband and I quickly recognized it as a flying squirrel. We saw one in Crosslake last year in my parents' large tray feeder. That unusual looking mound with big dark eyes just sat in the center of the seed. He didn't move a muscle while we watched, and we soon lost interest. When we looked again later he was gone.
This year's Christmas squirrel didn't seem to be bothered by the light. He busily went about his nighttime thievery, and we couldn't stop watching the energetic rodent. As our eyes acclimated to the dark, we saw a second small figure glide from the top of the same tree to another tree 12 feet down the hill. He worked at the remains of a suet cake hanging in a cage. When he was done he unfolded the wing-like layer of loose skin again and quickly glided on out of sight.
Each night we turned on the light and watched the two big-eyed rodents return for their evening meal while we played a lively game of cards. The squirrels chased each other up and down the tree. One spent a short time at the base of the tree digging through the thin layer of snow while the other spun in circles on the feeder high above him.
We told our Christmas dinner guests about our nighttime visitors. Our jello salad and sweet potatoes nearly landed in our laps when the couple told about trying to catch the flying squirrel that soared around inside their house. Twice!
It was difficult to imagine trying to capture the enthusiastic creature. I pictured it literally climbing the walls and gliding from curtain rod to Lazy Boy. I was content instead to gaze through the sliding glass doors into the night and watch our own furry pair as they stole the birds' Christmas dinner.
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