With all the recent wintry weather we’ve experienced, I found the return of the wildlife to our neighborhood encouraging. Hungry birds hovered near the apple tree where forgotten, fallen fruit waited for consumption, often triggering feathered wars.
Squirrels chattered their dismay, having been forced from the yard by the layer of snow, followed by an overcoat of thick ice. Broken tree limbs brought down decades-old nests, further adding to their misery.
One feisty squirrel, though, caught my attention. It bounced along the top of our patio wall, round and fully furred. The animal obviously had not missed too many meals and had found shelter from the storm somewhere.
Watching it busy itself atop our cement barrier, I wondered if this was the culprit who had chewed a hole in one of our plastic garbage cans. My husband had complained of an intruder invading the hidden stash. Whatever had gnawed through had helped itself to a plentiful supply of chicken feed. This plump pest looked big enough to be the guilty party.
The little guy appeared fearless. It would move an inch or two, then stop and survey the yard. Then again. When it came to the place in the wall where a prickly bush had grown all summer, it stopped. The bush had provided a route for the squirrels to follow down to the patio floor. Often I would see the bush shaking as a sneaky rodent crept along the branches, under the cover of the dark, green foliage, emerging at the base in search of seeds and other treats provided by the potted plants.
Unfortunately, the snow and ice had claimed more than half of the bush, leaving nothing but a pipe-sized bare branch where once deep foliage resided. The squirrel peered over the wall and looked down. Then peered again. The confusion on its face made me laugh. No longer could it access the patio unless it wanted to leap four feet to the narrow limb. As it sat there pondering its dilemma, it twisted back to where a segment of the bush still remained. Not as full as before and not nearly as convenient, the remaining branch did connect to the main trunk and end at the ground. The blur of fur disappeared into the green and emerged at the base. He gave the terrain a once over, filled his mouth, then hurried back to the wall’s top.