Who hasn’t wanted to grab two fistfuls of food and swing upside down from the cafeteria salad bar while you stuff your face? What? No one? Yeah. Me neither. But, Winston the Squirrel loves to ride his gravy train like a spinning disco ball in the middle of a Prince song!
A few weeks ago, inspired by the bird feeder I remember helping my dad fill and hang outside every year when I was small, I decided to buy a bird feeder. I went to the store, picked out one I liked, found a pole, and a bag of black oil sunflower seeds, set everything up, and waited.
I worried like a kid at the start of a new school year. Was my cafeteria table going to be deemed the “cool” place to hang out? Did I choose the right color for my feeder? Maybe yellow isn’t in this year? I’m not up on the latest trends. All I needed was one bird from the “cool kid” cardinals to stop at my feeder and declare it the place to be. But, what if a nerd bird showed up? What if all the other cardinals flew up and said, “Oh man, Harold is eating here? Pass.” Then that’s it. It’s just me and Harold for the duration.
Full disclosure: I never sat at the “cool kids” table in school. Nor did I want to. I was happy to sit with one or two friends at a table where we allowed anyone else to sit as well…we didn’t talk to them, but we let them sit there. School popularity dynamics are weird.
So, clearly I’m now living out some sort of long hidden desire to be popular, vicariously through a group of wild birds and squirrels I’ve given names. The dynamics of popularity never get un-weird.
The new backyard hang-out I had offered up took some time to catch on.
Tuesday I spotted a couple of average looking birds checking the place out. I assume these were the pawns of the bird gang. The lower ranks sent in by the head honcho to check things out. Think Putzie of the T-Birds or Tiger from the Jets. (Head to your local google, if you’re not up on your singing, dancing, musical theater greaser street gangs.)
Thursday was the Invasion of Winston. Though no, “Winged Creatures Only” signs are posted, a brightly colored tube full of bird seed generally implies BIRD feeder. That idea, however, is only implied in our human world. In the world of squirrels, all that is implied is FOOD.
While the general vibe I get from the bird feeding population on the web is, “Go find a corn cob, rodent!”, my “Anybody can sit at my cafeteria table.” mentality is still deep-seated, so I did not shoo away my unintended guest. In fact, I gave him a name. Winston.
I named him after Winston Churchill, because watching him make attempt after attempt to climb the bird feeder pole, changing his game plan as necessary, I realized this squirrel knew how to get things done. I also figured he’d probably give a pretty good, “Never, never, never give in” speech.
By Friday there were plenty of birds, and Winston, all partying together at my newly declared wildlife hot spot. Because, of course, the real wild parties don’t start until Friday night. Duh, I should have realized that. Again, I’ve never been a partier.
There were small birds flitting around above the scene. Mourning Doves walking around underneath, snapping up the spilled seed. Bigger birds swooping in and out like bouncers, seemingly keeping out the riffraff. Cardinals flying in and out at their leisure. And some sort of unidentifiable pudgy bird camped out in the rim – just sitting, not eating. I named him George and assumed he must have drawn the short straw and gotten stuck holding on to everyone’s keys.
The squirrels and birds were partying together harmoniously until Winston took it a step too far. Yep. There’s always that one squirrel who doesn’t know when to stop.
One moment Winston was jumping from the pole to the rim of the feeder, spinning the whole shebang around like a disco ball, while he hung by his feet and shoved fists full of seeds into his mouth, (I expected to find the grass below covered in a four-inch layer of glitter). The next moment, there was Winston, practically passed out, draped across the feeder trough.
The birds hung around for a few more minutes, before declaring, “This party is lame.” I, of course, paparazzied the rest of Winston’s solo party for the nature scene tabloids. His behavior will be the topic of conversation around many a squirrel dinner table. “I hear Winston’s been going a little heavy on the seed. What a shame.”
Remember that kids, your actions have permanence these days.
Winston Squirrel can never run for public office now. No doubt the second he does, this gem is going to be plastered on the front page of the New Maple Tree Times.
And this is going to be fodder for all the late night squirrel talk shows. Jimmy Acorn will have a field day with this shot. Winston will be the Rob Ford of the late night squirrel monologue.
As fun as the resulting soap opera from my first ten-pound bag of seed as been, this first bag will be my last. The final straw was when I filled the feeder one Sunday and by Monday morning the seed was ALL gone. All of it! What happened?! Was there some sort of All-Night Rave?! I picture 40 squirrels with glowsticks and electronica music.
At this rate, it would be cheaper for me to treat each bird and squirrel to an individual night out with dinner and a show, than to keep paying for them to eat their weight in bird seed. So, at least for now, I’ve shuttered the doors on this crazy club. The feeder swings empty in the breeze, and if you listen closely, you can hear the birds chirping in exasperation, “Wiiiiinston!”