By Sharon M. Kennedy
There was a time, not so very long ago, when I put out numerous birdfeeders for chickadees and other feathered winter visitors that came along. However, with so many feeders, it wasn’t long before the birds were pushed aside by squirrels. Lots of squirrels. They came in droves. They brought their friends and relatives. They gobbled up sunflower seeds as fast as I filled the feeders. Nothing discouraged them from elbowing their way to food meant for the birds. They ran when I ventured near them with my camera in hand. They scurried up the trees and chattered to each other.
When deer came at night and raided whatever seeds were left, I started buying cracked corn and sweet feed meant for horses. Every morning and evening I sprinkled the yard with this food. Google told me such nourishment would not hurt the deer. When I went out in the morning, they were waiting for me. They became tame and before my pails of feed were emptied, they were eating. When I glanced out my kitchen window during the day and saw a lone deer in the yard, I pulled on my boots and quickly left feed for him.
In the spring, one doe would bring her twins into my yard. I always felt it was her way of thanking me for helping her through the winter. Once when I was walking to the wellhouse, I came upon a newborn fawn nestled in the tall grass. He was beautiful. I knew his mother was nearby so I quietly left him and went back to my quarters.
A few years ago I stopped feeding the birds and deer. The squirrels still used my garage as their winter quarters. They tore insulation from the walls and chewed through my plastic garbage can. The first winter I didn’t put out feeders I was sad. I couldn’t bear to look out the windows. I could hear the birds as they looked for the brightly colored or mesh feeders and the suet fresh from the butcher shop. The call of blue jays was loud and long. The chatter of squirrels was more angry, more shrill than it had ever been. The deer were confused as they searched for food that wasn’t there. The wildlife didn’t know I was tired. The deer didn’t know I had forced myself to get up early and spread their feed on the ground. They didn’t know I felt guilty if I saw stray ones throughout the day and didn’t run outside to feed them. The birds didn’t know that in the spring I was tired of raking thousands of black-oiled sunflower seeds that had landed on the ground. Not just the hulls, but the entire seeds. Only I knew I was tired.
Doe close enough to pet 2018