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Woodland Critters
By: Doug Bittinger - August 14, 2009

The critters are alive and well this week.  We started with a fox and a screech owl sitting right at the edge of the forest -- close enough I could (almost) reach out the window and slap them both, which I was tempted to do.  They were arguing loudly over whose turn it was to go to Bojangles and get the breakfast biscuits.  They made an awful ruckus!  I suspect that the fox lost because after a bit I only heard the owl sitting there hooting smugly.

Mr ToadA big fat toad has taken to coming up on our porch every evening and sit just a few inches away from the door, staring in through the glass of the storm door.  He just sits there staring.  We figured he's probably waiting for delicious bugs to try to fly through the glass, but his "watching" kind of creeps us out.  Black Tail the Pirate DogMr. Toad hangs around all night and once we close the inner door can usually be found on Zadie's pirate plank until just after dawn, when he hops back to his burrow under the big rock at the side of the house.  This had gone on every night for a week.  Then I decided to step outside to get a photo and as soon as I opened the storm door to step out, Mr. Toad shouted "Thank you!" and lunged for the interior of our home.  I blocked him with my foot, closed the storm door and stepped around him to take the photo.  He just sat there and sulked.  The next morning he was not on the plank as usual, and has not returned for the past couple of evenings.  My guess is that after being rebuffed, he has re-thought the plan of waiting for an invitation to join us inside for the winter.

Then this morning Zadie woke up early, yelping, running around aimlessly and favoring her left-front leg.  We got up and consoled her.  Didn't seem to be anything physically wrong with her except her heart was racing.  Bad dream I think.  She probably dreamt about being attacked by a saber-toothed toad while snatching Bojangles biscuits from the fox and owl.  She insisted on being a "lap dog" for quite a while (she's a 55 pound Border Collie), but then returned to normal, solidifying my thought that is was a bad dream.

We are just now beginning to see squirrels again.  I have no idea where they went for the spring and summer, but they have been conspicuously absent.  But recently they have been cavorting in the tree tops high above us, causing branch bits, hickory nuts and acorns to rain down on us if we are in the open.  Silly little marauders!  Can't say that I've missed them if that's the way they're going to behave.

We have been visited regularly by chipmunks this year.  I watched one every morning during our breakfast.  He'd (or maybe she'd - it's impossible to tell) come scampering out from the underbrush to the north of our house, across the driveway, under the truck to Marie's flower beds and the bird feeder she has hanging on a Shepherds Hook in the flower bed, climb the metal pole as nimble as you please, jump over to the bird feeder, push open the top and poke his head inside to pack his cheeks full of sunflower seeds.  Then he'd run back down the pole and return to the underbrush and his hidden den.  He'd normally make four or five trips as we ate our breakfast cereal.

Then one day we came home from a run into town and found the bird feeder on the ground and busted up.  We have no idea what had done that, but since the chipmunk was stealing all the seed anyway, Marie decided not to replace it until we find a more secure means of hanging it.

The hummingbird feeders get assaulted regularly too.  That's normally raccoons, who will tip it over to its side and slurp the sweet liquid as it runs out.

So, we have no lack of company out here this year.  If I follow through with the threat to plant a vegetable garden next year we will probably have even more visitors as they help themselves to the new all you can eat salad bar.  Anyone know where I can buy a good used self actuating laser turret?

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