I spent a small part of my Tuesday morning listening to stories of squirrel eradication. Surrounded by folks interested in preserving, protecting, and restoring the natural world, I was a bit surprised by the number of folks at the table who admitted to shooting, trapping, and drowning squirrels to protect their backyard plants and birdseed. While I recognize that there are few natural predators left in the natural world, if squirrels dig up my bulbs or snip off my kale seedlings or decimate my gourds, isn't that part of life of living in a natural setting? Apparently not, according to the folks who think it's perfectly acceptable to shoot the squirrels who threaten their bird feeders. Harsh punishment? Sure, death is definitely a punishment for hitting up $20 worth of sunflower seeds intended for Northern cardinals. Not in my yard. My native woodland setting is full of squirrels in the canopy, in the shrub layer, at the base of my birdfeeders. I set out watering stations for squirrels. I get upset when a careless fast driver on my street recklessly kills a squirrel. I end up throwing the carcasses in the abandoned lot next door so they don't turn into disgusting messes for my dogs to sniff.
The spring months were incredibly wet, wetter than normal for April and May. Vegetation is rank in my yard these days, and seed production is high. The white-throated sparrows are gorging on the seeds of Silphium perfoliatum. Black-capped chickadees and Northern cardinals are enjoying the seeds on the goldenrods, asters, and cedar berries, which are plentiful this year. Reports from the area claim huge numbers of acorns for wild turkeys and white-tailed deer. If we can only have a drier spring--not too dry!--the Northern bobwhite quail population may be able to rebound. The climactic changes that may seem imperceptible to folks not trying to implement prescribed fire, or trying to plan a farm planting, or trying to track phenology of wild plants are very real. The ideal burn days that once happened all November just don't occur anymore; humidities are too low, winds too high, fuel moistures too low. Weather events are more erratic, increased moisture has directly impacted wildlife, namely ground nesting birds and others are surely documenting the whole natural web of life.