Belfast Telegraph

Sneaky Cyril the squirrel turned my life into an episode of Looney Tunes


By Frances Burscough

There’s an inter-species battle of wills going on in my garden, the like of which hasn’t been seen since the days of Looney Tunes cartoons. But instead of Wiley Coyote vs the Roadrunner (“Meep meep!”) it’s me versus Cyril the saboteur squirrel.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Cyril is the cutest, funniest and most adorable wee creature and I love him. Chip ‘n’ Dale wouldn’t have a thing on him. He never fails to amuse me when he appears, as if from nowhere, scurrying around hither and thither in the search for food.

Heck, one day I’d love to tame him so that he will eat out of my hand. But in the meantime, he has made it his mission to get his food the easy way — by raiding all my assorted bird feeders — and that scares off my beloved birds and leaves them hungry.

So for the last few weeks I’ve tried everything I can think of to stop him, but to no avail. I may think of myself as an intelligent on-the-ball kind of a person, but Cyril beats me every time.

I have six different feeders and I keep them topped up throughout autumn and winter. Yes, I know, I spoil those birds. In fact I don’t think that even my sons ever got a choice of six items on their daily menu, but that’s beside the point.

They are all strategically positioned with hooks along the two beech tree branches that hang closest to the kitchen window, so I can watch them feeding at any time of day.

And I do. It’s often the highlight of my day.

There’s a hanger containing fat balls (the long-tailed tits love this); a sawn-off coconut shell filled with my home-made seed cake (the blue tits’ favourite); a square suet block feeder (for the blackbirds); a basket filled with raw peanuts (for the coal and great tits) and a clear perspex tube containing sunflower hearts (for the finches). Meanwhile, attached to the kitchen window I’ve a clear window feeder filled with dried mealworms, that my robin absolutely loves.

I began to notice that the sunflower supply was going down very quickly, and yet there weren’t many finches around. So I kept my beady eyes peeled and that was the first time I saw Cyril. It was magical at first.

As I sat drinking my breakfast coffee, here was a scene from Springwatch, happening directly in front of me.

This agile creature, like a trapeze artist at a circus, was hanging vertically down off a branch, entwined by his furry tail, swinging back and forth as he stuffed his cheeks to bursting point with kernels. I was delighted for the privilege and enthralled by his ingenuity.

Until the damn squirrel was getting through an entire feeder in one day, that is, and scaring off my feathered friends. He was clearly treating my feeding station like an all-you-can eat smorgasbord buffet, just for him.

I mean, how many sunflower hearts can one guy eat? My cunning solution was to hang the feeder beyond his reach, using a bungee cord. The birds would still be able to reach it, but Cyril wouldn’t. Or so I thought.

It actually took him all of thirty seconds to realise that if he couldn’t go down to their level, he’d simply bring them up to his.

He immediately amended his modus operandi to claw on the cord until the feeder was within his tiny grasp once more. In fact, this was even better, because now that he was able to lift the feeder in the air and chug the seeds directly down his throat like a beer guzzler with a pint of lager.

In another attempt to foil the feeder thief, one night I threaded a yard of kitchen string with monkey nuts and knotted these at the farthest point of the branch so they would be way beyond his reach.

By the time I’d come down the very next morning, all that remained was a two-inch piece of string, gnawed at the edges, blowing nonchalantly in the wind. No sight nor sound of the peanuts — not a single one of them — although upon further investigation I did find numerous empty shells dotted along the garden.

My sister was amused when I told her about Cyril. Honestly, I said, the entire garden is groaning with the weight of fruits and seeds and all of nature’s autumn bounty and yet that little sod insists on raiding the bird feeders! What a cheek!

She did point out, however, that the squirrel — no matter how sneakily he goes about it — is just as much in need of a feed as the birds.

So in the spirit of the season I’ve decided to accept defeat. You win, Cyril, you pesky meddling varmint! Until the next episode of Looney Tunes, that is.

That’s all folks! 

Belfast Telegraph

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