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The Hunter and the Hunted

There were three different types of birds in the dogwood tree near our patio this morning, all at the same time, devouring the berries: bluebirds, cardinals, and titmice. When they were done, there were no berries left.We have many types of birds in our garden including, clockwise from top left: bluebirds, cardinals, titmice, and Red-shouldered hawks.

I am especially happy to see bluebirds setting up housekeeping in the bluebird house by the arbor garden again. (Click on the link for tips on attracting bluebirds.) This is a  newly refurbished house, and it should provide them with a secure, safe home, as safe as it can be out in the wild. The Cooper's hawks have returned to our garden, and, unfortunately, songbirds are on their menu. Today I watched one swoop down for a kill. I think he got a vole, which is fine by me. Just leave the bluebirds alone. 

Voles are on my hit list, because they consume plant roots. I have lost so many hostas to them that I hesitate to plant these beautiful shade-lovers, except in pots. The hawks will have competition for this particular tasty meal. Autumn, our cat, is extremely affectionate and outgoing toward humans, but she is a fierce tiger at heart. She loves to hunt. She will catch chipmunks and play with them, carrying them around in her mouth like a kitten, them setting them free in heavy foliage for seek and chase. She will repeatedly catch and release the same chipmunk until she grows tired of the game. The poor chipmunk, if he doesn't die of fright, has a good chance of escaping in the end.

Not so a vole. This creature is dead meat within moments after she catches it, and she will consume it in just a few bites. We feed her well, but understand, this is a delicacy she will never forgo. Autumn was in hunter mode when I took this photo.

This vole would be a tasty meal to either our cat, Autumn, or to the Cooper's hawks who live in our garden.Our weather continues to see-saw between pleasant sixty to seventy degree temps one day, down to upper twenties the next, but the increased activity of birds and other wild creatures, both the hunter and the hunted, is one of the signs of approaching spring. Every day more bulbs emerge. Flowering quince and hellebores are blooming. Surely spring will be here in just a few weeks!

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Reader Comments (17)

Yes, I think birds and weather are surer signs of the changing seasons than plants. Birds migrating south or coming down from the mountains (a vertical migration) are very reliable. For example, white-crowned sparrows arrive around October 10th and leave May 10th roundabout, which is when the Foggy Season begins, May Gray. There will be no more rain until next October. Interesting to me how each location has its own voracious rodent pests be they voles, raccoons, badgers or rats. I hope that the bluebird box is successful for you.

February 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJane Strong

There are signs of spring here too, including nesting birds, although none as beautiful as the colorful varieties you have hanging about. We have red-tailed hawks but they seldom descend into our garden, for whatever reason. Maybe it's too open an area. I wish they'd haul off a raccoon or 2 but I imagine they're much too heavy.

February 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

Its nice to observe the wildlife in the garden isn't it Debs? Just adds another dimension to it all. Autumn is a lovely looking cat and glad to hear that she helps keep the vole population in check.

February 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

Hi Deb, it's great to have so much wildlife in your garden, but it's the law of the jungle and I don't suppose you can control what they eat. I hope the hawk eats the voles not the songbirds for the sake of your hostas.

February 9, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercatmint

I've seen March lilies in bloom.
Not mine, they are recovering from the shock of being dug up and potted.

February 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Studer

Oh, I just love it when spring is right around the corner! So nice that you have somethings hunting the voles. When I lived down South, it was a one-woman fight against what must have been an army. All our hawks seemed to be busy off doing something else. Such destructive little critters! Mine had the most expensive taste, too!

February 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

The birds have been going crazy here with the return of a few warm days. How I love to hear & watch them! This is the time of year when I walk outside every day looking for some green shoot poking out of the ground - even though I know I won't find a thing other than daffodils!

February 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChristi {Jealous Hands}

Your birds are very beautiful colours. I have noticed a lot more birds and more species in the garden this winter; the crab apple that I usually complain still has apples when the new blossom opens are almost bare, They are not common here and I think the birds have taken a while to trust them as food.

February 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Your garden attracts such wonderful visitors...Love the fabulous photos you posted. I admit I am really fascinated to watch the birds that have all staked out parts of the garden, I watch them from behind my office window where I keep quite warm and toasty.

February 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie@Seattle Trekker

The weather sounds wonderful and glad to hear your voles are being taken care of.....mine have never attacked the hosta here....must be a southern vole delicacy!

February 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

I love seeing your wildlife Deb. The hawk especially. Your cat on vole duty can be rented out. I am sure many gardeners would like the cute huntress for a few days.

February 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

I love your bird collage, it's beautiful!

It is hard to see raptors hunting songbirds. Much less hard to see them getting voles! My cat Prissy used to get a lot of voles but she prefers to stay inside now. She gets her energy out by making mad periodic dashes around the house. lol Our family had a cat who wasn't much of a hunter at all but used to catch lizards and carry them around.

February 13, 2015 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

I only have dogs but my basset mix is an excellent huntress. She routinely catches voles, etc but will never catch a squirrel, much to her frustration. Very few signs of spring here but I'm closer to it today than I was yesterday. Autumn is such a beautiful cat! :o)

February 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

LOL, Deb, Our temperatures have been see-sawing, too, but the mid-twenties are the temperatures we get on the warm, sunny days between the snowstorms!

February 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJean

Know how you love bluebirds (me too)! Have you been watching our family of eagles at Berry College in Rome, GA? Mesmerizing!!! I cannot stop watching. Two eaglets born in the last few days.

February 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Deb, I meant to add the webcam address for the eagles if that is permissable:


Love your blog. I'm in Alpharetta and enjoy seeing photos of your gardens!

February 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

I've linked to this post today. Edited out an older post and I copypastaed your comment from a year ago.

November 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Studer

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