Entries in autumn the cat (7)


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!


Cat Walk

Our cat Autumn loves the garden as much as we do, though maybe for different reasons. She dreams she is a tiger, slinking through the jungle and stalking her prey. While she stays inside most of the time, we do let her out a few hours each day so she can be a cat.Being a cat.

We no longer put up bird feeders, not wanting to give her or our resident hawks easy targets, nor wanting to encourage our pesky chipmunks to hang around. (We have an over-abundant chipmunk population. In the past they built a condominium underneath one of our bird feeders and then sent out fliers advertising its amenities, including free meals. Now a vast underground chipmunk city stretches beneath our garden.) Both the hawks and Autumn hunt chipmunks, but since she has a home and doesn't depend on her prowess for food, Autumn is likely to catch chipmunks simply for play. I watched her do this one day. She repeatedly captured and released a chipmunk just so she could chase after him. I began to feel sorry for him; but apparently she wasn't actually biting him, and in the end he got away. 

Autumn often accompanies me on my garden strolls. I call these our cat walks. We make frequent stops to gaze into space for prolonged periods. I am mentally assessing the garden, while she has her eyes on some imperceptible movement amidst the plants.Clockwise from upper left:African daisy; An old Easter lily that blooms faithfully every year; Hydrangea 'Lady in Red', named for its red stems, not its blooms; Gardenia, whose wonderful fragrance fills the woodland garden each June.I can see the tension building in Autumn's body as she stares. Then she pounces, hoping to catch a chipmunk; but not all movement is made by chipmunks. The other day a snake did not appreciate her aggression and decided to fight back. Autumn made a hasty retreat and stuck close to me for the rest of our walk. I like snakes and leave them alone, because they like to dine on chipmunks, too. I hope that with all these predators, the chipmunks will abandon the area.

The cat and I pause at the top of the steps leading down into the woodland garden.Pink gumbo azaleas are blooming across from Autumn fern. (I named Autumn after the season, not the plant, because she came to us at that time of year and also because of the autumn colors in her fur.)

Down the steps is Carex 'Everillo'.I adore this plant! It keeps getting better and better and doesn't mind Autumn's occasional nibbles.

Next is Pilea glauca, or Red Stemmed Pilea.I love how the steel blue foliage contrasts with its red stems. This is a tropical plant that will come inside for the winter.

Now we come to the weirdest plant in my garden, Amorphophallus konjac, also called Voodoo plant, Devil's Tongue, and Corpse plant. All of these names are appropriate.The spotted stems feel like human skin. The great leaf opens up like an umbrella and looks a lot like a tomato plant. I have two of these growing in pots in different parts of my garden. They are four years old. It takes about five years till they bloom, so I am looking forward to that experience next year. The blooms are giant maroon things that smell like rotting flesh.

Well! Just below the Voodoo plant is much nicer Eucomis, or Pineapple lily.I recently discovered this plant and was thrilled to learn it is hardy in my area (zone 7b/8a). It is my favorite plant of the month. It is just beginning to open its blooms.

We continue our cat walk into the woodland garden, where dark shadows and light beams play across moss covered paths.This woodland side path leads around the main planting area in the woodland garden.

Bicycle shadow in the woodland gardenThe woodland garden is a quiet place, except for the shrieking hawks who built their nest in a pine tree earlier this year. The hawk babies are out of the nest now, but the fledglings are still hanging around, while their parents teach them how to catch chipmunks. All these hawks are talking to each other. It is a hard language to listen to. I tell Autumn they are fussing at her and she had better stay close. She does.

After we leave the woodland garden, Autumn and I make our way back toward the patio. I pause to examine the Confederate Jasmine growing on the new arch.Look on the left side of the arch, and you can see the recovering jasmine vine.The jasmine was severely damaged by winter freezes this year, and we cut it back nearly to the ground and took the opportunity to replace the old dilapidated arch. I miss the mass of jasmine that covered the old arch, but the vine is putting out lots of new growth. A new jasmine vine on the other side of the arch is also growing quickly, so I think by next year they will meet in the middle atop the arch.  

The cat walk is over, and Autumn and I head into the house. Autumn curls up for a nap. In her dreams she is a mighty tiger on the prowl, and the chipmunks don't stand a chance.

You may also enjoy these previous posts:

Under the Spell of the Voodoo Plant 

A Cat Tale

The Cat is Back

Confederate Jasmine For a Fragrant Layer in the Garden