By Denis O’Connor

Wharfedale Naturalists Society

FARNLEY Hall woods at the edge of Otley, which backs on to our garden, provides a rich source of wildlife, some of it more welcome than others. Top of the list of unwanted guests are the grey squirrels which in their time have chewed their way into the loft using the garage roof as an access point and the Virginia creeper as a highway. My wife on one occasion found a squirrel dancing on an upstairs window sill, apparently outraged either at her or its own reflection. Probably the same animal got into the bathroom, leaving behind a trail of evidence. We called that one “Squirrel Nutcase.”

At present they confine their efforts to the bird feeders resulting in an ongoing contest between my efforts to exclude them and their problem solving skills and acrobatic versatility.

The metal cage around the sunflower seed feeder restricts their thieving to a few seeds at a time so they tend to focus on the fat ball container where they devour the food at a rate even the much more welcome woodpeckers can only envy.

The metal pole holding the feeders is no obstacle for they simply climb it as they would any thin sapling. A cone attached to the pole frustrated them for a while until one realised that with a mighty leap it could generate sufficient momentum to run over it.

The cone was raised and for a while again provided the amusing spectacle of squirrels disappearing inside it before dropping frustrated to the ground. However, this was simply another problem to be solved and I was amazed to see a squirrel gripping the edge of the cone and swinging itself on to the adjacent seed holder before transferring across to the fat balls.

I then tried anointing the pole with margarine and was rewarded with the sight of squirrels getting half way up it before sliding slowly back to the ground. However, one has to admire their persistence and on a recent morning I counted twelve attempts on the greasy pole before the triumphant rodent reached the cone and swung across. Presumably as it had slid down after each unsuccessful climb it had gradually removed the margarine.

It could be the same animal which realised, after licking the base of the pole, that the margarine actually tasted quite good. I am now experimenting with boot polish!