Tag Archives: rats

Suburban wildlife in pictures

A few months ago I saw an article about a blog by a woman in Michigan who, using a device called Bird Photo Booth, posted dozens of close-up photos of birds. I looked up the device and saw that it was on back order. I knew that at some point I would buy it because it seemed perfect for me. I could mount it outside my attic window and feed birds during the day while watching the photos on my computer so I ordered it at the end of April. Earlier this week I got an email telling me that my Bird Photo Booth was on its way and should arrive today.

Unfortunately, even though the device has WiFi it is not the WiFi I thought it was, but WiFi to connect to a smartphone. Still, that’s better than the trailcam I bought last year, hoping to get fun photos of birds at the feeder or maybe other wildlife in our suburban backyard. None of my bird photos were very good, except the ones below.

Speaking of the trailcam — in early January, Dean mentioned that some critter had built a large and tidy nest under our side porch composed of leaves, vegetable skins and eggshells stolen from our compost bin. I researched it and came up with the conclusion that we had a opossum living under the porch. I was excited because they are good wildlife. I set up the trailcam to see the opossum in action.

a tidy nest made of compost
The “nest”

Dean, however, had a different idea and wanted to demolish the pile of compost which he did, some that day and more later in the week. He wasn’t happy about having a opossum living under our porch.

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During this time the trailcam collected some pretty cool images — with an early plot twist and a huge one at the end.

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So, it was not a opossum after all, but a boring nasty rat. Before we knew it was a rat Dean put out mothballs, thinking critters stay away from mothballs. It didn’t bother the rat.

Remember — we didn’t know anything about the critter until we looked at the photos several days later. I still thought we had a lovely opossum.

We also had other visitors to the “nest” area — a squirrel stopped by, also undeterred by the mothballs.

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Here are some night shots of our resident not-a-opossum.

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A curious house sparrow
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Another squirrel

More night shots.

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The final night shot that night is the climax to the story and the final plot twist.

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A fox arrived 3 minutes or so after the last rat sighting

We’re pretty sure the fox ate our rat for a early morning breakfast on January 9th. No more rats were picked up on the trailcam after that.

And now for the fun shots.

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While I was disappointed we didn’t have a opossum, I was grateful we had a fox to take care of the rat.

Anyway — watch this space for, hopefully, more birds. I promise I won’t show any more rats.

 

Strangely appropriate April Fools Day Prank

A while back I wrote about not being able to feed birds because of a rat problem in our neighborhood. I quit feeding birds (at ground-level) and we quit putting any food scraps in the compost heap. We’d not seen a rat all winter so thought we were good. Just now, however, I looked out the back window and saw two brazen rats eating grass seed under the ginkgo tree. I walked outside and noticed a rat-sized tunnel heading towards the center of the compost heap.

I went back inside and fired up the Internet to find a solution to rats in compost heaps. One of the links was “How to get rats and mice out of compost — 8 steps (with pictures).” I clicked the link and I scrolled down the page and was surprised to see pictures of cats, some sprawling, some playing peek-a-boo, among the pictures of rat-repelling suggestions. Surely this is a mistake, I thought, are just they going to tell me to sic my cat on the rats?

Then I remembered today is April Fools day and AdBlock is giving us photos of cats instead of ads.

Here’s a screenshot or three.

I am still not sure what to do about the rats in the compost. I guess we cannot compost anymore. Or seed our lawn.

At least we don’t have bears. Or porcupines.

Ms P. and the Rats of NIH(M)

I’m a birder. A lazy birder, but a birder nonetheless. It is part of who I am and has  been for more than half of my life.

One huge aspect of birding for me is feeding the birds. I have many bird feeders — two Droll Yankee tube-like feeders: one serves up tiny nyger seed that the finches love and one doles out larger seed such as sunflower, cracked corn or safflower. I also have decorative bird feeders — one looks like a birch log, but is ceramic. Another looks like a church, with a roof and clear plastic sides which hold in the seed — which I am surprised has not been chewed apart by squirrels yet. Then there are the suet cages and nyger seed socks.

I don’t have all of these feeders up at the same time. That would be unwise in Bethesda. I’d be the crazy bird lady. Recently I had one Droll Yankee feeder filled with sunflower seed and one nyger sock in back by the bird bath and one nyger sock outside the attic window.

One day I noticed that the nyger sock in the backyard had a huge hole in it. I wondered what animal had made this hole. I suspected it was a squirrel, but knowing that squirrels don’t particularly care for nyger seed, I was more than a little worried we had another rodent problem.

A few days later I looked out the window and saw the culprit. A large brown Norway rat. It was just after dinner and this rat was helping him or herself to the nyger seed. It was actually kind of cute — if you forget all the bad rat stories. But I was dismayed. I thought we were done with these things.

Years ago we had rats in the ductwork of our addition. Dean and I both noticed a funky smell coming from the heating vents in the sun room — it reminded me of the elephant house. When we discovered that it was a nest of rats, I was horrified and would never ever have admitted our discovery to anyone. I was embarrassed and ashamed and it lowered my self-esteem for a while. Dean, being the son of a dairy farmer, took care of it and we hoped we were done with rats.

The following January, however, we came home from our annual Christmas in the Midwest trip to find a rat had gotten into our house and was trapped in a mousetrap behind our stove. Dean took care of it, too. I was ready to hire an exterminator, but Dean felt that he knew what to do as well as any exterminator, so I believed him.

The next year was the year of cicadas in our area and when the cicadas died out the entire neighborhood had a rat problem. It seemed that the rats were displaced from NIH because of construction there. They didn’t care where they lived because they had a bounty of cicadas for several weeks, but after the cicadas were done with their (very cool) life cycle in our area, the rats had nothing to eat, so became a nuisance. I finally lost the embarrassment I was feeling about the rat problem we’d had — especially since other neighbors were admitting to having had rats in previous years as well.

Everyone dealt with the rats in their own ways, some hired exterminators while others, like Dean, took care of it themselves. The worst part of the rat problem for me, however, was having to give up feeding the birds. I had a slight meltdown when I realized I’d have to do this, but Dean said that maybe it would not be permanent. I held on to that hope.

We went a few years with no apparent rat problems — I even was able to feed the birds again until this year when I saw the rat eating the nyger seed.

So now I’ve had to store my bird feeders for good. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to feed birds in the backyard again — certainly not at this house. I think I can still feed them at the attic windows — but it’s not really the same. I’ll not be seeing any more Rose Breasted Grosbeaks feeding on sunflower seed outside the window in the back yard.  I can still provide water for the birds and I have started looking more at planting more bird friendly plants in the yard. But I feel as if a part of my personality has been lost for good.