June 7, 2024 at 2:36 p.m.

Outdoors - Stranger in the night


By Walter Scott | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

   In the spring, as soon as we see the first oriel, we put grape jelly in a dish on a nearby tree so we can attract and keep them in the area. We enjoy watching the colorful little birds as they feed and build their unique sock-like nests. The problem I have found in feeding grape jelly to the birds is that everything in the world seems to enjoy it also. One year, we put a plastic dish of grape jelly on a fence post bordering the horse pasture. It did not take long for a horse to stop by, eat the jelly, and chew up the dish. If it is close enough to the ground, the dogs will eat the jelly. Raccoons, opossums, flying squirrels and many other types of bird also enjoy a bit of grape jelly. Though our feeder is dog and horse-proof now, it is difficult to keep the other critters away.

   We were not having a problem with jelly thieves this year until about a week ago. Sure, we had a robin or flicker stop by for a mouthful occasionally, but we can live with that. One morning I went out to the porch to have my usual morning coffee and noticed the jelly dish was on the ground and empty. Our most common thieves are raccoons, so I assumed that was the culprit. I got the live trap out and baited it with grape jelly and marshmallows. Raccoons enjoy a nice marshmallow as much as grape jelly. The next morning, before I let the dogs out, I checked the trap. I have learned, it is difficult to carry an angry raccoon in a live trap with two dogs trying to kill it. I was surprised to find nothing in the trap. More surprising was that the marshmallow and jelly were gone. To me, this seemed impossible. The trap has a hair trigger and anything large enough to eat the bait would easily trip the door to the trap. The jelly was also gone from the oriole feeder.

   The next night, I baited the trap with a couple of marshmallows. In the morning, the trap was not sprung but the marshmallows were gone. The jelly dish was on top of the feeder but only part of the jelly was eaten. This was becoming a real mystery. A raccoon could not get into the trap, steal the marshmallows and get out without springing the trap. He would also eat all the jelly rather than just some of it.

   The next morning, the first thing I noticed was the door on the trap was shut. I had finally caught my thief, or so I thought. When I got to the trap, I discovered I had caught a baby rabbit. I don’t think he was my marshmallow bandit and I know he was not climbing trees to get the jelly. I think he must have been hopping by and dummied into the trap.

   Thinking something must have been reaching through the side of the trap to get the marshmallows, that evening I pushed a long nail through a couple of them and poked the nail into the ground through the bottom of the trap. Whatever was getting the marshmallows would have to be inside the trap and work at stealing them. The next morning, there was nothing in the trap and the marshmallows were gone.

   Last night, thinking I needed to solve the mystery so I would have a conclusion in today’s column, I brought the jelly inside for the evening. I then took scissors and cut two marshmallows into several pieces. With these I made a trail leading to the door of the trap. I placed a couple more marshmallows inside and waited for the mystery to be solved.

   This morning, with great anticipation, I went down to the trap. Not one of the marshmallows had been touched. I decided there is some strange creature of the night trying to drive me crazy.


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