After a week of cold and rain—and record cold and endless rain—we finally have a sunny day that promises to get warm here in the northeast. The azaleas are in full bloom and the rhododendrons, late this May, are catching up fast. This leads me to note that not all rhodies are equal right now. The ones in front of the house are doing great. The ones in the back by the stone wall, not so much.
Deer Make the Difference
What’s the difference? In a word, deer.
The only flowers on the rhodie by the stone wall are on the bottom where the buds were covered by the winter’s deep snowpack. Above that, all buds and new growth were nibbled away by the foraging deer. I know the deer also come around to the front because I find their tracks in the snow, but they don’t seem to munch the shrubbery there. This is a natural approach to pruning a rhododendron so it doesn’t get too big, but it does miss the whole point of a flowering shrub.
Now that the weather is nice, the wildlife has come out to play. The chipmunks are also running around like crazy, which gives Mystique a purpose for her days. There’s a chipmunk hole (one of many) in front of the hydrangeas and she sits there for hours, staring down into it. Sometimes she lies down and sticks her nose right into the hole. I can imagine Chip saying to Dale, “She’s back. Don’t go out there. Don’t move. Don’t even breathe.”
This chipmunk watch occupies her for hours before Mystique gives up and wanders off. Sometimes, however, she gets lucky. And she’s fast—very fast. When Mystique succeeds we know about it because she leaves the spoils (or at least part of them) on the front porch for us to admire.
Part of the Food Chain
Don’t ask me to feel sorry for the chipmunks. Tamias striatus is not exactly an endangered species. There are millions of them and they form a vital part of the food chain for many species that live in the woods around us. OK, you can argue that Mystique is not a natural part of that food chain and she does get her can of Fancy Feast at regular intervals. When she leaves the remains of her catch around, however, it feeds the crows and other scavengers.
The only thing that bothers me is when she chows down on her furry snack and then finds that it doesn’t agree with her. This happened on Tuesday night when we were watching TV and she upchucked on the living room rug. Ugh. I have a weak stomach so Seth cleaned up the mess.
Then, of course, she wanted her Fancy Feast. Hah! We may be her live-in staff but I have my limits.