Coco the Criminal and Peanut the Prophet

There’s a bird feeder in my garden. I’ve had it for about a decade now – Ruth got it for me, I think, as a thirtieth birthday present – and it’s still going strong and mostly-intact, despite having been uprooted on several occasions to move house.

I like that I can see it from my desk.

A greater spotted woodpecker hangs off a feeder cage with a fat/seed ball inside.
A woodpecker’s been a regular visitor this winter.

This month, though, it lost a piece, when one of its seed cages was stolen in a daring daylight heist by a duo of squirrels who climbed up the (“climb-proof”) pole, hung upside-down from the hooks, and unscrewed the mechanism that held the feeder in place.

Not content to merely pour out and devour the contents, the miscreants made off with the entire feeder cage. It hasn’t been seen since. I’ve scoured the lawn, checked behind the bushes, peered around bins and fence posts… it’s nowhere to be found. It’s driving me a little crazy that it’s vanished so-thoroughly.

Grey squirrel sitting on a log.
Artists’ recreation of one of the culprits. (Courtesy @mikebirdy.)

I can only assume that the squirrels, having observed that the feeder would routinely be refilled once empty, decided that it’d be much more-convenient for them if it the feeder were closer to their home:

“Hey, Coco!”

“Yeah, Peanut?”

“Every time we steal the nuts in this cage, more nuts appear…”

“Yeah, it’s a magic cage. Everysquirrel knows that, Peanut!”

“…but we have to come all the way down here to eat them…”

“It’s a bit of a drag, isn’t it?”

“…so I’ve been thinking, Coco: wouldn’t it be easier if the cage was… in our tree?”

Bird feeder with a missing cage: only its lid continues to hang.
Scene of the crime.

I like to imagine that the squirrels who live in whatever-tree the feeder’s now hidden in are in the process of developing some kind of cargo cult around it. Once a week, squirrels sit and pray at the foot of the cage, hoping to appease the magical god who refills it. Over time, only the elders will remember seeing the feeder ever being full, and admonish their increasingly-sceptical youngers ones to maintain their disciplined worship. In decades to come, squirrel archaeologists will rediscover the relics of this ancient (in squirrel-years) religion and wonder what inspired it.

Or maybe they dumped the feeder behind the shed. I’d better go check.

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