DEAR JOAN: A little chickadee has returned for the winter and is busy nipping sunflower seeds from under the noses of my year-round regulars, Tom and Trudy Towhee. Mr. Chick watches my second-floor condo deck carefully. A few minutes after I put out new seeds, in he sneaks, squeaks, snacks and skedaddles. He keeps this up until he's stuffed or until a towhee notices and swoops in to scare him off.

Last winter, an Oregon junco discovered my small seed dish and called in all his junco friends. The sharp-eyed chickadee spotted the juncos and learned to zip in for anything the juncos left. After a few days, Mr. Chick brought the Mrs., and between the two, they gave the juncos a run for their money. Tom and Trudy did not know what hit them. There were hardly ever any seeds left for them, no matter how often I refilled the small dish.

A Chestnut-backed Chickadee grabs a snack.
A Chestnut-backed Chickadee grabs a snack. (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times)

With the chickadee back already -- last year it took him until mid-December to find my seeds -- I'm wondering when the juncos will arrive; and also Mrs. Chick. At least this year Tom and Trudy have learned from their experience last year. They already won stare-downs this week with Mr. Chick at both the seed dish and the water bath.

Gosh, it's fun to be retired and watch the show.

Jaqi Thompson Asghedom

Richmond

DEAR JAQI: Thanks for sharing your observations. It makes me look forward to retirement, in about 20 years.

DEAR JOAN: Yesterday we found a poor dead squirrel that was missing its head and one front leg. The rest of the body was untouched. We're wondering what bird or animal could have done this.


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It was in the corner of our back and side fence, under a fig tree. We have a couple neighborhood cats that like to visit and chase the squirrels but, to my knowledge, have never caught one.

We also have seen the occasional raccoon and opossum pass through. If it was a hawk or an owl that dropped it, it wouldn't have been tucked up under our tree. Besides that, what would have eaten just the bony head and an arm and leave the rest?

On a brighter note, we've enjoyed seeing all the insect life that dines on our daisies. There's a big praying mantis that comes out every morning to bath in the sun, bees, small skipper butterflies, a white cabbage butterfly, a ghost spider that turned yellow, a small black spider with three eyes and a beautiful California buckeye butterfly.

Bill and Ann F.

Concord

DEAR BILL AND ANN: It's hard to say what happened to the squirrel. It may have been killed by a dog or coyote; although it's not common, it could even have been a cat.

It could even have been hit by a car and a variety of creatures, including other squirrels, may have dragged it into your yard.

Don't discount hawks and owls. Owls are known to quickly decapitate their prey, sometimes in the air. It could have flown into your tree to dine and been startled, dropped the squirrel and flown away.

We also can't rule out that it may have been poisoned, in which case any creature that has eaten from it may also have been poisoned. To be on the safe side, dispose of the body in the trash.

I have no idea what kind of spider has three eyes, but it's lovely that so many creatures are enjoying your garden.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com.