DEAR JOAN: I moved to Rossmoor about a year ago. Many squirrels and birds visit my second story deck, which is level with the top of oak trees.
I leave out fresh water and nuts — frowned upon by Rossmoor I am sure; don’t tell — and have noticed a curious thing. Often, almost daily, there is an acorn in the bowl of water as if the squirrel has left a thank you for me.
I can reach the acorns on the oak so they are very available. Do you think a squirrel would do this? Either way, it makes me happy.
K.H., Walnut Creek
DEAR K.: Your secret is safe with me, but you know what blabbermouths the squirrels are.
There are documented cases of squirrels, crows and other animals leaving “gifts” for humans who have shown them kindness. In the animal biz, it’s called reciprocal altruism.
The animals aren’t actually thanking us, biologists say, but doing a little tit for tat in anticipation of receiving more. The squirrels have appreciated your rule-breaking food offerings and are giving you an acorn in expectation that the food will continue.
Another possibility is that the acorns were left in the water bowl by crows, which are trying to soften the nut so it is more easily opened, or maybe those sneaky birds are trying to poison the squirrels and keep all the food for themselves.
Not everyone who feeds wildlife receive such gifts, so you can consider yourself fortunate.
DEAR JOAN: During the summer, my sister, who lives East of the Rockies, had an unusual visitor at her hummingbird feeder.
I’ve heard that other birds will drink hummingbird nectar, but this is the first time I’ve actually seen proof. Sis said the woodpecker was a regular visitor for several weeks, then no more sightings.
Do birds that are not hummingbirds develop ill effects from the added sugar?
Sharon A., Bay Area
DEAR SHARON: A number of birds can have a sweet tooth. Woodpeckers and house finches are the most common uninvited guests to hummingbird feeders. Orioles, like hummingbirds, also regularly drink nectar.
If the nectar is properly prepared, there’s no harm to the birds. The biggest risk is to the hummers that might be driven from their feeders by larger birds.
DEAR JOAN: In regards to the person whose lawn is being torn up, I must be sponsoring an unusual breed of small, young squirrels (both grey and black) that seem to appear about twice a week to dig up little patches in my front lawn.
Since I have three walnut trees nearby, I figure that the few dropped walnuts are a regular part of their digging zeal. However my squirrels are not ambitious, because their patches are quite small.
Vilma Pallette, Santa Clara
DEAR VILMA: Your squirrels probably are storing their nuts for the winter, using your lawn in lieu of a Tupperware container. Or, they might be playing a game called steal the crows’ buried treasure and move it elsewhere. In that case, you may see many more holes as the crows steal the nuts back and rebury them.
Are squirrels saying thanks with acorn gifts to Rossmoor woman?