Crabapples and critters

Judith Adam

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Birds and other critters feast on crabapples. (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)
Birds and other critters feast on crabapples. (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)
Birds and other critters feast on crabapples. (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)

From a bedroom window I can look into my weeping ‘Red Jade’ crabapple tree and see all the pretty red fruits hanging in clusters. And it doesn’t take long for the garden critters to notice, too.

First come the robins in aggressive groups, three or four together, hopping through the branches and ripping off berries. They spend almost an hour going through the tree, swallowing whole berries, and having a big feed before roosting in a nearby cedar. Later, male and female cardinals arrive and cautiously poke around the branches, ripping berries open and taking them away in pieces.

When the cedar waxwings arrive, everyone in the house crowds at the window to see these exquisite birds. Getting close to cedar waxwings isn’t easy, but watching from the window lets us see them going about their business. They arrive in flocks of a dozen or more, settling into the tree and efficiently gobbling berries. Despite their delicate appearance, cedar waxwings can be eating machines.

Sometimes I look at the tree and see a commotion, like a small whirlwind moving through the branches, but with no apparent cause. A closer look shows this to be the chipmunk that lives under our front steps. He has noticed the frequent bird visitors, discovered the crabapples, and is frantically jamming them into his cheeks. Occasionally a robin or two attempt to reclaim their feeding station, but are charged and driven off by the chipmunk. When his cheeks are finally full, the chipmunk is forced to zip down and hide his treasures, and the robins return. This circus goes on daily, until all the berries are finally consumed.

The weeping ‘Red Jade’ crabapple is a beautiful tree, and I’m glad it was placed so close to the window. Who knew it also would provide entertainment value?

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