I set up a platform feeder on the deck yesterday, which cardinals are said to favor. It's basically a mesh-floored box with low sides, resting on little feet. Cardinals evidentally don't like to perch to feed. We'll see if it works.
The other visitor was rather less thrilling (although I do not suffer the same automatic horror that a lot of people probably would) when I saw movement under the platform feeder. Getting down on my knees, I discovered that a rat the size of a squirrel was sheltering under it--he was mostly out of the rain, and had food, making it a cozy spot for an enterprising rat.
I considered this.
Practically speaking, only an idiot would think that setting out assorted grains year-round wouldn't net you the occasional rodent visitor--prior to this, he had probably simply been picking up food dropped on the ground next to the deck, like the doves and the cardinals, and probably at night. It's a very dark morning, since it's wet, and the platform on the deck means more spilled food up top, so it was probably a case of seeing somebody who's been there all along. I'm backing onto a greenbelt, which is home to urban wildlife--families of red foxes near where James works, and there's even a deer population in some of the thicker belts in town. We have mice in the house, squirrels in the trees, and possums in the trash. Had I ever bothered to think about it, of course there would be rats.
Other than keeping the deck swept off regularly to make sure that we're not building up spilled birdseed--which I'd do anyway for aesthetic reasons!--I suppose there's not much I can do about it. The rat doesn't appear to be hurting anything--they may go after eggs in the right season, but that's why birds build nests in trees--and we've certainly never encountered one in the house. This doesn't actually mean they aren't there, but since I've heard no squeaking in the walls, nor found rat-sized poo, I'm pretty mellow--if I don't see it, I don't need to know it's there. And in more practical terms, I hardly think that I could banish the rat--there are large lawns and empty lots and the lush green belt, and a garbage can and bird feeder every house length. This is the very definition of rat -friendly territory. You couldn't get these guys out with a crowbar.
And of course, as my brain traitorously points out, the rat and the squirrels differ only in terms of fluff, and I am grudgingly fond of my squirrel opera, and I even HAD a pet rat at one point, so begrudging the rat a bite of birdseed, when he hasn't committed the cardinal sin of house invasion, seems a little extreme.
If we get a plague, I'll change my mind, but I suppose for now all I can do is keep an eye out.
And having typed that last line, I look out onto the deck, and a female cardinal is sitting on the platform feeder. EUREKA!
*I just finished reading Orchid Fever which deals with the international orchid trade and bureaucracy run amok, so that explains that.