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.
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.