Wednesday, September 10, 2014

End of Summer Squirrels

Some of our little friends are posing for the new camera!


ET's gorgeous babies --  1 year later


Friday, July 18, 2014

The secret life of squirrels in New York City

Cat vs.Chipmunk

Viral video: Cat vs. chipmunk - when dinner fights back - WFLA News Channel 8

Late July

Lazy summer days are here!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer is Bustin' Out All Over!

Welcome to Peter Cooper Village

And what a summer it is! Gone are the brown wastes of yesteryear and in their place there is lush foliage, flowering bushes, green expanses of lawn.

You can tell the squirrels love romping through the thick green grass and clover. We absolutely love "benign neglect" of lawns!

Gone are the suffocating smells of that awful fertilizer and in their place is the wondrous smell of flowers and grass and trees. Peter Cooper Village landscaping is 100% improved now, and things are finally what they should be in this beautiful place. Last night we took a magical walk around, enjoying the cool breezes and flickering fireflies. It's inviting to everyone and every creature. It's a joy to be here!

Welcome to Summer

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Springtime in Peter Cooper Village

munch a lunch
What a wonderful spring it's been! I cannot rave enough about it. For me, the smells of spring are as important as the sights, and it has been such a pleasure to walk around Peter Cooper Village this year and actually smell the green smell -- the intoxicating smell of grass and flowers and leaves. I'm pleased to report that they have not used the awful-smelling fertilizer this year, and yet the everything looks so lush and green.  The bare brown spots seem a thing of the past, thank goodness. Thank you, PCV landscapers!

I'm sure it makes for happier squirrels too.  Squirrels are scampering about, enjoying the delightful weather we've been having. Most of the mother squirrels are in the nursing stage now, and we look forward to seeing the babies that are currently hidden away in nests.

Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:
      Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!
 Thomas Nash

Monday, March 10, 2014

Something stinks and it ain't the horses

This article talks about how Citizen's United and campaign politics and real estate developers may all be playing a part in the New York City controversy about the removal of horses from Central Park.

de Blasio Whipped by Horse Lobby

The proposal is to replace the horse and buggies with cars. Just what New York City needs -- more cars!

As for the loss of the horses from our lives, this article says it beautifully:

"There ought to be no mistake about what's in stake for the Central Park Horses if the mayor and the people who say they are for animal rights in this case get their way, the horses face almost certain death and something almost worse – their removal from human society, another blow to the desperate need of animals to work and live among us. Everywhere, especially in America, animals are disappearing from our lives, and inevitably, from our world. Do they have the right to live with us? I believe in this right for the Central Park Horses: to survive and have purpose and meaning in the lives of human beings."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Gray Momma's Back!

I hadn't seen her since back in early December when the squirrels started wearing their winter coats. I didn't know if she had disappeared for good or had just become unrecognizable. Readers of this blog know how depressing it was to visit the "dead tree"  after that last blast of snow. Then the other day I thought I saw her! There was a gray squirrel acting very much like Gray Momma, hanging around the "dead tree" and chasing the other squirrels away. A ray of hope after the rather hopeless winter!

Today I was sure of it. It was a spring-like day, and I had the feeling that winter was gone for good. Most of the snow is gone and squirrels were out chasing each other all over the place. Mating season is in full swing. When I hear a squirrel squeal it's not in anguish now.

And the wonderful news is that Gray Momma is back in control of her tree! And back to keeping everything tree-shape.  And she was actually talking, another sign that it was Gray Momma, the talking squirrel. It was like she was telling everybody that things were back to normal again and she was in charge. She actually came over and took a nut from my hand today. Just one. As a kind of greeting, I guess. She's beautiful again. She gets very beautiful when she's pregnant, a gorgeous silvery color. I'm so happy that she is alive! And so the cycle of life begins anew.  I hope to get a new camera soon, and then there will be some pictures of her. Things are looking up.

Postscript: I'm also pleased to report that ET and her retinue at the Orange Tree are all doing just fine.

It was a very productive day today: I went around to all the very littlest squirrels that took a beating this winter but are still basically in good shape (the injured and sick ones are all dead now). These little squirrels are survivors but you can tell they've been through a hard winter.  They all have pink areas where there's some fur missing but nothing irreparable. Most of them are black, but there is one gray one that's missing a lot of fur and looks more like a mouse than a squirrel. It's very scared to come down from the tree and I think it may have been bullied a lot by the bigger squirrels. Today they were fed an assortment of different nuts. Tomorrow, avocado!

Happiness is a warm


Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Central Park horse and carriage debate

The following report aired today on Radio Free Eireann

Radio Free Eireann airs weekly on Saturday at 1pm over WBAI 99.5FM
and can be listened to online at:

The Central Park horse and carriage debate has been heating up over the past couple of weeks, thanks to Liam Neeson using his celebrity to highlight the plight of the horses and workers in Central Park.

One big story which Mayor de Blasio has stepped into is the attempt to do away with the horse and carriage trade out of Central Park, which has been there for over 100 years, and which would take away the livelihood of potentially a lot of Irish immigrants who work their trade at Central Park.  [ed. note: Many of these drivers have worked for years with horses in Ireland.]  They've been getting a great boost from Liam Neeson lately. Timing is everything. Liam currently has the number one movie throughout the country, so he's doing a lot of interviews. Last week he was on The Daily Show with John Stewart and was supporting the horse and buggy guys. Last night Jimmy Fallon, while interviewing Liam Neeson, also got behind the horse and carriages, and tomorrow is going to be a big day for them. They invited Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to visit the stables on 52nd St. tomorrow to see how the horses live.

Now Radio Free Eireann goes to the horse's mouth: we're live in Central Park speaking with Ian McKeever, one of the spokespeople for the horse and carriage guys.

RFE: Ian, you're getting a big boost from Liam Neeson, who is really championing this cause. He reminds me of Grandpa Al Louis here at WBAI who used his celebrity to highlight causes like the Rockefeller Drug Laws. So where are you now and what will be happening tomorrow?

Ian: I'm actually driving the carriage right now for a Canadian couple who are really enjoying their ride around Central Park. Liam Neeson wants the public to know the truth about our business, and now Jimmy Fallon. It's just great that people are starting to find out the truth and the lies that the animal rights people talk about all the time.

RFE: What do you hope to show to the City Council and Mayor de Blasio if he shows up?

Ian: Well the animal rights people have been telling them that the horses live in terrible conditions. Actually our stables are state of the art, they're absolutely fantastic. They're boxed stalls, and the quality of feed they get, the quality of veterinary care -- everything is fantastic. And they're going to get an awful shock when they come to see the stables because they're such beautiful stables. And they can see the horses roaming around in their stalls. And each one of these horses goes to a farm for about 3 months of the year. So it's going to be quite a shock to these council persons because all they've listened to is the animal rights people. I'm looking forward to seeing their response.

RFE: It might be suggested that you are the real animal rights people here because you're actually taking care of the animals.

Ian: I'm an animal welfare activist, being that I work with animals and also show them love and respect.

RFE: Radio Free Eireann has been on this story. These horses were born in the Amish country in Pennsylvania and they were pulling field plows for the Amish, and now they're in New York. Hopefully tomorrow they'll have a good turnout. Just go and see where they live. The stables are on West 52nd St. which is part of the problem: that is prime real estate right now for putting up condominiums in Hell's Kitchen, and some of the backers of de Blasio are the real estate developers that would love to get their hands on these stables to redevelop them.

The other thing Mayor de Blasio is going after now is the buskers who sing in the subway. It seems like the real crime going on in New York City these days is the horse and carriages trade and the buskers.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Dead Tree

I call it the Dead Tree because when I go over there now there are no squirrels coming out of it. While I have visions of dead squirrel bodies inside the tree, I recall how alive it was last summer, when Gray Momma's babies first came down, and when Gray Momma would be out there digging in her garden and defending it from ever-present intruders. Here's how it looked back then, with new plantings that included a little evergreen was shaped like a Christmas Tree.
Now it looks bleak and deserted. No pics as my camera's on the blink :(

It's just as well that I can't post pics of Big Badfoot and Little Badfoot.  My previous post introduced these two squirrels who each had an infected leg and foot, and had trouble standing upright in the snow drifts, but would come out every day to eat. Why would they do that when they could barely stand up? They were eating to stay alive.

But I suspected it was more than just sustenance. I believe they were also helped by the mere presence of a feeder -- somebody who regularly showed up to feed them, a force in the big cold universe that cared about their well-being. Does that sound crazy? All I can say is that in my experience,  squirrels that I have personally interacted with and often given names to, have survived longer and fared better than others. They are wild animals, not pets, but they do benefit by being treated well.

One day I didn't see either of them, and assumed the worst. I did not go the next  day, and then when I went the following day amd found both of them dead in the snow, not far from each other, under the "Christmas Tree". I was devastated. I felt that I'd failed them by not feeding them the previous day. I keep telling myself that they probably would not have survived their terrible infections, and at least they are no longer suffering. But to me it was one more lesson about the psychological impact feeders have on squirrels.

Around that time we were also notified by a rehabber that a PCV resident had seen a squirrel fall from a tree, and that it might have broken its leg. Unfortunately, we fifn't hear about it until the next day, and the squirrel was dead, probably because it had been unable to climb back up the tree and had spent the night out on the ground  in the freezing cold. Squirrels often get in tussles for real estate when the weather is bad, and there are usually a few unfortunate victims turned away due to  "no room in the inn".

These are the tales of suffering that go on throughout winter. Squirrels rank low on the totem pole in the New York City animal kingdom, and they suffer accordingly. I watch people walking dogs with little booties on to protect their pads from the snow, and vests to keep them warm until they can get back into their warm homes, and it just seems so unfair. But this is the place of squirrels in the scheme of things.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Desolation Row

Three Days of Hell
Day 1 - Big Badfoot and Little Badfoot
Things were pretty desolate. I saw a few squirrels at the orange tree (one of the babies and maybe ET), but not a single squirrel by the fountain or beyond. Over in GM's (Gray Momma's) area more came out after a while. Badfoot came down and was trying to stand up in the snow while she ate but she kept trying to keep herself from from falling over. Her foot was bright red and inflamed. She may be Gray Momma but it's hard to tell, as I lost track of Gray Momma since the squirrels put on their heavy coats in early December. I have been watching her for a while. Her left rear foot is huge and swollen, probably from an infection. 
Two young squirrels were also in trouble: a gray one on one side of the green and a black one on the other side. The gray one was trying to stand upright and kept falling over to the side due to a leg or foot problem. The black one was shivering and shaking,  had lost some of his fur, and looked totally miserable. He came down from the tree late, after I'd run out of nuts. I had to search through my bags to find a couple more peanuts, and also gave him the last of the pistachios and a cheese cracker. He was sitting up on a branch drying out in the sun when I left. I wondered if I'd ever see him again. I heard more storms were on the way. Oh no! The squirrels couldn't take any more.
Day 2 - Hawk!
It was another sad day. Only a few squirrels came out by GM's tree. The ones that did were the walking wounded. Two of them were the badfoots - Big Badfoot and Little Badfoot. I was feeding both after the others had already gone up when suddenly a huge hawk flew down right in front of me and tried to grab Little Badfoot! It failed. I started yelling at it and it flew away. But then it came back and chased Little Badfoot all the way over to the next tree. I saw that LB made it safely up and inside the tree, after which the hawk stationed itself on a branch and proceeded to wait patiently.
Red-tailed Hawk
Other people were standing around watching and laughing, enjoying the show. They didn't seem to notice the suffering of the squirrels.  A man who was walking two small dogs picked them both up when he walked past the hawk's tree. The hawk was huge, bigger than the dogs, but I still think it may be a juvenile because of its clumsy attempts to catch the squirrel. I decided it was time to stop the feeding.

Blood on the Tracks
I then went over to the tree where I'd seen the little black squirrel yesterday. There was no sign of him, but I saw red stuff on the snow. I kept trying to convince myself that it wasn't blood.

Just heard the weather report and it's going to be really cold tonight with high winds and a wind chill that makes it even colder. Lots of sun tomorrow but still very cold, and then another storm coming through with even more snow.
Day 3 - Hell Freezes Over
More of the same today. When I got there only a single squirrel was out: Big Badfoot. She was in the sun by GM's tree trying to eat something that looked like seeds-- maybe some of the dried corn I'd spilled yesterday. I fed her some nuts then walked around to the other end of the green where I fed a small group that came out. All of a sudden they all froze. I couldn't see a thing but decided to cut the feeding short. I circled the green back towards GM's tree and on the way encountered Little Badfoot! I stopped to feed him and all of a sudden he started making clucking noises and ran off. I looked up and discovered Mr. Hawk sitting in the same tree as yesterday!

Hell is an injured, cold, hungry squirrel 
with a hawk sitting above, waiting to pounce.

By this time squirrels all over the place were crying out from the trees. I wondered if that was so smart, since it draws attention to them, but that's what they do. And it was amazing how the squirrels all way over on the other side of the green had sensed the hawk earlier. They have a very impressive early warning surveillance system that we don't quite understand.

Old Man Winter is still around.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dead of Winter

Not a lot to report these days. Yesterday a black squirrel fell from a tree and was found dead this morning. It may have broken its leg and been unable to climb back up, so it froze to death during the night.

Aside from that most of the squirrels are doing fine so far. A bunch died - no doubt the weakest among them - during the first onslaught of winter, but since then the rest have been hardy enough to make it through.

But we dread the month of February as being the worst of all months, because the squirrels are weakened by now and less able to withstand winter's rigors.

And February is hell for squirrels. We're  remembering last year's ice storm when many squirrels, already weakened by the long winter,  just needed some warm weather to regain their strength, and instead they got an ice storm. It was devastating,

But she's not there

So until we make it through the month of February we're holding our breath.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day

Squirrels are celebrated for their amazing feats.

Honoring Amazing Squirrels on Their Day - ABC News (via @ABC)

I know I can do this if I put my mind to it

Friday, January 10, 2014

It's raining bats

Heat wave in Australia causes thousands of dead bats to fall from the sky

An estimated 100,000 cooked bats have fallen from the sky in southern Queensland, Australia.
While North America freezes under record polar temperatures, the southern hemisphere is experiencing the opposite extreme as heat records are being set in Australia after the hottest year ever. Colonies of dead bats have been falling from the sky in the recent Australian heat wave, where temperatures have reached 122 degrees Fahrenheit. 

[ABC news]

Hundreds of bats also lie dead in trees and bushes and are being eaten by maggots.

A rescued bat recovers at the RSPCA centre [ABC news]

Heat-stressed baby Flying Foxes are lined up ready to feed at the
Australia Bat Clinic near the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

Meanwhile in Toronto Canada, bats are freezing:
35 big brown bats were rescued and are in care! It was -26 with the wind chill. The bats were found exposed and freezing outside a mall.

(Toronto Wildlife Center)
All those deniosaurs who are declaring global warming to be null and void
need to understand the difference between weather and climate - weather is what's happening at the moment, while climate refers to longterm conditions.

Weather extremes - both hot and cold - can be the result of global warming - which some argue is not the best term to describe what is happening to the earth right now, and that climate change or climate chaos would better describe the phenomenon.

However, global warming does bear some relationship to what is occurring, which is warmer oceans and warmer atmosphere (clouds).  At the heart of climate change there exists greater amounts of warm, moist air.

With respect to the Polar Vortex which just took the East Coast by storm (pardon the pun), some think that the arctic air got pushed further southward due to the thinning of arctic ice sheets around the North Pole, which has created a sort of  vacuum that made it more likely for this blast of cold air to go further south over parts of Canada and the US than it normally would.

But the predominant trend of Climate Change is warming, the Polar Vortex is a temporary phenomenon and we'll soon be returning to warmer than normal
winter temperatures.

As we can see, either condition - extreme cold or extreme heat - can be disastrous for our precious wildlife.