Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tubby's pals

Went by to see Tubby again today to spoil her some, and she is more herself now, delighting in the thrill of eating from my hand. She likes to climb the tree while I hold the nut by the side of the tree and she grabs it. I gave her a seed cookie today, and she is feeling pampered and special again. And was back in form, chasing the others fron the base of her tree!

Apparently she is living with two of my favorites -- Teddy Bear and Mr. Operator. Teddy Bear was so named because when he was little he looked like Pooh Bear in Now We Are Six. He is brown, with a mask of blond hair across his face, which makes him look less like a squirrel and more like a stuffed animal. He hung out with two little pink and gray striped squirrels named Sissy and Pinky and the three of them looked like something out of a nursery rhyme. The pink was due to mange, so my job was to feed them and get rid of the pink. But they sure looked cute.

Tubby, meet Teddy!

But Teddy Bear was always morose and I thought he was lonely, being the only brown squirrel in the area. I asked my friend Bernie to catch him in the net and bring him over to Tubby's area on the other end of the park, but Bernie didn't think it was such a good idea. Well, Teddy eventually migrated back there himself and when I saw him over there I immediately brought him over to meet Tubby.

Well it was quite the meeting. Teddy immediately pounced on Tubby! Strangely, the territorial Tubby did not react, or seem to mind being jumped by Teddy. But then Teddy ran far. far away. However I eventually found him back there, and there he lives, happily ever after.

Mr. Operator

The other one is Mr. Operator, so-named because he is such an operator. He'd never let other squirrels get near me, circling around me, grabbing the nut, and jumping on the hapless squirrel who dared approach me. Then he'd quickly bury the nut in a shallow grave close by, and run back to protect his turf and grab another nut. It was a regular racket. He managed to intimidate the other squirrels with his feints.

I got so mad at him that I asked Bernie to catch him in the net and give him a good scare. He looked so funny trying to extricate himself from that net, with all the other squirrels watching! After that the shamed squirrel stayed away for a long time, but eventually he came back and resumed his shenanigans.

It was then that I finally relized that I'd misjudged him. I was judging him as a small child, not as a squirrel. As a squirrel he was absolutely brilliant! He was a real entrepreneur and he had his own little business going, accumulating inventory.

Thereafter he was on my soft side. He was still a bully, but I remember once when a flock of red-tailed hawks showed up and all the other squirrels hid in the trees, he remained exposed at the base of the tree and started crying loudly! Not good, as this was draw attention to him. I couldn't make him run away, but I was able to quiet him down by feeding him cashews and walnuts -- one nut after another. Bully turned baby! Or was this just a ruse? Another money-making scheme of his?

Didn't see much of Mr. O. all summer, so I'm glad to see that he's good, and hanging out with Miss Tubby. Couldn't ask for better company. He has one bad eye so it's always easy to recognize him, apart from his behavior.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Golden Squirrel

I went back to see Tubby again today, as I have resolved to spend more time with her. While there I also saw the two silver-backed babies that showed up early in the summer. They are still small and still have the silver color on their backs, which surprised me, as I thought they'd be gray by now. They have so little pigment that they look like ghosts.

I also saw Golden Squirrel, and am sorry to say she looks a mess. She has pink spots all over her back where she's lost fur. I guess it's mange. Need to feed! I gave her an assortment of nuts and will see what happens.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Introducing Tubby

Last weekend -- the last one of the summer-- was perfect weather, with cool sunny days and crystalline blue skies. This summer was a classic, being not terribly hot. We did not have temperatures in the 90's until mid-August, and not that many of them. Now as we near end of September, there's already a chill in the air. I went over looking for Tubby today, over in the east end of the park where the reds have a little niche-- their own parklet with some great trees and lots of clover and flowers. Last spring it was loaded with wild strawberries because they never mow there.

My Friend Tubby

This is where my friend Tubby resides. She's the matriarch, having mothered several generations of reds. At first I didn't see her, after calling for her as I used to do (and she'd always come running like a dog). Then I heard that terrible crying that sounds like a squirrel in pain. You normally hear it in the wintertime when a squirrel gets really cold. I looked all around for the source of such pain and finally spied a small squirrel figure up on a branch of Tubby's old tree! I threw some nuts up against the trunk and sure enough the crying ceased immediately and the squirrel came bounding down. It was Tubby!

The acid test is that Tubby comes over and eats out of my hand, which most squirrels do not do. I was glad to see she was okay, but she was certainly acting skittish. She seemed scared and when she took the nut I felt her claws, which was unusual for gentle Tubby. No doubt about it, Tubby was miffed. I guess that's because I've practically ignored her all summer, having been occupied in the west end of the park with various problem squirrels over there. I also knew that the squirrels in Tubby's parklet were being well taken care of by a certain Russian gentleman who throws nuts out his window. I met his daughter one time while she was walking her dog. Her dog was a breed trained to be a hunter, and she told me he'd killed a squirrel when she let him off the leash. Since he does not bark, the squirrels walk right up to him. I was telling her that I have names for all my pet squirrels and she told me that they also have Russian names, because her father does that too! So, Tubbelinka...

I have known Tubby longest of any other squirrel. Others that I was fond of, like Ruffles and Dolly, have disappeared. Tubby got her name because the first time I saw her she was so rolypoly that she had to waddle over for nuts! She was a beautiful red-brown color but fat and insatiably hungry! It took me a while (I was still naive) to realize that she was very pregnant! And since then there have been loads of baby red squirrels that eventually turn to brown or black. Well yesterday Tubby looked quite svelte, but definitely well-fed and not too hungry. Just in a pique. She will have to be wooed.

Here's Tubby with some avocado on her nose:

The squirrels in the middle parklet by the cherry tree do not get fed as well, so I've been spending time over there. I fed them yesterday, but missed seeing Golden Squirrel, so-named because she is an unusual golden color. She is not red, brown or black, but a mix of white and gold shades. She started out having a round hairless spot that looked like a small pinwheel, which kept getting bigger until it covered her entire right rear. But that has pretty much healed now. I'm concerned because I haven't seen her in a while and she wasn't around today.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I saw a really small squirrel today that let me get much closer than the little ones normally do. So I dangled a nut, trying to see how close I could get. The squirrel didn't seem to know what to do, so it rolled itself up into a ball and aimed itself at my hand, slamming into it like a torpedo! I don't know which one of us was more surprised.

Friday, September 11, 2009

When a Squirrel Dies

Does anyone notice?

When a squirrel cries, does anyone hear?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

R.I.P. Dolly

Well still no sign of Dolly. I keep going back hoping I'll see her funny little face, like she's saying "here I am -- fooled you!". But the squirrel tail is still there. Here's a picture, where you can see the tail hanging out of the hole and a strange squirrel sitting on the branch where Dolly used to sit.

I'm feeling sad. Losing Dolly is just like losing a pet. Usually I'm pretty detached, because feeding squirrels is like having 100 pets and yet no pet. Normally they don't try to get too close! But Dolly and I shared a wavelength. Looking back, I realized that on the very day she must have died, I had a dream in which I was looking for a small, furry animal that needed my protection and kept eluding me, but was finally found and embraced. I've never dreamed about squirrels before! Now I know it was Dolly, come to say goodbye. As she was practically into her hole, it's a mystery as to what happened.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Goodbye Dolly?

I hope not, but I'm afraid that Dolly might be gone. I fed all the squirrels, waiting for Dolly as usual, and they all showed up but for Dolly, who did not appear. I looked up at the cubby hole in her tree and saw a squirrel's tail hanging out. It was not moving. Could it be sleeping with its tail hanging out? I also noticed a bird sitting on a branch of the tree, and the bird would not fly away. It looked like some kind of bird of prey, not too large, about the size of a pigeon. But I could only make out its silhouette against the darkening sky. It would not leave, which seemed ominous. I'll go back tomorrow in hopes of seeing Dolly, but I just have a bad feeling. What could have happened? Could jealous squirrels have attacked her when I left her eating her cookie the other night? It seems unlikely.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hello, Dolly!

Dolly is a very special squirrel. Why is her name Dolly? Because that's short for Darling, and she is a darling. Due to a jaw deformity, and possible lack of teeth (I can't get in close enough to check) she has trouble chewing. So I give her soft things to eat. When we first met in July, she had pink patches all over her back where her fur was falling off. My sister said it was probably mange. Once she started getting some food in her she quickly recovered and now has quite a beautiful coat -- a reddish brown color which is perfect for fall. All the squirrels are going through color changes now, especially in their tails, which are becoming big, bushy and beautiful with stripes of various colors, but also some of the smaller ones are getting striped forelegs, which makes them look like little tigers. I guess they change colors for camouflage, to blend in with the autumn leaves.

When Dolly spies me she runs over and snuggles up to my ankles and nips on my Trader Joe's bag which she knows holds the goods. But of course she can't bite through as her teeth are pretty much non-operational. A passerby commented on Dolly's snuggling, saying she'd never seen a squirrel do that before. I told her that this was a very special squirrel!

The other day it was getting dark and I wasn't sure if it was Dolly or not, so I just threw down a peanut. She grabbed it, then just stayed there looking up at me with the peanut in her mouth, like she was waiting for me to do something. I said, "Oh, hello Dolly!" as I recognized her, and I threw down a softer shelled nut, upon which she immediately dropped the peanut and picked up the cashew! Yes, we were on the same wavelength.

She would even try to eat a peanut before she got to know me, but it would take her forever. I have to be very patient with Dolly because it usually takes a long time for her to come down from her tree. I've fed the other squirrels almost an entire bag of nuts before she makes her appearance, so she's very expensive! Then once she's there, feeding takes a long, long time. And she eats in such a funny way, lifting her head up and throwing it back, which I guess she has to do to make the food go down. She likes cherries and green grapes and Kashi cookies which to her are like all-day suckers. She really likes the pumpkin seed ones. Today she had one of her favorite treats: avocado. Between each "bite" she'd pause to look up at me with such greatfulness in her eyes, and a very green nose! I left her sucking on a kashi cookie-- she's the only one that gets them, and I hope the other squirrels don't get jealous and chase her. Some of them were circling around her when I left, but I was too hot and tired to stay another minute, and I knew Dolly would be taking her own sweet time with that cookie. Besides, they had all had plenty to eat already. But I hope they didn't start harassing her after I left.