Sunday, December 20, 2009

Heroes of the Storm

We had over a foot of snow last night, and in the morning the world was covered in white. I rushed over to see how the squirrels had survived the storm. The night before I had heard reports of gale force winds of 40-50mph on Long Island.

When I first got to PCV not a creature was stirring. Eventually squirrels started coming down from their trees to eat, most of them babies. It looked like the storm took a greater toll on the bigger squirrels. I called for Lucky but he did not appear. I threw a bunch of peanuts under his tree and came back a while later to see if they'd been taken. I saw a black squirrel in Lucky's usual spot, and at first was relieved, but as I got closer I saw that it was not Lucky. I had never seen another squirrel in Lucky's tree before -- he makes sure of that! This other squirrel was in the process of picking up the peanuts I had left and burying them... in the snow! As I got closer I realized it was none other than... Mr. Operator, doing his usual thing. That squirrel is irrepressibly true to form. He looked to be in fine shape.

I could only wonder if Lucky was high up there in his nest, frozen. He has always come (like a dog) when I called him, so his absence - and the presence of another squirrel in his tree - were ominous.

The other one I'm worried about is Tubby. No sign of her now for 3 days. If we lose Tubby we lose the Matriarch, the mother of these endless series of red squirrels that show up each season. The red squirrels are not the same as the blacks, being not only a different color but of a different disposition. They are not true reds, like the Russian and British squirrels, but a variation of the black squirrel. The blacks are shyier than the grays, which are the most aggressive. In turn, the reds are the shyest of all, to the point of being neurotic.

There was one red squirrel who could never face me, and always had to hide behind a tree when I threw the peanuts. We got to the point where it would take a peanut from my hand, but always from behind the tree so I couldn't see it! Which is a shame, because the reds are the most beautiful squirrels of all. Eventually they turn black-- not the pitch black of the others, but more of a deep auburn color. The squirrel at the top of this page, who is named Brownie, started life as a red squirrel and eventually turned black. There are currently 2 junior reds running around, probably Tubby's latest issue, and I only hope they make it through the winter. I did not see either one today.

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