Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat

I decided to take a walk over to PCV today.

Of course I had to TREAT the squirrels today. I met some on the sidewalk outside PCV. Every once in a while an adventurous squirrel leaves the Gated Community and ventures out into the Big City in search of nuts.

But they don't usually stray far.

The squirrels were acting strange today. They were asking for TREATS (nothing new)

 but some were also performing TRICKS!

I don't know what was getting into them (well yes, I do - squirrels are totally psychic). But they went really treat-crazy today. Whenever I turned away from my cart they'd try to sink their sharp little teeth into my nut bags!



A passer-by commented on all the squirrel costumes! I thought that was pretty funny, and told him that anyone dressed as a squirrel would be given a nut :)

Spunky the Halloween Squirrel
They kept me busy as afternoon faded into twilight. I was surrounded by squirrels that were acting pretty agressive. The cold weather does something for the appetite as well as the spirit. And there was a definite spirit in the air. I had been feeding Spunky when suddenly everything turned eerily quiet. The other squirrel I was feeding ran away and disappeared  into the gloom without picking up the nut I had tossed its way. I turned around and saw that Spunky was gone too.

I  heard a strange shrieking sound in the trees, which was neither squirrel nor bird. I realized that in a single moment the whole world had turned dark.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Autumn Leaves, Autumn Squirrels

Autumn is here and we're seeing some squirrels turning colors like leaves. Squirrels remind me of the amazing chameleon that changes color in the blink of an eye. Their tails - and at times the fur on their entire bodies -  are changing all the time, but especially with a change of seasons. This seems particularly true of growing babies and brown squirrels, although grays change all the time too. It's a constant show, where you never know what to expect.  Here's how Foxy is looking nowadays.


Foxy's Bustle

Blending in with the leaves
Foxy was black a season ago, but is now back to being auburn for autumn. She is a beautiful squirrel. Foxy is heading into her third winter, while Alphie is heading into his first.

Alphie also blends in  well with the leaves. This can be very helpful when hawks are about:

Alphie's Camouflage

The berries are blooming:

And there are horse chestnuts lying on the ground:

The other day I came upon Spunky eating one of these and proffered a peanut, thinking she would drop the spiny monster, but no - I had to wait until she devoured the entire thing before she'd consider taking the peanut! Can you imagine?  I guess they must be tasty, but still, all those prickly spines. How do they do it I wonder?

Alphie Has Two Mommies

It turns out that Alphie the squirrel has more siblings than I originally thought. I thought there were three babies:  one gray and two brown  (pictured  together here for the first time):

Alphie (the alpha squirrel)  and Bettie (the beta squirrel) 
But yesterday two gray babies were poking their heads out of the hole where the nest is.

orange tree nest
So there are at least four babies in this nest.

But  even more interesting, there seem to be two mommies!
Meet Mew Mew
I had been feeding a small black squirrel along with the brown one that I've already introduced here as the Mommy Squirrel of this orange tree brood. I  thought it was a  junior male, but yesterday I found out that it too is a nursing mother.

Mew Mew
How Mew Mew got her name

When she came up on the bench to get fed, she issued the most heart-rending cry. I did a double-take -- this squirrel was mewing like a kitten!   At first I couldn't believe it was coming from the squirrel, and thought maybe there was a cat in the vicinity. But then a nearby squirrel chimed in and began mimicking her. It was absolutely amazing to hear the two of them mewing!  (don't blame me, I'm a squirrel nut - things like this turn me on).

Squirrels have an entire soundscape in their repertoire, much of which is rarely  heard, since they do not often seem impelled to vocalize. Like hearing a tree fall in a forest, one has to be in the right place at the right time to get treated to squirrel talk.
A boy and his grandmother meet Mew Mew.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Playing with Baby Squirrels

As a sort of sop to my sorrow over the loss of Patches, I have been given the joy  and wonder of  baby squirrels.  There are three of them - one gray and two brown - who are living in the orange tree - the tree where Patches was born. Yes, Patches was born an orange squirrel. He was the only one of his orange siblings to survive the winter. They all suffered from the same infection that Patches had. I was proud of the way we were able to help him grow strong and healthy enough to combat it, although eventually it seems to have gotten the better of him, just before his first birthday.

Several months ago Patches moved over to another tree not far away, where he built himself a fine nest. Bernie was the one who found him over there, after I had given him up for dead. I thought at the time that maybe he'd been forced to move because of babies and now I'm sure of it, for three little babies have been growing up in his old tree for the last few months!

Their mother is barely more than a baby herself. She's very small and was looking a bit delapidated when I first "discovered" her several weeks ago. I've been feeding her ever since, and she is very hungry! 

Mommy Squirrel
Over the last week the babies have begun to emerge from their tree. At first they would only show up around twilight time,  when it's harder to see them, but is not quite dark yet. Of course they never go out in the dark, apparently having already been taught that lesson by Mommy (or Mommy Nature). But earlier in the day you could see them scampering about together up high in the branches, eating buds or bark. Or just sitting up there looking down at the Great World Beyond.

Baby Squirrel  in Tree
I spent a lot of time feeding their mother and other squirrels while they looked on. And eventually they started coming down the tree to find a nut. They exhibited the usual behavior of baby squirrels -- pure fright if you threw a nut at them -- so I had to throw some nuts under their tree and step away, hoping that the bigger squirrels didn't get there first.

Descending the Tree
 Now when I go over they are usually down on the ground, although they quickly run up the tree when they see me. The gray squirrel and one of the brown squirrels are especially skittish. But the other brown squirrel has been quite brazen, and I believe he will grow up to be an Alpha Squirrel, so  I've already named him Alphie.

Alphie the Baby Squirrel
Alphie started coming quite close to me and did not run away. As you can see, he stayed still long enough for me to take this nice picture. Then yesterday he actually started playing with me! We had a game of  "touch peanut" together, where I'd toss the peanut and Alphie would retrieve it and sprint off to the other side of the lawn to bury it.

This game went on for  quite a while, until I decided to follow Alphie over there in hopes of getting another good picture. Then a strange thing occurred: Alphie started advancing towards the camera!

Then he stood up on his hind legs in a confrontational pose! (sorry for the blurred pictures - not sure if it was due to the excitement or the speed of the moment, but you can at least get the idea).

 At this point I was standing there in stunned awe and amazement, when suddenly Alphie darted past me and made a fast run for the orange tree. Ah, that was it!  I had been blocking his path to the Mother Tree! Game over.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

CHuCK the Rally SQUIRReL

As a nice sequel to the story Squirrel Candy, which is about squirrel pArticiPation in the aFFairs of  hUmans, a reader sent in this lovely story about a sports-loving squirrel named Chuck:
CHuCK the Rally SQUIRReL

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Know Thine Enemy

Watch this absolutely amazing video of an eagle owl coming right at ya!

Eagle Owl

Be mesmerized. And squirrels, be scared.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Squirrel Candy

I picked up some pecan crumblets (all I could afford) at Trader Joe's today. I popped a mouthful and it was simply  scrumptious - visions of pralines and pies danced in my head - this was real squirrel candy! And the squirrels  went for it. I sprinkled crumblets in the grass and they nosed about like they were on an easter egg hunt. They seemed to enjoy the challenge, with the rich reward forthcoming.

Squirrels are too funny to watch. The other day I passed a guy speeding along the sidewalk on his bicycle, and there keeping pace alongside him was a squirrel! It was the funniest thing.

Another time, a man was playing catch with his son on the grass near the orange tree, and one of the squirrels was apparently fascinated by their game, because he sat behind the man watching the ball go back and forth. There was no way the squirrel was begging for nuts, he was obviously a sports fan!

And one time when some large trucks were parked on the sidewalk near Spunky's tree, I noticed that squirrels kept going underneath the trucks just to check them out.

 Squirrels are not just curious but I think  they may get bored. Living in the lap of luxe at PCV does not provide quite the challenge that living in a forest provides.

We need to think about providing more activities for our squirrels, or at least more distractions. They seem to enjoy spectator sports, and when they can manage to overcome their natural fear, they're quite curious about us humans! So come on out and give the little guys a show... and bring some squirrel candy in your pocket...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Empty Garden

And I've been knocking but no one answers
And I've been knocking most all the day
Oh and I've been calling, oh hey hey Patches
Can't you come out to play?