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.

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