Saturday, November 30, 2013

A squirrel's tour of PCV

We'd like to extend a warm welcome to all squirrel travelers and we're happy to present this self-guided tour for those interested in visiting the squirrels of Peter Cooper Village.

Your tour starts at the Main Gate at First Avenue and E. 22nd St.

Hop through the gate, pass by the squirrel-friendly guard house, and you will be facing east on Peter Cooper Road. Follow the path along the road and at the first crossroads you have a choice to bear left or right.  If you're hungry for a snack you can make a left and scoot over to the Acorn Palace which is near 23rd St. (though chances are there's nothing left by now... acorns go fast in the fall).
Otherwise stay to the right and follow Peter Cooper Road to the fountain.

Either path will lead  to the fountain (which can barely be called a fountain these days).

The Fountain

 There are quite a few black squirrels around the fountain, you may be lucky to meet Red Momma, who lives in a tree by the fountain and is usually somewhere around. 
Red Momma

The Purple Tree
Look for the family of purplish black squirrels that lived in the Purple Tree by the fountain last summer but seem to have scattered now. A few may still be around.

At the fountain you have a choice:
Continue to the right along Peter Cooper Road to the Playground Area.
Or alternatively,
Continue to the left along the path that leads from the fountain to the Orange Tree.

Path to the Orange Tree

The Orange Tree

There are actually two trees that the squirrels run back and forth between.
The Orange Tree is so-named because of several generations of orange squirrels that inhabited it a while ago. These are gray squirrels that have a lot of orange coloring and brilliant orange tails. They are somewhat similar in coloring to calico cats.

Here you will no doubt meet ET (be prepared: she will probably  pounce). Her four kids, three red-brown and one gray, should also be around.


There is also a large purple-black squirrel that lives around here and doesn't seem to mind tangling with  ET. And just beyond to the left and close 23rd Street, there's a family of  young black squirrels.

The Cherry Orchard
Either path leads to the Cherry Orchard, where on a nice day, all these squirrels can be found playing.

 Just beyond the cherry trees, rejoin Peter Cooper Road and follow it to the end. Turn right just before the exit, and you will be facing the flagpole and Gray Mama's tree.

Gray Momma's Tree
Turn right here

Gray Momma's Tree

You will probably find Gray Momma in her garden 

You can usually see squirrels engaged in one of their favorite pastimes: digging. If you didn't bring your own peanuts, and feel the need for a snack, this may be a good place to find one. There are plenty of peanuts to be found in that good earth!

The squirrels are mostly gray here, but if you walk to the other side of the green that abuts the garden you will find a colony of black squirrels near 22nd Street.
 Although our tour ends here, we encourage you to scamper across 22nd St (be quick and be nimble!) and go into Stuyvesant Town, which also has many black squirrels.
As far as we know PCV/Stuytown is the place to find black squirrels in New York City.

 Stuytown extends all the way down to 14th Street, a major crosstown street. From there if you have the time, you might want to cross 14th and head a few blocks down Avenue A, to Tompkins Square Park in the historic East Village. Plenty of lovely gray squirrels there, as well as many other sights. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Got Milk?

The Transformation of Red Mama

A Tale of Two Squirrels... or is it one?

I've been saying that Red Momma was actually the mother of Alphie and Betie (his "evil twin" that we call ET). I was looking back at some older blogs and found this picture of "Mommy Squirrel" on October of 2011:

Mommy Squirrel
Notice that long face. I  found more pictures where you can also see her long face and also how she was a bit worse for the wear:

Now compare that to the face of Red Mamma (RM) in these pictures taken recently.

It's the same squirrel, but  how beautiful she is now compared to before. This is due to the care she received when she was rescued after being thrown out of her drey (by her own daughter) on the coldest day of the year.  It shows how a squirrel can thrive when cared for the way we care for our pets. But that is not to be the fate of the common wild squirrel.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hawk alert!

There's a hawk in the house! We can't see it but the squirrels sense it. They all suddenly go into tableau mode: frozen in place like statues.

Then the racket begins: squirrels talking to each other, sending out signals over the network. Then some of them make a dash for a tree, while others remain in place.

This squirrel dove head first into the nearest trash can!
We check around and don't see a thing, but judging from the look and sound of things, this threat is real. It's probably a red-tailed hawk, which is the most common bird of prey in this area.

This is the time of year when hawks are likely to appear, because when the leaves come off the trees  it's easy for them to spot prey. Speaking of spotting things, squirrels do not have great eyesight, so how do they know when a hawk's around? They seem to have an ability to sense a predator and communicate its presence without even seeing it.  It's sort of like the way many squirrels suddenly materialize out of the woodwork when you show up with a bag of peanuts. :)

Home wreckers at work

Here are two examples of human intervention, or as some would call it, "interference":

In Autumn, Nature provides squirrels with goodies like nuts and leaves. The nuts get stashed away for use through the winter. Since there are not that many nut trees in a city park like PCV, human intervention in the form of feeding is needed.

Fallen leaves are used by squirrels as building and refurbishing material for winter nests. But what's a squirrel to do when all the leaves get raked up and hauled away to a dump?

That's an odd-looking nest...
wonder if I should go in?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

ET at Home

The other day we were feeling pretty lucky to find ET at home with the kids. Well... not exactly "with" them... more like "against" them. 
ET on a tree-- it's all about me!

Who is ET?

First, a bit of  history. Once upon a time there were two beautiful little squirrels that lived in the Orange Tree. One was named Alphie (Alpha Squirrel) and the other named Betie (Beta Squirrel). Alphie was superior in every way imaginable for a squirrel-- beautiful, strong, gutsy and sweet.  So we decide he was going to grow up to be an Alpha Squirrel. Betie we didn't get to know as well because she was very shy, and she soon disappeared (or so we thought). They both loved to play a game where they'd chase after peanuts and bury them, then race back for more  --  they'd play this game over and over, never tiring of it.  We didn't know it at the time, but we now think that their mother was probably Red Momma.

Alpha Squirrel
Then one day it seemed like Alphie had turned into a terrible bully who was constantly  attacking the other squirrels. It was hard to believe that sweet-tempered Alphie would do such a thing. But then we discovered that it was not him after he somehow got his tail bent out of shape, and we were able to distinguish between him and the bully. We then called the bully Alphie's Evil Twin, or ET.

ET poised to pounce!
As time passed, ET continued her errant ways, and eventually evicted Red Momma from the Orange Tree on a cold winter's night. At that point we had realized that ET was a she, and this was classic female squirrel behavior. We were learning about some squirrel survival strategies: how females will frequently gain control of an entire tree to ensure the safety of their babies.

It wasn't until much later that we put it together that ET was actually the long-lost Betie! And
ET's autumn camouflage
that she may have evicted her own mother!

ET reigned supreme in the Orange Tree throughout the winter and spring, and no other squirrel was ever seen near the tree. It was all hers!

She seemed to relax the rules in the summer. Then in the fall, she had her babies, which began making their appearance in October. They were fun to watch in the beginning, when they would venture down the tree, then run back up before they touched ground. But they're on the ground now and almost as big as their mother (ET is a small squirrel, although her miserable personality more than makes up for size when she throws her weight around).

ET Eating

Don't bother me when  I'm eating

this tastes good
opening wider
The Babies!

all four together
It was a rare treat to find ET and all four kids together around the tree, and better yet to find a nice photographer named Valentin Vasilevskiy, who was taking these beautiful pictures with his Nikon.

hello world!
Four healthy, beautiful babies -- three auburn clones of ET and one gray. Mother did a great job, although it's hard to imagine this self-centered, nasty squirrel actually nursing babies! Now that the birthing honeymoon is over, she springs on them like any other squirrel that gets in her space! We hope this doesn't mess up their psyches too much. We've already observed one of them standing up to her and emulating her by trying to pounce on other squirrels.



D'Artagnan: gray pride

a peanut thief looks guilty when caught in the act...
and makes a hasty getaway

Many thanks to Valentin Vasilevskiy for his amazing photographs!


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mittens 'n Muffs

November marks the transition from sweater weather to fur coat weather.
Brrr... it's cold
but I like my new fur coat

so I'm fat... so what?

still... one has to look decent for mating season

fluffy white ear muffs with matching mittens are all the rage

these chic tan ear muffs go well with my brown fur