Wet Squirrels

I tried unsuccessfully to get a photo of the squirrels today. Torrential rain started before dawn and returned throughout the morning. In the early afternoon, a break in the clouds passed overhead.

Squirrels came onto the deck to feed on fallen maple buds. Their fur was fluffed because of the chill but rainwater clumped it together. Their sodden faces seemed more rat-like than usual and their bellies sported spikes of fur. They looked like a punk band after a rough night.

Unfortunately, they were more skittish than usual, so I didn’t dare move closer to the windows.

The New Neighbor

Since the destruction of the birdfeeder, I made a seedpile for the critters and gave up restocking. The usual critters came: grackles and cardinals and silent, stately mourning doves.

Then I spotted something that looked like a field mouse!  A squirrel chased it off during a ruckus with another. When it returned, I recognized it as a chipmunk. I tried several times to capture it on film, but the twitchy little thing kept bobbing its head up and down.

The best I could do was a hastily zoomed-in shot of his profile, complete with seed-stuffed cheeks:

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I kept a close eye on it because, unlike big squirrels, chipmunks have the mouselike ability to exploit tiny openings into human spaces. When we shared an apartment, M’e the Fashionista lost an entire sleeper sofa because the storage area was invaded by chipmunks. They managed not only to disembowel it – stuffing EVERYWHERE –  but filled every nook and cranny with acorns.

Luckily for me, Chip-chip-chipper lives somewhere beyond the fence. He came through while I was sweeping the deck and froze. He stayed frozen while I eyeballed him and snapped a better photo.
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Then I looked away, giving him the opportunity to unfreeze and run away through the hydrangea and under the fence.

 

Survival

I have a favorite little squirrel. It’s rather ugly. This winter it looked so scrawny and its fur so patchy that I thought it was diseased. There’s a big, bald knob on its spine.

It fattened up over the winter – a rare occurrence when most animals are living on their reserves.

Eventually it lingered on the maple tree long enough for me to get a good look. A parchment-colored scar runs along its neck. The fur along its back is thin where other scars run like seams on a badly-patched stuffed animal.

I think it’s the young squirrel that a neighborhood cat attacked and carried off. The cat must have kept it alive to play with it.

It’s still more skittish than other squirrels, but occasionally it feels safe enough to hang by its back feet from the feeder. Or explore the deck, as in the hastily-snapped photo below.

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Curious Human Things

One of the squirrels was foraging in the front yard when I returned home yesterday. Although it scrambled onto an oak when I drew near, it didn’t go far. It watched me get the mail.

As soon as I went inside, it scurried to the box and studied the obviously important mystery of whether it contained food. The following photo came after it had failed to open the mailbox.

Fortunately.

If the fuzzy critters ever figure it out – or worse, Amazon or Alibaba – they’ll be shipping themselves all over the world!

 

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A Walk on the Wild Side

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A young, filthy raccoon left a trail down the driveway.

Most of the neighbors bring out their bins and cans Thursday night, making it a weekly street carnival for furred foodies. A raccoon left its mark on my driveway but not in the yard (unlike the new neighbors who had bits and bones strewn about).

My garbage bin sits outside all year-round because the critters haven’t figured out that when they sit on the hinged lid, they cannot pry it open. Not that the young ones don’t try.

In the day, squirrels turn the overhead wires and fences into highways. Two squirrels in particular have an aversion to ground travel. Perhaps they had a frightening encounter with one of the neighborhood’s cats in a yard or simply figured out that most predators can’t reach them. At any rate, it’s delightful to look up from gardening and see a pair or trio of squirrels following each other like acrobats walking a high wire.

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A squirrel strolling on the privacy fence.

 

 

Squirrel-gardeners

Squirrels* don’t like crocus bulbs. I don’t know if they taste bitter – the bulbs, not the squirrels – or if they’re poisonous. All I know is that in the fall, I kept finding bulbs lying in the yard and having to replant them.

However, not all the bulbs were abandoned. Squirrels like to bury acorns, and crocus bulbs are about the same size, so…

There are crocuses in the oddest places.  There’s a beautiful one in the front lawn, all by itself. It has pale lavender petals with dark purple veins. Then there’s two or three yellow ones near each other in the loose dirt where the oak stump was ground down.

A lot of purple ones appear near the fence. I can see them from my bedroom window. I believe those came from the front flowerbed.

But the bright orange-yellow crocus that’s sticking up from the wood chips under the birdfeeder? That’s not one of mine. I suspect a particularly industrious critter carried it there from the neighbor’s behind the fence.

Too bad the squirrels don’t have an instinct for weeding and deadheading!


 

*M’e the Fashionista dubbed them “demon rats” when we subletted in a house infested with them.