I sat here today having my late afternoon lunch and suddenly a squirrel jumped up in the window box right in front of me! I am not exactly unfamiliar with squirrels in my window boxes, but I haven’t seen any squirrels for months, and the squirrel that was here today actually looked exactly like the one that was here most days last year!
I have written about ‘my’ squirrel before here on my blog, but since then I have got quite a few new regular visitors so I think perhaps I should present him for you again. I have a kind of love/hate relationship with my squirrel….I do think he is cute, and I love seeing him running about, but my goodness does he make a mess and destroy things! I have lost count of all the bulbs he has dug up and half eaten, not to mention all my strawberries that he took one tiny bite of. I would have gladly given him a few WHOLE strawberries, if he had left all the others for me! And then it is my window boxes, which he uses as storage for the peanuts and coconut he nicks from bird feeders in the neighbourhood…he comes here with his lunch, eats a bit, then hides the rest for a later day and makes sure he spreads as much soil around as he can. When he comes to dig up his peanuts, he leaves a big hole in the window box; broken plants spread around and soil everywhere. Ohhh….testing my patience…..But he is quite adorable :-)
I think it was October last time I saw him, and I have been thinking he had moved on to pastures new, but here I was, having my lunch and suddenly I saw a squirrel through my window in my living room. I had to go and have a look, and yes, he looked like the same squirrel, but of course, it could be one of his friends, they do look a bit similar! I have thought lately that perhaps he was back, or maybe some other squirrels, as I have seen that there has been quite extensive digging in some of my window boxes, a sure sign of squirrels, but I haven’t actually seen any until today. My batteries were recharging this afternoon, and I only have one set of batteries now, after my second set decided to pass out permanently. I am thinking of buying a new camera this summer, my first digital SLR (Yippee!!) so I don’t want to splash out on another set of batteries I won’t have use for after my new camera has arrived. Well, that was a very round-about way to tell you that I don’t have a fresh photo of my squirrel for you, this photo is from last year, but I am pretty sure it is the same squirrel. They can actually live to be 12 years old! Yes, it’s true, I checked!! Me being me, I just had to read up a bit about squirrels, so I thought I would share some of the things I found with you, this bit is from Wikipedia:
“The eastern gray squirrel or grey squirrel is a tree squirrel native to the eastern and Midwestern United States, and to the southerly portions of the eastern provinces of Canada. A prolific and adaptable species, the eastern gray squirrel has been introduced to, and thrives, in several regions of the western United States. It has also been introduced to Britain, where it has spread across the country and has largely displaced the native red squirrel. Like many members of the family Sciuridae, the eastern gray squirrel is a scatter-hoarder; it hoards food in numerous small caches for later recovery. Some caches are quite temporary, especially those made near the site of a sudden abundance of food which can be retrieved within hours or days for re-burial in a more secure site. Others are more permanent and are not retrieved until months later. It has been estimated that each squirrel makes several thousand caches each season. The squirrels have very accurate spatial memory for the locations of these caches, and use distant and nearby landmarks to retrieve them. Eastern gray squirrels build a type of nest, known as a drey, in the forks of trees. The drey consists mainly of dry leaves and twigs. Squirrels may also nest in the attic or exterior walls of a house. In addition, the squirrel may inhabit a permanent tree den. Eastern gray squirrels are more active during the early and late hours of the day, and tend to avoid the heat in the middle of a summer day. They do not hibernate. Eastern gray squirrels can start breeding as early as 5 and a half months old, but usually breed for the first time at the age of one. These squirrels can live to be 20 years old in captivity, but in the wild usually only live up to 12.5 years. In the UK, if a "grey squirrel" (eastern gray squirrel) is trapped, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is illegal to release it or to allow it to escape again, instead they should be humanely destroyed.”
Here in the UK, grey squirrels are regarded as a pest and a nuisance by many and a nice addition to the garden wildlife by others. I guess I am a bit in the middle….depends what he and his friends have been up to! I am also still not completely used to the idea of squirrels being grey; before I moved to UK, I had never seen a grey squirrel as they are red in Norway where I come from, just as the native squirrel here in the UK is too. Sadly, the native red squirrel in the UK is almost extinct, due to the introduction of the grey squirrel which partly is larger and stronger and can compete for food better than the red squirrel. Parapox virus may also be a strongly contributing factor to the extinction of the red squirrel; red squirrels are fatally affected by the disease, while the eastern gray squirrels are unaffected but carriers. But whether they are red or grey, they are quite cute and I quite like having them around; as long as I don’t get a bigger population as I have now I am OK!
Here he is, ‘my’ squirrel, captured last year in my window boxes:
My cat is furious, obviously – and can’t understand why I won’t let him out to get that cheeky squirrel that has the audacity to site a few centimetres away from him in those window boxes! Luckily my cat was upstairs when the squirrel arrived so we didn’t have a big confrontation today, but there have been days when my cat has literarily tried to jump through the window – that is the closed window, not an open window, with the squirrel on the outside not even remotely acknowledging my cat even being there, 5 cm away, with just the glass pane between them. Cool cucumber, that squirrel!
OK, so now I am mentally preparing for another season with the squirrels around; as long as they leave my emerging tulips in peace I am happy for now…..I haven’t checked them yet, might have to take a stroll in the week and make a close inspection of the damage so far! I’ll keep you posted, take care :-)