Sunday, 29 January 2012

The squirrel is back!

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:

And what was he digging after? Well, I didn’t realise this back in august when I made this short movie, but he was actually hiding peanuts. As you saw in the piece from Wikipedia, grey squirrels can have several thousand caches or food stores every season. This squirrel have many of them in and around my garden :-) When I planted my winter pansies this autumn I completely changed the soil, as I do every now and then. Guess what I found in my window boxes, deeply buried? Peanuts, lots of peanuts!! Here are some of them. I didn’t really know what to do with them; put them back or throw them away, so I threw them away. Now I guess it’s pay-back time, because the squirrel is back, looking for the food he buried last summer, and he is not giving up – he is digging and digging, not finding his peanuts, ruining my pansies and scattering the soil whilst searching! Ohhh….shall I go and buy some peanuts and bury them to save my pansies? Wonder if he will accept them??

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 :-)


  1. Did you know there is a squirrel appreciation day? I found out from another blog and did a post about it a couple of days ago.

  2. I feel exactly the same about squirrels. They hide acorns and I have to dig out thousands of little oak trees... Good luck with your camera purchase, I have a DSLR too, I had to learn much more about photography to make better use of all that expensive equipment. Now I am saving for extra lenses :).

  3. CraftyGardener: No, I have never heard about the squirrel appreciation day, I have just been over at your blog and seen your post, great photos! I appreciate squirrels…and I don’t…depends what they have been up to!

    Masha: I used a film SLR for 25 years before I got my first digital point and shoot, I was frustrated about all the things my new camera could NOT do! Then I bought a better digital point and shoot which could do all the things my old film camera could do except deliver the same quality. Now I want a DSLR, and I want both control and quality, but can’t afford a high-end camera, so I am aiming for Canon EOS 600D, as it has a flip-out LCD screen, a necessity for me when taking macro shots of plants and flowers. Looking forward to all the great photos I will be taking with my new camera! And, yes, the lenses are so expensive, shame my old lenses dont fit, I got so many to my old SLR, I will never use film again!

  4. Wow, what a brazen little squirrel! That one definitely loves your window box. Have you tried red pepper or anything to deter him from the tulips?

    Gray squirrels are definitely smart creatures - I rather enjoy their antics in my garden, except for all the bulb eating!

  5. What a cute squirrel. I love to watch their antics in the garden. I think ours are practising for the Olympic acrobatic team. But I agree with you, they can be a problem too; I used to have a lovely display of crocus, but not anymore.

  6. Hi Helene! This animals are so cute, but how annoying they can be! We have gray squirrels. After reading your post, I think it's them who brought peanuts in my garden. I find them here and there. They also like to tease our dog.

  7. You first picture is adorable. They are a pest but a funny one anyway. My cats go crazy when they see them too. I bet your red ones are cuter though.

  8. That is a very cheeky or hungry squirrel. I grew up feeding squirrels at the Botanics in Edinburgh as my Dad muttered "Rats with tails" under hs breath. The red ones in this area are very cute and look straight out of Beatrix Potter. But it seems we cannot have both.

  9. Indie: I have a cat and he uses my garden every day, I don’t think he will appreciate red pepper spread around...I think I will just have to accept the squirrels :-)
    Crystal: I think mine prefer tulips and lilies, expensive taste!
    Tatyana: if you or your neighbours are feeding birds with peanuts you can be sure the squirrels will get hold of the peanuts, they are so clever!
    Donna: yes, I must admit I prefer the red squirrels, they are smaller too.
    Janet: I have actually seen red squirrels here in London, in my local park, although I have always heard that they were extinct here in England apart from on some of the islands. But they are a rare sight, compared to the grey ones. You should think that in this day and age it should be possible to solve the virus problem at least, so that they could live side by side :-)

  10. I am sorry that our squirrels have invaded Britain and displaced your native squirrel. I am firmly in the squirrel liking end of things maybe because my cats eat them and they don't get out of hand. I am linking to you in my post that will go up shortly.

  11. Hi Carolyn, thanks for linking to me and your kind words - and congratulations on appearing in The BBC News Magazine!


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