Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Squirrel Study

NOW that Autumn is here, the squirrels are hard at work gathering food for their winter stores. We have squandered many an hour sitting in the garden watching them. One time a squirrel was travelling back and forth across our garden collecting large nuts from a neighbour's property and hoarding them in our black tupelo tree. The squirrel would disappear behind our house and be gone for a while before returning with a prize almost as big as his head. I never did discover the source of this bounty, but the nut was obviously worth the arduous trek. Not to mention the dangers of this quest! After two successful journeys, on the third return trip the squirrel had to make a mad dash into a tree to avoid a beast of prey - namely our excited labrador. The nimble creature managed to schlepp the nut with it, taking the longer route home in the safety of the trees around the perimeter instead of shortcutting across the lawn. Not to be deterred, it set off once again. This time when the dog pounced, the nut was jettisoned as the squirrel leapt to safety. We banished the dog to the house and warily the squirrel returned to ground level to reclaim his abandoned nut.

Another time we lay on the grass looking up at the sun glinting through the light green leaves and red berries of the dogwood. This tree is adjacent to the squirrels' tupelo, and the squirrels were hopping about in time to the tunes of a mockingbird. I thought the berries were only consumed by birds, but the squirrels were eating them too. They would scamper to the ends of the twigs to collect the berries, causing the branches to bend precariously under their weight, then retire to a safer fork further down the branch to eat. I have heard that squirrels are smart enough to discern which fruits and nuts will spoil quickest and eat them first. Naturally berries don't last long, so they just had to gobble up these juicy little morsels on the spot. Little did I know we had a 'hop-thru' on the premises.

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