Eastern Grey Squirrel, Kennebunk, Maine. I was taking photos of the birds out my back deck door, standing in the open slide, when this squirrel hopped up on the rail and came pretty much right up to me. This was taken at about 3 feet. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. ISO 400 @ f4 @ 1/500th.
I think squirrels are cute…but that does not mean I give them a free pass when it comes to raiding my bird feeders. I have invested in a set of “squirrel proof” feeders and suet cages that, for the most part, defeat the squirrels’ attempts at criminal trespass. That does not mean they don’t try, several times a day, sometimes once an hour. The idea of all that food, right there in easy view, is evidently just too much for them, even when past experience has proven that they can’t get at it. It is entertaining to watch them, and I don’t mind anything they take from the ground under the feeders, even when I scatter seed for the sparrows. If it is on the ground it is fair game. This mother squirrel is one of the pack of 3 or 4 who come to our yard every day. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
The Grey Squirrels use my bird feeder setup near my photo blind as a jungle gym. All my feeders are, at least to the extent possible given modern technology, squirrel proof, and they have not yet solved the problems presented, so my seed is, for the moment, safe…but that does not stop them from trying. This squirrel is already, by the look of it, getting plenty to eat, so it can just leave my seed for the birds, thank you very much. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
I was walking on the boardwalk through the maple swamp at the Wells National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farms yesterday, and I thought, “this is just about where I saw the Red Squirrel last year.” And just like magic, there was a Red Squirrel on the boardwalk doing just exactly what the Red Squirrel was doing last year…picking up and eating the the little whirlygig seeds of the Red Maple. Once more, the squirrel allowed me to approach quite closely…I worked my way a few feet at a time to within 12 feet of it, before it turned to challenge me and then scampered off.
I knew, while taking the pictures, that there was something odd about the squirrel…or out of the ordinary anyway. Last year the squirrel had a wound on its nose below the eye on one side. This year it was an obviously nursing mother squirrel, taking a break from nest duty to enjoy the maple bounty. You can’t see the nipples in this shot, but in other they are clearly visible.
Sony RX10iii at 840mm equivalent field of view (600mm optical plus an in-camera crop to 10mp for the extra reach.) 1/250th @ ISO 125 @ f4. Processed in Lightroom. The difference in clarity and detail between this photo and the those I took with the Nikon P900 last year is obvious at anything larger than screen view 🙂 and it is pretty clear even here.
This is another shot of the Red Squirrel from my encounter last week in Alewive Woods. You can see how unhappy he is to have me visit by the blurring of his agitated tail. Sure sign!
Nikon P900 at 1100mm equivalent field of view. 1/50th @ ISO 800 @ f5.6. Processed in Lightroom.
I told the story of this Red Squirrel, which I encountered on my hike into Alewive Pond on Thursday, in today’s Year Poem (which I will append here for your viewing pleasure :).
The photo is with the Nikon P900 at 1100mm equivalent field of view. 1/60th @ ISO 800 @ f5.6. Processed in Lightroom.
And the poem.
The red squirrel paralleled me
100 years along the trail,
always three threes ahead,
but with one eye solid on me.
Eventually he found a perch
on a branch, oh, twice my height,
just where the trail turns,
to sit safe and sass me as only
a Red Squirrel can sass…tail
arched high, little paws, tiny
claws clenched, every ounce
of his ten, behind the eye
that glared, that dared me
to do my worst!
Little did he know I had
my camera ready to
record his heroic posturing,
or that his antics would
be exposed on the internet
for all the world to see.
So there, Mr. Red Squirrel,
we humans can sass too.
When it got up to 40 degrees early yesterday afternoon, I thought, “now or never.” You could almost watch the snow cover disappearing under the December sun. I needed to get out further than I had been, and find some snowy fields and forest while it lasted (oh, we will get more, but every boy must play in the first snow of the year 🙂 I decided on Laudholm Farms (Wells National Estuarine Research Center). When snow is on the ground you have to think about where parking will be plowed. Laudholm is always safe, and Rachel Carson NWR headquarters, but I wanted the open fields of Laudholm…and of course Laudholm has forest and marsh too.
I got my fields and entered the forest going the wrong way on the boardwalk through the wet maple swamp. I heard a skittering off to my left and looked up to see this Red Squirrel in a pile of limbs from a downed tree. I have posted a few shots of the Red Squirrel that has been visiting our deck and feeders over the past few weeks…but here was Red in his element…snowy forest…tangle of limbs…scampering free. It looks to me as though he had dug up a tightly rolled fern with a core of snow. ?? He was, over the next few moments, intent of pulling it apart for some nutrient inside. A Red Squirrel on the deck under the feeders is cute (if you can ignore their destructive side), but a Red Squirrel where it belongs, deep in the forest, doing its thing…that is beautiful.
Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 400 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightroom.
And may you, this coming year…find rolled up ferns full of nutrient on even the snowiest days…and my you be as beautiful and as vital as a Red Squirrel in his element each and every day. Okay, so if you have to, you can be cute a few days too! Happy New Year!
The Red Squirrel was back yesterday. He always seems to come on rainy, or at least overcast, days. He did figure out how to climb on to the feeder…not a good development as far as I am concerned. I could not grudge him the few seeds anyway, at least not yesterday, in the rain, when he looked so sad and miserable…ears flattened and beads of water in his fur. He may have been having some issues at other feeders too, since he was a lot less bold yesterday. He scampered off right quick when I opened the deck door. Or maybe he just knew that I feel differently about squirrels right on the feeder, than I do about squirrels on the deck. 🙂
Nikon P610 at 1440mm equivalent field of view. (Again, I had to run for the P610, as the squirrel was too close for the P900.) 1/100th @ ISO 400 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightroom.
I can’t resist posting another Red Squirrel pic. (See yesterday’s Generous Eye post.) He was back on the deck yesterday for a half hour or so, entertaining us again. When I open the big glass sliding door out to the deck when there is a Gray Squirrel at the feeders, it scampers as fast as it can go…especially now that my war against feeder raiders is well known among the neighborhood squirrels. Often just looking out the door is enough to send the squirrel flying. The Red is completely different…sort of the chickadee among squirrels. It stops what it is doing to look at me, but then just goes on about its business. This shot was taken with the squirrel on the deck rail about 8 feet from the deck door. I had to open the door, and poke the camera out to take it, but the squirrel just sat there and looked at me while I got into shooting position. I took a dozen shots before he decided to go back to the feeders for one last snack before scampering off the deck and into the yard next door. Talk about bold!
Since the squirrel was well inside the minimum focus on the Nikon P900, I had to run to the bedroom for my P610. This uncropped image was taken at, as I say, about 8 feet…at 1440mm equivalent field of view. 1/250th @ ISO 280 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightroom.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
I don’t have a lot of patience with squirrels around my bird feeders. They can finish a block of peanut-butter suet in a morning, depriving the birds of the treat. I do what I can to discourage them. They have learned to keep away from the seed, but they simply can not resist peanut-butter suet blocks. 🙁 We have the common Grey Squirrels in our yard…cute when encountered in the forest…not so cute on our deck with the feeders.
There are Red Squirrels in our corner of southern Maine. I have seen them along the Kennebunk Bridle Path, and in a few spots on the grounds of the Wells National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farms just south of us in Wells. This summer they were pretty regular…I saw them on at least three separate visits…along the boardwalk through the Maple Swamp there. Even so, compared to the abundant (especially so this year) Grey Squirrels, they are pretty rare. I have never seen one in your yard…until yesterday that is. I came back from a trip to the store to find one gathering left-over seeds from the deck and the rails under the feeders.
I can’t speak for other folks, but I find the Red Squirrel much more attractive than the Grey. They are a size smaller, with little round heads and perky ears, and delicate shock of tail when compared to the dense brush of the Grey. And they seem to have more personality…or squirrelality…or however it needs to be said. They are fearless, curious, and somehow engaging. The Red Squirrel on the deck, even when I got my Nikon P900 and went around outside for some pics, went boldly about his business…but he kept running out to the end of the deck rail nearest me to sit and watch me as he ate his latest seed find. Even when he went for the seed feeders, he did on glom on like a Grey, wrapping the feeder in a squirrel coat and stuffing as many seeds in his cheek as is squirrelly possible…no, he made a lighting, leaping, raid…only touching the feeder long enough to grab a single seed. Just like most birds. And then, again, he would run out to sit up above me on the rail and nibble it until it was gone. After, he would sit, Buddha like on his behind, back feet tucked under, upright, with his front paws just touching above his belly, and contemplate me for a few moments before scampering off in search of another seed.
When he left the deck he did the same thing in the branches of the young maples that edge our yard. Instead of running away, he worked his way out on the branches until he was practically right above me, and sat and enjoyed a few seeds from his cheek pouch…spitting each one out and maneuvering it with his clever paws, so like hands, as he again nibbled it away. We had a good time there, for 20 minutes or so, he posing, and me taking pics…until he scampered away into the neighbor’s yard. (He came back an hour later and repeated the performance for my wife, two daughters, and a partner who had joined us for a Saturday lunch…providing another fifteen minuets of entertainment after the meal.)
I have read that Red Squirrels are actually more of a problem for humans than Greys. Perhaps because of their boldness, they are more likely to damage buildings and ornamental plants than Greys. Some college campuses have imported the Black variant of the Grey Squirrel (a slightly more aggressive variety) specifically to cut down the number of Reds. On the other hand, in the UK, where the invasive Grey Squirrel has lead to a drastic decline in Red Squirrel numbers, there is an active “save the Red Squirrel” campaign pretty much nation wide. Here in Maine, at least for me, a Red Squirrel is still a special treat.
Or, since it is Sunday, a blessing. The Red Squirrel visit filled me with joy…and delighted the family at lunch. Delighted! Filled us with light…or at least topped up our light supply. It was an “all creatures great and small” moment, when we felt generous toward all that lives. And I am still feeling generous this morning. So generous I think I will put out another block of peanut-butter suet for the Grays! God’s creatures, after all. And for that they can thank the Red Squirrel.