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Posts Tagged ‘squirrels’

Dining out solo is often avoided but doesn’t have to be a dreadful experience.  Considering the following advice may enhance your chances of enjoying yourself while eating out at a table for one.  For example, you might feel that everyone is watching you.  Show some confidence.  Perhaps they don’t get to see a natural redhead every day, especially one with such an attractive tail.

Choosing to dine at less busy times might make you less self-conscious.  Those pesky chickadees with all their twittering would certainly contribute to your sense of loneliness.   Bring along a book to read but realize that reading The Nutcracker after the Christmas season is over may attract unwanted stares.  Enjoy a glass of wine  as it might make you feel more relaxed.  Just make sure you can hold your liquor.

Once you’ve done it a few times, you might wonder why you ever dreaded eating alone in the first place.  Spared the need to carry on a conversation, you might find yourself appreciating the tastes and aromas of your dinner even more than usual.  Feel free to dig in.

Of course, if you choose to simply eat on the run, the loss is yours.  There will always be those who are more than eager to partake in the delights of dining solo.

Scott at Views Infinitum has extended an open invitation to take part in his food photography assignment.  Deadline for submissions is Wednesday, January 26th at midnight.  Bon appétit!

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spruce tree tops

White spruce branches are heavy with cones wherever I look:  in the yard, near Rainbow Haven Beach and along the Salt Marsh Trail.  It looks like a bumper crop year.  The squirrels and birds must be happy.

spruce cones2

If a plant is under stress from the weather one year, it will produce more seed the following year.  The year after Hurricane Juan hit Nova Scotia was also a bumper crop year.  Wind certainly helps with pollination.

Although it’s not yet understood how they do it, it’s believed that some bird species, such as finches, can locate a bumper crop of cones from half a continent away.  Their ability to do this might have something to do with their highly developed sensory and nervous systems.

balsam fir cones

Balsam fir cones can also be found on the ground in the yard.  There are more of these trees than any other here.  The majority of them grew up shortly after Hurricane Juan took down the larger trees in 2003, allowing more light and rain to reach the seeds on the bottom of the forest floor.

spruce cones on trail

While walking along the Salt Marsh Trail, it’s difficult to not take it personally when squirrels are throwing cones down from the top of trees.  In their quest for the perfect cone, flawed ones fall to the ground.  Perhaps this bumper crop is an indicator that I won’t have to put out as many sunflower seeds this winter.  There seem to be enough cones out there to feed an army of Red Squirrels.

red squirrel

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canada day squirrel

How will the local wildlife be celebrating Canada Day 2009?   

sunrise

Wild creatures make the most of each day that dawns.  Their families have lived in Canada generations longer than any of ours and could probably teach us a thing or two about how to celebrate the land.  They don’t care who owns the territory they live on or how it’s administered politically.  We humans care so much more about ownership and nationalities, often to the point of being as ridiculous as fleas arguing over which one of them owns the dog. 

flowers

Around the world, our country is known for its vast wilderness and beauty.  If we really wanted to celebrate Canada, we’d take this day to savour and enjoy the  brightest blooms of summer, its greenest leaves and its tallest trees.  We’d get up early to watch the sun rise over the vast landscape and take time at the end of the day to watch it set.  We’d spend as much time as possible outdoors, feeling the coolness of the grass beneath our feet and the sunshine or rain on our faces.  We’d splash around in lakes and sink our toes into the sand on the beaches along our coasts.  Only then would we realize that it is not us who have a hold on the land, but rather that it is the land that has a hold on us.

woods

Remember, you belong to Nature, not it to you.

~ Grey Owl

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birdbath reflections

Mating season must be coming to an end.  And once couples are at the stage of rearing their young, there’s not much time in the day left for socializing at the watering hole.  Yet the birdbath in the backyard continues to attract wild birds and squirrels.   After they’ve had a sip and a dip, I can’t help but wonder why they’re still hanging and perching around. 

Is it the fresh and trendy decor provided by the birch trees or the sunflower seed happy hour snacks?  Don’t they have nests to go home to?

four squirrels

Four Red Squirrels Enjoying the Happy Hour Snacks

The crowd that stays around latest in the evening consists mostly of Mourning Doves (maybe misery really does love company) and a few Red Squirrels.  The odd Ring-necked Pheasant will drop by for a quick drink on his way home from a rough day in the backwoods.  He’ll try to throw his weight around (hopefully not tip over the birdbath!) and crow a little before heading home.  The regulars are a pretty easy going bunch.

I wonder where they’d all go if the birdbath was no longer there?  Some muddy puddle near the bog perhaps.  It would still have a certain misty ambience, but the happy hour snacks wouldn’t probably be half as tasty.  I’m glad to have them here, and hopefully one day, I’ll get to know everybody’s name.  Cheers!

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squirrels in trees

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

~ Charles Dickens

It started out as a whirlwind relationship with all the romantic trimmings…  playful chases through the forest, bouquets of fresh evergreens, blazing sunsets and quiet sunflower seed dinners by moonlight.  Nothing this good could last forever… something was bound to happen to end it all… kids!

squirrels eating

They’re everywhere:  leaping in the trees, eating at the bird feeders and drinking at the birdbath.  I counted seven yesterday.  [Up to 18 can co-exist per acre (Layne 1954) , an area just a bit smaller than my yard].  Although three can be seen in the photograph above, there was actually a fourth that had just slipped behind  the tree.  They’re cute, but they’re constantly squabbling with one another.

squirrels

“He stole my sunflower seeds!”

“I was sitting on that post first!”

“She keeps biting my tail!  Mommmmmm!!!!!”

Recklessly leaping from branch to branch, their antics and chatter make them an easy target for predators, putting the whole family at risk.  It never ends.  Dawn until sunset… day after day… week after week… what are squirrel parents to do?  Hmmmm… Why not have more?

Red Squirrels will often have more than one set of offspring per season if the situation is good.  Which it obviously is…

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mint-and-chives

April is a promise that May is bound to keep.

~ Hal Borland

mountain-ash

April’s promise of spring has unfolded in a flurry of activity this month.  New growth is everywhere:  in the yard and in the woods.  Strawberry flowers are already in bloom along the Salt Marsh trail.  As much as I look forward to this time of year, it still seems to catch me by surprise.  Did I somehow believe it wouldn’t happen?

Bird activity is constant.   The chatter is especially noisy  in the early morning hours.  It’s not unusual to hear a pheasant crowing in the yard at 3:45 am.  Grackles, doves, woodpeckers, chickadees, juncos, sparrows and robins hang out around the feeder well past our supper time.

The squirrels are either chasing each other around, eating at the feeder or  scolding intruders.  Their presence is made known throughout the day. 

Spider threads and webs are everywhere in the woods, created in anticipation of the black flies and mosquitoes that are surely going to be out in full force soon.  The insects will also provide food for the baby birds soon to be hatched.  

He that is in a towne in May loseth his spring. 

~George Herbert

spider-threads

red-squirrel

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squirrel-tail

As colorful as it is, a Red Squirrel’s tail blends in well with the landscape.

When I was young, I recall many boys collecting squirrel tails as tiny trophies to show off their prowess with a gun or slingshot.  I don’t think any of them ate squirrel at their house, so the whole point of killing the squirrel was to get the tail.  

Besides trophies, are there any other uses for a squirrel’s tail?  Of course there are:

  • Red Squirrels use their tails for warmth.  A tail’s fluffiness would certainly increase the loft surrounding their bodies in the cold.
  • Evert alert, Red Squirrels use their tails as little flags with which to signal one another and other creatures in the forest should a predator enter their environment.
  • Mostly arboreal, Red Squirrels leap from branch to branch as a means of moving across their territory.  Their tails help to balance their fall so that they are more likely than not, to land according to plan.
  • Some have suggested that a squirrel will use its tail as a diversion for predators and as something to be caught and ripped apart (rather than their bodies) during an attack. 

Regardless of its many uses, a squirrel’s tail is a beautiful ornament for an amazing little creature, but best left attached.

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icylichens

An ice storm overnight left a crust on the snow and a glass coating on every exposed surface in the woods.  Even the Old Man’s Beard was covered with ice.  Pinecones were covered in a crystal shell as well, making it difficult for birds and squirrels to get at the seeds.  I’m sure they’ll appreciate anything they can get from bird feeders this morning.

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Two types of flying squirrels are found in Nova Scotia:  Northern Flying Squirrels and Southern Flying Squirrels.  Both are noctural and are active year-round.  The Southern type is much smaller. Yesterday, Carl, one of my neighbors, brought over some information about Southern Flying Squirrels that he had acquired from the Biology Department at Acadia University.  A while back he had taken down a snag in his backyard that, unbeknownst to him, was full of flying squirrels.  He thought the squirrels had probably kept a low profile for fear of his dogs. 

Our subdivision has expanded considerably in the past 20 years.  Old and dead trees are not as common as they were prior to the development.  The area around the bog is still in its natural state, but the trees there are stunted in their growth and not large enough for nesting.  The flying squirrels in Carl’s yard probably weighed the risk of the dogs in their decision to settle in that old trunk. 

The information Carl had received from Acadia University mentioned that there have been oak trees wherever Southern Flying Squirrels have been found.  They likely depend on the acorns to survive the winter.  A recent article in the Washington Post reveals an absence of acorns this year from the Midwest up through New England extending to Nova Scotia.  See:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/29/AR2008112902045.html 

 southernsquirrel1

Northern Flying Squirrels are able to include lichens, fungi and seeds in their winter diet but the lack of acorns would certainly be bad news to Southern Flying Squirrels everywhere.

The image at left is from a poster entitled ‘Have you seen this squirrel?  The Southern Flying Squirrel is a species at risk.’  Acadia University would like to hear if anyone has sighted Southern Flying Squirrels in Nova Scotia.  The number provided is 1-866-RARE-4-NS

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snowsquirrel1Whenever there’s a snowstorm, do you ever wonder how the wild animals are staying safe and warm? 

Mammals have heavier coats at this time of year.  These provide extra space in their fur to trap air and keep the heat in.  But Nova Scotia’s winter winds can be brutally cold.  Luckily, there’s snow.

Who would have thought that dry, fluffy snow is 95% air, a fact that makes it an excellent insulator.  By snuggling into a snow drift, mice, squirrels and hares can prevent substantial heat loss.  My dog Kulik, an Alaskan Malamute and Timber Wolf cross, often curled himself into a ball and hunkered down into a snow bank during snowstorms.  He looked quite cozy and content.

Although wild animals instinctively seem to know how to use snow to their best advantage, domestic animals like cats are best kept indoors during snowstorms.  My brother lost one of his cats one year when she became trapped in a snow drift.  Sadly, he didn’t find her until the following Spring.

If a blanket of snow stays on the ground during the winter months, small animals like mice will create tunnels in it.  Besides sheltering them from the winter cold, these tunnels allow the mice to travel to food sources without the worry of predators.  One winter in Southern Ontario, when some mice took up residence in my home, I was told it was because there wasn’t a constant snow cover in the nearby fields that year. 

A blanket of snow will also insulate flower beds and plants from the winter cold.  Snow shoveled next to a house’s foundation will also work at keeping the heat in.  Considering the new Nova Scotia Power rate hikes set to come into effect in January, I’m wondering if it might be worthwhile to start reading up on igloo construction techniques.

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