Two Romeos, one Juliet.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
O, that I were a glove upon that hand
That I might touch that cheek!
These are lines from the Bard’s most famous play, of course. The story came to mind last week when I noticed two squirrels engaged in a chase. As the critters careened through the trees, with their signature acrobatic leaps and hairpin turns, I couldn’t say who was pursuing whom. I thought initially—it being spring, after all—that I was watching a Romeo in pursuit of his Juliet.
But then I spied the true object of these squirrels’ desire.
Continue reading “Shakespeare for Squirrels”
If there’s an apt word to describe Canada geese, that’s the one. They’re always around, sometimes just a pair, more often honking in what seems like the hundreds. I tend to pay little attention to these loud-mouthed creatures.
But a few weeks ago, I woke to an eerily beautiful sight—a line of languid geese seemingly also starting their day. The group was strewn across Lake Allegan’s February ice. The air was misty…almost ethereal.
I wondered … did the birds spend their night on the ice?
Continue reading “Good Morning, Geese!”
It looked like a sno-cone.
Yesterday, I watched a squirrel make and eat miniature snowballs. As he ate, that frosty childhood treat came to mind. Then I realized my neighborhood creatures are experiencing a drought. Our snowy Michigan landscape looks eerily beautiful this week, but Arctic temperatures have frozen all the wildlife water sources.
This fellow ate his sno-cone with seeming gusto, and I wondered: How do tree squirrels cope with bitter-cold weather?
Continue reading “A Thirst for Snow”
There’s something remarkable in this photo.
At first, I didn’t see it. I was reviewing old photos and videos, and all I noticed here was the fungus growing inside the tree. Despite losing its top, this tree has provided nesting space for woodpeckers, wood ducks, and squirrels. But the fungus tells me our wildlife magnet is now so rotted, its shelter days may be winding down. So, the fungus inside the trunk is interesting, but that’s not what fascinates me about the photo.
Look carefully at the squirrel. He’s climbing head-first down the tree trunk. But what about the toes we see grasping the edge? Is that foot coming, or is it going?
Continue reading “Over the Edge”
A furry plume caught my eye.
Why, I wondered, would a squirrel enter a den to escape a raging snowstorm, but leave its tail hanging outside, waving in the wind? The animal could easily continue into the tree; there’s plenty of room in the hollow trunk. I have seen as many as four squirrels disappear into that den.
I watched, curious. When would the creature withdraw its tail and scamper the rest of the way inside? Twenty minutes passed, and the tail remained outdoors.
So, I turned to my zoom lens for a closer look.
Continue reading “Curious Sciurus”
Last spring, a mama squirrel was itchin’ to relocate her babies.
She moved them from one den to another—same tree, different apartment. That tree has four cavities whose entry holes are visible from the house, topped by a skylight. Mama carried each kid out of a lower cavity, up the trunk, and into a higher hole. Why? The most likely answer, my online search revealed, was to escape a flea-infested nest.
I wondered if the move really helped. The entire residential complex seemed likely to house fleas, as it was common to see birds and squirrels enter one hole and exit another. I suspected the fleas roamed freely through tunnels connecting the cavities.
I’ll never know if mama’s work was rewarded by a bite-free zone for her kids. I hope so! Nobody wants to think of babies enduring the misery of bug bites. But if she returns to that upper apartment, I suspect she’ll mark it off-limits for future nesting.
Two squirrels–not necessarily including the mama in question–recently lined the upper cavity with leaves. They’re sheltering inside. The other day, one of them climbed out and gave me ample evidence that a flea-festation has reached the upper abode.
Continue reading “Scritch Scratch Squirrel”
A place for everything and everything in its place.
That admonition came to mind as I watched a familiar bird engage in some very peculiar behavior.
Great Blue Herons are a common sight out my window. One fellow (or girl—they look the same) appears regularly on the edge of Eagle Island, about 1,000 feet from our home. He comes out to feed, stalking fish and amphibians as he tip-toes through shallow water in classic heron style. Step. Pause. Stare. Step. Pause. Stare. Step. Pause…Pounce!
But on that July day, something else drew the bird’s attention.
Continue reading “Great Blue Baffling Behavior”
I wonder. Does the standard onomatopoeia for ‘spitting’ apply to woodpeckers?
Ptooey is a brilliant onomatopoetic expression, but I’ve never had my ear quite close enough to hear a Red-Bellied Woodpecker spit.
I need to take a photography class, so I can show you the look of concentration on the bird’s face the instant he spews the chips. That class is on my to-do list. But the good news is, you can see the bird’s determined demeanor on video if you keep scrolling.
Continue reading “Red-Bellied Ptooey!”
Use your saddest raspy voice, and you’ll sound like a squirrel singing the blues.
Quaaa is how biologists describe the squirrel screech that catches my ear from time to time. If you live anywhere near a tree, you’ve probably heard it, too, along with the critters’ kuks and moans, the other documented squirrel sounds.
The scientists call the quaaa an alarm sound, but after seeing one mama perform an extended quaaa soliloquy, I think they’re misinterpreting the lady’s meaning.
Read more and see the video
Loons are world-class divers.
But not the young ones; at least not for several weeks. On a recent Algonquin paddling trip, I noticed Common Loon parents diving for fish and then surfacing to pass the goodies to their chicks. The fluffy-feathered kids appeared to be good swimmers and sometimes they disappeared momentarily under the water. So why weren’t they foraging their own food?
The answer, it turns out, is in those fluffy feathers.
Read more and see the video