Today I’m Grateful for…a Squirrel

In this trying time, I’m finding how important it is for my mental health to have something to distract my mind from the endless “what if” thoughts spiraling around my head. I lucked into my first “mental health project” of the day this morning, when I walked into the kitchen and my sleepy eyes caught movement in the yard.

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A mouthful of leaves and newspaper

Last fall I put down layers of newspaper to create some new beds in my native plant garden. This fox squirrel has discovered that the paper makes excellent nesting material, and she’s been grabbing mouthfuls of it and running up the neighbor’s oak tree to refurbish her nest. (It could be a male as well, but I’m just going to pretend it’s a female.) She’s also mixing leaves into these bundles, and I’m extra glad I didn’t rake all of my leaves last fall.

That’s the view of the big oak tree from my kitchen window, with the nest circled in red.  The nest has been up there for at least a year, and I’d never been able to get photos of the squirrel actually using it. I’ve seen blue jays go up there and poke around the underside for insects, but it’s so high that I can’t really get good close pics of anything.

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I watched her make several forays up the tree and back down to my yard, using the power lines and my fence as convenient highways. (There’s video below these photos.)

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Snowflakes were falling as the fence gecko tried to sneak up on the distracted squirrel. That colorful lizard was left by my home’s previous owners, and I quite enjoy having it there, especially in winter when it adds a pop of color to a mostly-gray scene.

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Halfway between the ground and the nest, aware that I’m watching her.

I wonder if this is the same squirrel I watched flipping over my freshly-filled bird feeder yesterday? I ran out of regular bird seed, and all I had left was something from Wild Birds Unlimited called Bark Butter Bits, in the pepper-laced variety that is supposed to be unpalatable to squirrels. The squirrel went from one feeder to the next, inspecting each container and finding the same nasty surprise in it. I think the flipping over of the feeder was an act of revenge on me for not serving up the food she wanted. If squirrels were the size of humans (or even of dogs), we’d be in such trouble!

If you have your sound turned on as you watch these two videos, you’ll hear robins chirping, and my resident cardinal singing. (And you might also hear my microwave beeping…oops.) In this first one, she tears the paper and then runs rapidly along the top of the fence.

This last video shows her running from the power lines to the tree and then up to the nest.  She ran too fast for me to keep the camera on her, but I tried.

I was thinking of ending my bird feeding for the season (I only feed in winter), but now that I’ll be at home most of the time, I think I’ll go get some more seed today, before they close the rest of the businesses here in Ohio.  (I assume that’s the next step in fighting the coronavirus.) I think watching my feeder birds is going to become an important “mental health project” for me in the coming weeks.

I hope you find some good projects to keep your mind busy through this period of isolation, and I’d love to hear about them.

9 thoughts on “Today I’m Grateful for…a Squirrel”

  1. I’m currently watching Carolina Wrens tend to their chicks in a hanging plant that we have under our covered walkway that goes from the house to the detached garage. My mental health is awesome! We actually went to WBU yesterday, gave air hugs and got mealworms for the wrens. The owner told us about his online shipping and that will be the last in-person trip for a while. The cardinals and wrens have found the meal worms and I think the cardinals may have a nest of young in our backyard too. Happy Birding at home!

  2. My mental health project is watching Chickadees shopping our nest boxes trying to decide which one they want to make a nest in. They spent much time in the one in the back garden with honeysuckle that grows on a screen that the house is attached to. It would be great fun if they nest there. I can watch them from a kitchen window.

  3. Wild Birds will deliver on orders over $75, or you can call them and pay with credit, and when you get there, call them, and while you remain in the car they will put into your hatch or trunk. I don’t want them to go out of business. Stay close Kim to stay connected. Blessings and Hope – Marian

  4. You got much better photographs than I did, watching the same type of activity here. I was just getting ready to do a post on a squirrel I observed one morning, carrying some kind of pillow or garment fluff from the neighbor’s backyard (something his dogs tore up) all the way to a tree in the far west end of our property. She was very cautious – at one point she spotted me and stayed tucked in honeysuckle for more than thirty minutes, until she felt I was no longer a threat! She made this long trek all day long until rain stopped her. And it could be either sex you are seeing. Right now females are preparing their nests for having babies, but most of the time they choose a dead tree hollow. All squirrels generally prefer a good leaf nest this time of year as temperatures warm.

    1. Lori, that’s what I assumed — that tree cavities were preferred for having babies and that this exposed nest would be just a regular sleeping spot. Your story of watching your squirrel is good too. I tried to make sure my squirrel didn’t see me, assuming she would hide. But she seemed to just look at me and continue on her way. Maybe urban squirrels are just used to having so many people around all the time!

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