Lizzie, being a typical dog, likes to chase squirrels. While I let her chase them because she enjoys it so much, I put Lizzie at the disadvantage by warning the squirrels, usually by making extra noise when I open the door. I enjoy watching her chase the squirrels but I don’t want her to actually catch them. Truth be told, I like squirrels, particularly the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). I enjoy watching them and they are, for the most part, harmless.
This winter I noticed a dearth of gray squirrels in our yard. We normally have 3-4 gray squirrels and an occasional American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). I have seenRed fox (Vulpes vulpes) come through our yard so I suspect they have reduced the squirrel population. The situation became so bad that entire weeks would go by without me seeing any squirrels in our yard. Deciding that I had to do something to help the squirrels (and keep Lizzie entertained), I began placing food out for them. I put the food in locations that they could easily access without putting them in undue danger of predators.
Today, Lizzie and I looked out a window to see a gray squirrel eating peanuts on a Tiki statue in our backyard. Despite her penchant for chasing them, she quietly watched it eat. Perhaps she too understood that she can’t chase squirrels if there are no squirrels to chase and, therefore, let it have a meal.
This is the second year in which I recorded the first observations of the year. The following are a few of our observations:
On Sunday, March 1, 2020, I saw a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) investigating a nest box I had filled with pine shavings the day before. The next day, I could see they were preparing it by removing shavings. Nuthatches are cavity nesters. They will often stash shavings and chips they remove from a cavity in the bark of the tree they are working in. I saw a lot of shavings stashed into crevices in the bark of the tree the nest box is attached to.
Kat noticed buds on the maples and oaks on Monday, March 2, 2020. One of our neighbor’s trees has large buds on it. I don’t recall seeing that large before.
It appears that as of Saturday, March 7, it is still mating season for the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) mating season. I saw a squirrel being chased by another in a manner suggestive of one being a female in heat and the other an interested male.
I saw and heard the first American Robin (Turdus migratorius) of the season on Tuesday, March 10. It was perched in a fruit tree adjacent to our patio.
While walking with Lizzie on Friday, March 13, we heard Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) singing near the pond on the north side of the street.
We have a dozen White oak (Quercus alba) trees on our property, several of which are large and overhang the house, patio, and sidewalks. Starting in August, there is a constant staccato of knocks on the roof when the oaks drop their ripe acorns. When the wind gusts, the bombardment from the falling acorns is particularly heavy. And this year, the bombardment has been especially heavy, even on calm days with little wind.
Last year, the oaks produced a very small crop of acorns, so much so that I don’t recall seeing any on the walkways. This year, as if to compensate for last year’s meager output, the oaks produced a copious quantity of acorns. Regardless if we sweep the walkways once or twice a day, by the next morning, they are covered with acorns.
This morning, the bombardment by the back steps seemed strangely intense and concentrated. Looking out the window, I saw two acorns hit Lizzie in quick succession. When I went to investigate, I saw a gray squirrel up on a branch. It was the cause of the intensified bombardment!
After the squirrel had ran off to a different tree, I ran inside the house to retrieve my phone so I could take photos. Returning with the phone, I squatted to take pictures of the acorns scattered on the sidewalk when I was hit on the head by an acorn! Unbeknownst to me, the squirrel had returned while I was inside and had renewed his bombardment!
I bought a game camera with the hope of recording the coming and going of a nesting pair of White-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) that were nesting in one of our nest boxes. For various reasons, that didn’t work out to my satisfaction. Looking for a use for the game camera, I placed it in various locations in our yard to discover what it might record. Below are a few images captured by it.
Another frequent visitor to our yard is the American robin, often with an eye towards the ground, looking for worms to eat. While gardening, I place any grubs I find on a stump for birds to eat. Robins are usually the first to snatch them up.
The Chipping Sparrow is a regular summer-time resident. I frequently see them hopping through the grass, looking for seeds and insects. They appear to be fairly bold birds, approaching within a few feet of Lizzie. Lizzie, for the most part, ignores them preferring to hunt for rodents.
The summer of 2013, we shared our yard with an whiteEastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) that we called Whitey. White and black squirrels are morphs of the Eastern Gray Squirrel. Unless they have pink eyes, white squirrels are not albino.
Whitey had balance issues. He never seemed capable of running in a straight line. As he ran, he would veer to the right. He would then stop, correct his direction, and start running again, only to veer to the right. He also had issues staying upright on his hindquarters while eating. He often tipped over.
His being white was a marked disadvantage when it came to escaping predators. The local hawks often hunted him. We did our best to protect him by chasing off the hawks by throwing rocks at them. Unfortunately, Whitey lived with us only a year before he disappeared. I suspect a hawk got him despite our efforts to protect him.
We often found Whitey eating and digging under the shrubs next to our side patio.
Lizzie was laying down inside the door off of our living room. We have a magnetic screen door to allow easy egress while keeping out insects such a mosquitos. She was laying justing inside the screen door, watching for squirrels when she saw one crossing the yard from one tree to another. Leaping into action, she sprung from her spot and ran across the yard at full speed.
Despite being a fast dog, Lizzie normally poses no threat to gray squirrels. And like previous times, she wasn’t a real threat to this squirrel. The squirrel easily made it to a tree and scaled it to get out of reach of Lizzie.
This time, events played out unexpectedly. The squirrel fell out of the tree.
It fell out of the tree, landing on the ground in front of Lizzie. Lizzie looked at me with a quizzical look, as if to ask, “What should I do?”
The squirrel quickly righted itself and ran towards a different tree. Lizzie reacted quickly and gave chase. At this point, the squirrel was in desperate straits. When it attempted to climb another tree, Lizzie leaped and pulled it down. Lizzie chased the squirrel around the tree several times before the squirrel tried to run for the fence. Alas for the squirrel, that was its fatal mistake, for Lizzie easily ran it down and caught it.
After catching the squirrel and tossing it around a few times, it was clear that Lizzie didn’t know what to do with the squirrel. This resulted in a wounded squirrel that probably would not survive on its own. I put it out of its suffering by executing a cervical dislocation to sever its spinal cord.
Thus is the story of the first squirrel caught by Lizzie.