The squirrels were, quite simply, frantic before our first snow; lots of last-minute gathering, storing and burying of nuts all over my back lawn.
Now, after our first snows have come and gone and we’ve got bare ground again, they’re working from caches in hollows of trees along the property line that separates my land from my neighbor’s. They’re also digging out individually buried nuts that they’ve tucked a mere half-inch below the ground in my yard. I know they sniff them out all winter long—they can even find them beneath a foot or more of snow, either by smell or by some miraculous internal mapping system!
And now that the leaves are down and the maples and oaks along my street are stark, I can see the drays hanging in the branches—there’s lots of squirrel real estate in my neighborhood this year.
Built of twigs, leaves, grass and even dried flower stalks, these winter drays, wedged in the crotches of uppermost branches of the trees, are as much as thirty feet above ground. They look like messy humps of brown, dead leaves (nothing fancy here) but they’re wonderfully engineered: twigs and branches woven together, lined with leaves and grass and even pine needles for warmth and comfort. The entrance is on the underside (to keep out the rain and snow) facing away from the prevailing winter winds.
Inside, there’s room for one or two North American grays. They prefer to live alone, but during our cold winters, they sometimes double up for warmth. There’s also a mating season in late January/early February, so having larger quarters might be an enticement—goodness knows a larger house would certainly impress me!
We have a healthy community of grays here in my neighborhood. Lots of us have birdfeeders, and some of us have come to the realization that we feed more squirrels than birds—squirrels are little thieves, indeed, and professional acrobats when it comes to figuring out how to get into our feeders. I’ve seen them leap, twist, dive out of trees onto feeders, watched them hang upside down from wires and perches, even leap from roofs and fences!
And when the supply of seed runs low, they’ll let you know—they’ll even sit on the back porch and screech at you to fill your feeders, those sassy little beggars!
And we do.
After all, we wouldn’t want the neighborhood to go to seed.