I’ve lived in this house for over 16 years, yet never noticed the squirrels until 2014. Perhaps it was the deep freeze that made them come closer to my house, or maybe being snow-bound has caused me to look out the window more often.
Today, in the midst of my empty-nest, working from home world, I not only notice squirrels, but also take great joy catering to them. I purchase big bags of seed for the birdfeeders, which I also sprinkle liberally into what serves as the birdbath in summer. I’ve learned that squirrels have a very hard time running in deep snow thanks to a vigorous tussle Gracie had with a slowpoke back in January. I think the little guy got away eventually, but continues to suffer from PTSD. My nurturing routine now includes shouting a warning to the squirrels before letting the dog out.
This bone chilling winter has allowed me to watch a parade of as many as 7 squirrels at one time outside my window. They remind me of a few important lessons:
Each One is Physically Unique
Never before had I noticed they were unique individuals with distinct sizes, fur quality, markings and color. There’s a big one with a bald spot on his back that visits often. Nobody gets near him when he eats. I also have a very tiny gray squirrel barely the size of a chipmunk, with a white belly. I have decided to call her “Pixie”. She is adorable and comes over alone most times. We also have a black squirrel “Blackie” that visits occasionally. She’s adorable. Paying attention has let me notice the beauty of their differences. The same can be said for the people I notice these days too.
Squirrels Respect Power and Hierarchy
As the various individuals venture out for a meal at my feeder, there is clearly a pecking order. The big one with the bald spot is KING. Nobody dares to mess with this guy or even get within 5 feet of him while he eats. There are a group of 3 red squirrels that often venture to the feeder together and have no trouble eating next to each other. I wonder if they are nest-mates. Others in the group pick fights regularly and it’s usually the smallest one who gets picked on the most. There’s that little loner Pixie who never comes out when others are around. I wonder where her family is? In any event, she gets her food, often in the very early hours before the others dare to leave the nest. It’s important to know you place in the power structure to survive, thrive and move up.
Squirrels Use Energy for Survival
Even the biggest of my squirrel friends could become an easy meal to a dog, fox or bird of prey. They are careful about venturing from the woods to cross the wide expanse of snow to reach the feeder near the door the dog uses. When the temperature is below 5 degrees, my squirrels don’t even dare to come out at all. They know how to preserve maximum energy and also when to take a risk. They are vigilant and if they sense danger, they seek shelter, then make a big vocal fuss from the tree so that the other squirrels can be alerted too. Every action taken is with a purpose and concern for survival. People do it too.
They Notice Us Too!
Most days, I now find a little squirrel face peering out from a nearby branch to look at me as I work or write in the sunroom. Maybe it’s a plea to fill up the feeder again? I smile thinking I’ve made winter nicer for the squirrels in the neighborhood and helped many of them survive what could have been deadly. The activity outside the window has brought smiles to my client’s faces too. Nurturing is a joyful pastime. Let’s hope the squirrels remember my kindness when the bulbs begin to sprout next month.