Evening Squirrel Watch

My previous post, you may remember, was about a Hackberry tree we had decided to cut down that was looming a little too close to the swimming pool for our comfort. But after FD had trimmed only a few branches surrounding the first large limb to be cut, we saw a squirrel leap from the tree and make fast tracks into the woods. I had a bad feeling it was a mama squirrel. I knew that tree had housed most of our orphaned squirrels for a time until they were ready to make homes deeper in the woods. Sure enough, as FD peered into the deep crevice at the base of that large limb, there was a nest containing five baby squirrels. Their eyes were just opening, indicating these babies were between four and five weeks old. “Now this discovery was just our luck,” I thought while remembering the widow-maker elm tree we cut a couple of years ago that brought us Buddy and Francesca. Determined not to get stuck trying to raise five baby squirrels at the same time I am dealing with Bear’s seizures and eye treatments, we placed the babies in a shoe box – TEMPORARILY – while FD made the cut in the limb. After that limb came down, FD and I decided for the welfare of the baby squirrels, we would leave the rest of the tree and hopefully the mother would return that evening. FD fashioned a slant roof to cover the nest area and shelter the squirrel babies and their mama from the elements and predators. That evening, we ate a late dinner on the back porch and waited there until nearly dark to watch for the mother squirrel to return. To my delight, she finally did return, and for several mornings and nights after, we watched her come and go as she tended to her little ones.

Getting set up to cut the tree down!
Getting set up to cut the tree down!
Reaching down to retrieve the babies.
Reaching down to retrieve the babies.
One at a time FD removes the squirrels.
One at a time FD removes the squirrels.
These poor babies were covered with tiny fleas. After FD cut the limb, he put the babies back in the nest and then fashioned a slant roof for protection from the elements. There were still plenty of exiting holes to get in and out of.
These poor babies were covered with tiny fleas. After FD cut the limb, he put the babies back in the nest and then fashioned a slant roof for protection from the elements. There were still plenty of splits and holes for Mama Squirrel to get in and out of. I tossed the towel and box as everything was infested with fleas!
IMG_4812
Everyone except Mama Squirrel is back home, safe and sound!

After observing Mama Squirrel for a few weeks, I became quite familiar with her schedule. Early each morning, usually by 7:00, Mama Squirrel would leave the nest and head for the woods. However, early on, there were many mornings she had to spend time warding off other squirrels from her tree. One day she had four squirrels giving her trouble. But Mama Squirrel was ferocious about running every one of them off to the woods!  As time went on, Mama Squirrel seemed more comfortable about leaving her little ones on their own for longer periods of time.  I was never able to follow her very far into the woods because as soon as she made her way down the slope, she would scurry up into the trees, traveling the vast highways of limbs and branches that took her deeper into the woods. There was no way for me to track her as the woodlands greened up and the snarl of cat brier, wild vines, and honeysuckle made it next to impossible for me to keep an eye on her path. Sometimes in the early afternoon, I would see her emerging from the tree where her babies were, heading to the woods again. I imagined she nursed them mid day before taking off again. For me, the worrywart, I spent more time watching for Mama Squirrel in the evenings. With Ms. Foxy around and various hawks and owls in the woodlands I was always concerned that something could happen to her. Each evening I breathed a sigh of relief, just before sunset, as she emerged very carefully from the woods. She often returned to her nest in a round about way, not heading in a direct path. I knew she was a good and safe mother. Sometimes it was almost too dark to see when she finally slipped underneath the slant roof to her babies.

This is always the worst part of Mama Squirrel's return to her nest. Open ground makes a squirrel easy pickings for a predator.
This is always the worst part of Mama Squirrel’s return to her nest. Open ground makes a squirrel easy pickings for a predator.
Mama perches in various trees and often eats as if she is just going about her normal business. She is actually being very secretive about where her nest is.
Mama perches in various trees and often eats as if she is just going about her normal business. She is actually being very secretive about where her nest is. Double click on the photograph – if you look closely you will see Mama Squirrel’s teats are exposed. She still appears to be nursing her young in this photo.

By the time the babies were ten weeks old, I kept a closer watch for little ones to emerge from the nest. I knew the days were growing long for them. Mama Squirrel was off in the woods for extended periods of time, and the babies would be curious about the outside world. Sure enough, one day I photographed one lone youngster peeping out from one of many lookout holes around the slant roof. As I went around the tree to photograph from a different angle, there was another perfectly camouflaged baby peering out from inside a narrow crack. In the next days, it was comical to see all sorts of little heads popping out from under the roof. Sometimes I would laugh as two heads would pop through a hole and a small argument would ensue over what sibling got the best perch.  One baby in particular was adventurous and climbed all around the slant roof. I watched yet another getting its first taste of wood, as it curiously began gnawing on a small branch. Of course there also were many hours where no babies were seen at all. Naps are important you know!

Baby Squirrel_4963 Baby Squirrel_4969 Baby Squirrels_4974 Baby Squirrels_4987 Baby Squirrels_4988 Baby Squirrels_4990

One evening, Mama Squirrel returned early. She did not go to the tree that housed her babies. Instead, she sat for a long time in a tree just west of the nest. She did not move or change position for nearly an hour. Almost too dark to see anymore, I used my binoculars to watch her finally move to the tree where her babies were. Still, she did not go inside for another ten minutes. When she finally slipped under the little roof, I wondered why she was acting so strangely. For a moment, I worried that perhaps there was a predator nearby that I was not aware of. I knew the nest area was more exposed without branches and leaves to hide it. Barred owls and various hawks were always a threat from the skies. Many times I had observed snakes climbing up a tree slithering into hollowed limbs. And of course the red fox was always slinking around the property. So, as I stood on the back porch in the dark that evening, I sent Universe a special prayer request – to please protect Mama Squirrel and her five little babies…

Mama Squirrel at dusk slipping into the nest cavity from the back side.
Mama Squirrel at dusk slipping into the nest cavity from the back side.

© 2016 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


45 thoughts on “Evening Squirrel Watch

    1. Oh, thank you Yetta! As you know, there is more to this story so I must get busy with the next installment! I finally got my new computer in order and am set up to put my watermark on the photos and have the flow of things a lot more organized regarding photo files, than I did on my old computer. It’s been frustrating but I think I’m back to good now! Oh, and I’ve been admiring your great bird and squirrel shots. I wish I had that kind of time in nature. Right now we’ve had so much rain that weeds are taking over the gardens and flower beds! Yikes! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Oh, what a story! Such cuteness is hard to top! I’ll look forward to hearing ‘the rest of the story’ as the months go by. I have a question–do the adult squirrels have a lot of fleas too or is that something that takes care of itself when they are out and about more? Thank you Lori. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Ardys! Yes, the adults have fleas too. It’s something we see in all mammals. There are even worse parasites than fleas – I plan to do a blog post on bot flies in whitetail deer soon. I suppose in the wild, animals get used to the irritation of dealing with insects and parasites. Daisy has always allowed me to remove ticks and other larvae that accumulate in her hair. I know it has to be highly irritating if she allows me to pick at her and yank ticks off of her – even in sensitive spots around the eyes and even on her rear end! I would imagine for the squirrels though, that living in a hollowed tree, the infestation of fleas would be terrible. When we found Buddy and Francesca last year, they had large red fleas on them that were easy to pick off. These five babies had very tiny fleas – impossible to eradicate!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Living on the edge of civilisation and nature is always an adventure of mind, body and soul. You have to learn how to straddle both worlds and find the interface between them and you and F.D. are doing an excellent job of giving nature her place in your world. A lovely post full of hope and happiness 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Fran! I have GOT to mosey over to your website and catch up. I’m overwhelmed these days – what with so much to do outdoors, and then trying to setup my new computer (my old computer crashed) and better organize my files. I’ve also been laid up a bit with my back… darned age is creeping up on me!! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, tell us about it! We have been working on our front acre of blackberries etc. that have been ruler of this area for 20 years plus and MAN is it hard work! We have managed to knock the spine out of it and have removed most of the big blackberry enclaves and it looks so different now and we can actually walk down to the big palm trees and the pond (that we need to fix for ducky) and are starting to see how lovely it could be down in this area. I remembered that there was a seat down in the garden somewhere and we found it…flat underneath a fallen dead tree! That’s how overgrown this part of the garden was. It’s like finding the secret garden all over again but it sure takes it out of you. I have a cold at the moment so I feel your pain and back pain is almost as bad as toothache! You have my complete sympathy. Computer pain is just about as bad but I have my own computer man (Steve) and if we can’t fix it, we are studying Digital Media at the moment and our lecturers can pretty much solve everything between them so we are A.O.K. 😉

        Like

        1. I always tell you that your can run circles around me! FD is great on the computer but the files are my junk to organize. The photographs have been a thorn in my side for a long while, but I think finally I have it worked out.

          I wish I could take some of those plants off of your hands! I’m still establishing things here where you are tearing out and getting a wild mess under control. I don’t know how you manage classes, gardening, cooking and craft work. I still say you are WONDER WOMAN!!!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. This last gardening event sure took it out of us. We did have a nice fire that we kept going to burn all of the debris that we generated and are thinking of making it a permanent fire pit as it was so nice.

            Like

          2. We have a burn pile area which I used mostly in the winter for burning off plant debris on the place. And we have a fire pit for entertaining and to have cookouts. I can see us using the fire pit all winter long – it’s in the “bowl” area of the canyon with trees all around. Just a gorgeous area to watch wildlife and look up at the stars! Yes, our age is what is causing the fatigue and inability to rock and roll like we used to. Rats!

            Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll be writing about this in the next day or two! Mama Squirrel found the coolest tree in the woods to move them to, and I got photographs of the last two kids being moved. It was very exciting!! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I can tell myself that death and loss are a natural part of the circle of life all day long. Doesn’t matter. I still want ALL of the baby things to live and thrive. I hope mama and her wee ones thrive and that you get to continue to enjoy watching them from your little corner of creation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m like you, Cherity – I want everything to live and thrive. I find myself not liking the fox much at all. I wish it would move to another area. I have more to tell about Mama Squirrel and the babies… I will get right on it in the next couple of days!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a squirrel nightmare having to watch for the babies mother. Hope by now, since the post, that all is right with the squirrel world. They do indeed carry fleas. I feel for those little varmints. I suppose that flea infestation probably takes a toll on the young sometimes. I have oodles of squirrels in my yard. I put out extra seed and sunflower seeds about 2 hours before dark. I can count up to 8-10 sometimes as they sit with their bushy tails and fill up for supper time.

    The pictures are great. It took lots of patience to get those. The squirrels here build their nests in the life oaks and the elms. They are smart little boogers love my figs and I have to get up early to get my share from my 5 fig trees. I planted extra trees just for the wildlife.

    Like

    1. Normally, Yvonne, I wouldn’t worry so much about squirrels I don’t know all that well, but with the tree cutting FD and I felt kind of responsible for the new danger of an more exposed home for them. And of course, I’m a worrywart about all of the critters in the woodlands. I really dislike the fox. It attacks and kills everything. Now watch since I’ve proclaimed my dislike – this will be the year I’ll be presented with fox cubs to raise! Ha ha.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That is one slick roof! It’s amazing to me how many encounters you and FD have with wildlife right there in your backyard. Just goes to show what one can see if she knows what she’s looking for. I wish you lived next to our cabin so you could help us see what we’re not noticing! 😊

    Like

    1. Monica, it took raising orphaned Daisy deer to slow me down to start noticing nature. Each time I walk with her, she shows me something new. I wonder if I’ll ever graduate from “deer” academy!! 😀

      Like

  6. Hello my name is Christie and I have been reading your post for a long time now. I enjoy them so much, especially the squirrel “tales.”
    These stories are very close to my heart especially right now. Our pet squirrel, “nutts” just passed away on Weds, April 20th. He was 14 years old. He crawled up on my husbands shoe one day while he was cutting grass at his mothers. He was so tiny he hardly had any fur. We had no way to raise him as you do yours, so he never experienced the wild. He lived in a very nice cage on our porch for 14 years and ate much better than most wild squirrels. He seemed happy all those years. He had developed cataracts on both eyes and he did not hear well, especially this last year. He climbed into his little wood box that Martin, my husband had built for him and passed away. We buried him in it and placed his large cedar stump from his cage as the marker on his grave. We are sad and miss seeing him every day. We passed by his cage each time we exited the door. If he was not resting he would jump up on this wire to greet us when we passed by, always ready for another bite to eat.

    We would take another one if needed but would rather not. If it happens though we live now where we could raise another one differently and allow it to venture out into the wild as you have done with yours.

    Christie from South Carolina

    Like

    1. Hello Christie! Thank you so much for sharing about Nutts. Every experience with wildlife is precious and I believe there is so much we can learn from each species. Fourteen years is a long life for a squirrel, so I’m sure you miss his presence and company. I doubt the longing ever goes away… they certainly leave a mark on us. Every single one does. And,they all have such different personalities… some set off on their own right away while others stick around for a long time. Punkin still comes to visit on rainy days.

      I have to say Daisy deer will be to me like Nutts was to you. I will forever cherish my relationship with her. I am still so thankful that she allowed FD and me into her world and that she shared her young with us. It’s truly life changing to take in a wild critter, and interact with it. Consider yourself very blessed! 🙂

      Thank you for your lovely words. When I read a comment like yours, it just makes my day! 🙂

      Like

  7. A fascinating read – after nearly five weeks! You’ve come back with the proverbial bang! Looking forward to the next installment and, more than that, the pictures!

    Like

  8. Wonderful observations of the squirrels Lori, you have a brilliant skill of making every word fascinating to read! I’m hoping that your prayer to the Universe was heard, and all is well with in the squirrel household 🙂

    Like

    1. Yes, all is well as far as I know. I’ll update more on that in the next post. It was all just too much to put in one post so I had to start with the kids growing up… and Mama Squirrel’s concerns. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi Andy! As long as we leave the squirrel tree standing in our backyard, I’m sure there will be plenty of babies and squirrel tales to tell! I’ve often thought about writing a series of woodland books featuring various species of mammal. There is so much to learn about animals and how they survive.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, they are some sweeties, Lynda. You know FD and I love the wild things around here. Mostly now though, we’re assisting our old dogs. It’s like running a little nursing home most days.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. That is one scraggly tree (and I’d trim it up too). The squirrel family picked the right neighborhood to move into. Glad the mom was accepting of help/roof work – looks great. The first picture of the trio of kids is darling. Nothing is more fun than watching a squirrel family – but I know what you mean about holding your breath with predators. Life is so difficult.
    The animal rescue groups are busy with displaced animal babies here – but are telling people there’s always room so keep calling.
    A little whisper of thanks to you for your efforts.
    (and I’m hurrying to catch up with reading!)

    Like

    1. We have had several wildlife calls this week. It’s baby season. Of course I’m sure with all of the flooding you’ve had, baby season is the least of it! Lots of critters get displaced or separated from the parents, and there must be some injuries. Here, Wildcare, was threatened by a tornado last week. When I took a tour of their facility in March, I realized they too have an evacuation plan in case of bad weather. We ordered a storm shelter last week. There’ll be room for little critters too should we have any to care for at the time of a storm. I doubt we could ever get Daisy deer in such confinement now that she’s been wild for so long! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.