Meeting the Neighbors ~ The Comedians

A new friend, perched on a cypress knee and eating a cypress seed

Although I’ve seen both fox squirrels and eastern gray squirrels in my neighborhood, these are part of a trio I suspect to be gray squirrel siblings; their white bellies, smaller size, and white-fringed tail distinguish them from the larger, cinnamon-colored fox squirrels.

While they’re nesting in either a nearby palm or live oak, they play and lounge on a pair of cypress trees visible from my desk. One seems to have a favorite branch, where it grooms itself and naps every afternoon.

A friendly family tussle

Like most squirrels, they’re friendly, amusing, and predictably clever. It’s a good thing I don’t mind them at the feeders, since they found them after only three days.

Recently, I’ve noticed the mat outside my front door lying askew from time to time. When I stepped on it yesterday, I felt something lumpy underfoot. Lifting the mat, I found four acorns tucked beneath it.  Having lived with a pet squirrel who enjoyed storing pecans in my shoes, I have my suspicions about the source of those those acorns.


Comments always are welcome.

73 thoughts on “Meeting the Neighbors ~ The Comedians

  1. For almost as long as I have had bird feeders, the squirrels and I have engaged in interspecies warfare. They have many victories. I have a few pseudo victories. I learned long ago that making wooden feeders was like providing them with dental floss, so I turned to glass, metal and hard plastic, and devices that close off the feeding ports, but they obviously assembled in their war room and thwarted my every move. Short of hand grenades I think the balance will continue to accrue in their favour.

    1. Yes, I laughed. Your catalogue of attempts to thwart them sounds a bit like my dad taking on the dandelions that insisted on invading our yard. From what I’ve read, their territoriality may prevent every squirrel within miles from showing up: or, if they do, intra-squirrel warfare should commence and the number of critters should remain constant. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m beginning to recognize a couple of them. One, that has a small bit missing from one ear (the bottom squirrel in the second photo), now is named “Nick.”

      1. We have one with a distinct white tip to the tail and he is the most brazen of them all. What we call him (her?) I will not repeat on your blog,

  2. So cute! I used to get annoyed when they would occupy the bird feeders, until one day I saw a large hawk fly by with a dead squirrel in its claws. Since that day, I haven’t begrudged the little guys any seeds.

    1. I’ve heard reason after reason for being irritated by these consummate seed-stealers, but everybody’s got to eat — as that hawk demonstrated — and they certainly have outwitted some very clever humans. I love watching the videos of them working the obstacle courses that people build for them. I’ve already had to move my Hawaiian schefflera back a bit from the railing and feeders; they were using the plants as a highway.

  3. They ARE the comedians. I love how they race around and chase each other, up and down trees. Scrappy little things. I try to keep them away from the feeders — a losing battle but I try. And I do toss out nuts and such to help do that. I should maybe toss them farther from the feeders…

    1. Farther from the feeders would be good, although in truth, once they’ve vacuumed up that seed, it’ll be back to the feeders.

      I get such a kick out of watching the three siblings play around the trees in the morning and evening, when gray squirrels are most active. They’ve been getting up around 7:15 a.m. at this point. This morning, Houston sunrise was 7:18. I’m going to watch and see if their rising stays in synch with the sunrise as it continues to come earlier.

    1. They’re cute as can be, and my 70-300mm lens is perfect for capturing images of them, especially now that the cypress trees have lost their needles. They’re fast, though. I’ve not been able to get a photo of all three of them playing; there’s just too much movement.

  4. Those are beautiful squirrel photos, Linda! I see a few squirrels here, but it was the mice that stored nuts in strange places. When the old house was here, they would store hazelnuts in drawers and shoes in the mudroom extension. Our neighbor to the north has a walnut tree, and I do find those in flower pots from time to time.

    1. Thank you, Lavinia; once I realized I had squirrels around, I had to manage at least a photo or two (dozen). It’s funny that you should mention hazelnuts. One of our grocery stores has begun carrying Tillamook ice cream, and one of the flavors I noticed is hazelnut and salted caramel. When I was growing up, the only time I saw a hazelnut was at Christmas, when they’d be in the mixed nuts that we cracked.

      I didn’t realize until this year that the squirrels will eat the cypress balls. I’ve seen them ‘taste’ and then discard the green ones. But these trees are loaded with dried ones now, and they’re being eaten and buried at quite a pace. I suspect once the acorns and cypress balls aren’t available, I’ll start to see more action at my feeders.

  5. I have a love hate relationship with the squirrels. They are fun to watch, but I hate the damage they do, including an expensive roof leak in time for Imelda. That is really funny finding nuts under your mat. Here is a cute squirrel report from NYC. (I hope this works)
    And your pictures are fabulous. Maybe wildlife/wildflower photographer is in your future. Picks&pgtype=Homepage

    1. I know that gardeners are ambivalent about them, and I probably would be more ambivalent if I were having flower beds dug up and bulbs eaten. But, there’s very little damage they can do here — although I did get a metal can for storing seed, and I’m keeping it in an outside closet. There’s still some uncertainty what chewed up the rocker panels on my car, and my insurance agent said, “Well, sure — it could have been squirrels. We’ve seen that.”

      I loved that NY census article! Somewhere along the line, I noticed a citizen science site for counting squirrels. It might well have been the same project. It’s going to be interesting to get to know the ones that call this territory home, and watch for others that might try to move in.

      I noticed that the description she used for some was ‘cinnamon colored.’ That that’s the same color I chose to call the fox squirrels. They certainly are pretty.

    1. I had him for eight years — the nest was destroyed and we found him on the driveway. Believe me, there are stories. My favorites involve his creation of a private drinking fountain from the refrigerator ice maker, and his ability to work a combination padlock. We finally had to put locks with keys on his cages, so he wouldn’t open them. I did tell one great story that involved fermented mesquite beans, and our discovery that he could be a mean drunk. You can read that one here.

  6. Comedians indeed. I marvel at their speed, agility, and their ability to freeze motionless without warning. Cheeky little perishers.

    1. I read this about them earlier: “Their ankles are double-jointed, which allows them to turn 180 degrees. All in all, these critters can perform some pretty fancy footwork. On the ground, they’re fast and can quickly dodge away from predators. They can run at up to 20 miles per hour (32 km) and leap up to 8 feet (2.4 m).”
      Even when they’re older, they get around pretty well.

  7. This pair should feel right at home with you, Linda! You’re a seasoned “squirrel whisperer” and are two steps ahead of their tricks. Dallas used to love chasing squirrels; however, in his “golden years” he isn’t as interested. Probably having trouble hearing them chattering, ha!

    1. Knowing what a squirrel’s capable of and being able to do anything about it are two different things, Debbie. At this point, I’m with Dallas — some battles just aren’t worth fighting. My dad always used to nail up ears of corn for the squirrels in the winter. When I asked why he didn’t put out shelled corn, he’d just roll his eyes and say, “At least having to chew it off the cob slows them down a little.”

  8. I used to feed the squirrels by me, but boy did I learn my lesson. If I was the least bit late, they started to climb up my screens and ended up tearing them something awful. I still get a kick out of watching them in the neighborhood though – cute little fellas!

    1. They can get demanding, for sure. Of course, I’ve had bluejays who were just as bad. There’s nothing quite like trying to drink a second cup of coffee in the morning while a bluejay screams at you that you’re slow with the morning peanuts! They do make it easy to know when a predator’s around, though — their alarm calls carry quite a distance.

  9. Wow, those are ‘chunky’ squirrels – so interesting to compare to the ones here, which work hard for their food, are well fed, yet not so fat!

    How thoughtful that they leave little tokens of affection at your doormat!!!! jajajajaja!

    1. Far be it from me to make excuses for fat squirrels, but I do wonder if part of the difference is that ours have been eating as much as they can to store up fat for the winter. Granted, it’s cooler in the mountains there, but I still would think your climate wouldn’t put the same demands on the squirrels. In fact, too much weight might be unhealthy for them.

      I’ll be interested to see if more acorns show up under the mat. I was thinking that it would be too heavy for a squirrel to lift, but then I read about one that would haul osage oranges around. Compared to that, tucking acorns under a doormat would be easy work!

      1. Ha! That would be fun to see – the squirrel carrying a ‘horse apple’ as we called them. Down here I’ve watched squirrels carry mangos which was pretty funny.
        At Poza Honda the climate is pretty constant year round – about 70 for the low and 90 for the high.. humidity yo-yos from 60 to over 90 percent, depending on dry season or rainy season. So far it’s been a pretty quiet rainy season, but most likely it will change soon..

        1. That’s what it was like in Liberia. ‘Dry’ and ‘rainy’ defined the seasons more than anything else. We’ve got storms coming in tonight, and then a nice cool down to seasonal temperatures — highs in the 60s instead of the 70s.

  10. What fun to be able to see the squirrels from your desk and what a delightful surprise to find acorns under your doormat. It’s these little moments that make observing nature and the little critters in your neighbourhood well worthwhile.

    Great photos by the way.

    1. I was happy with the photos. Like you with your birds, I’ve found it hard to get decent photos of such fast-moving creatures, but these came out well enough to share. It is fun to be able to see them from my desk. Over time, I’m sure I’ll see some behavioral patterns emerge. I’ve already figured out that they like to get up and begin moving about at dawn. On the other hand, we have some bad weather — wind and rain — coming this weekend. They may decide to sleep in.

  11. Such a delightful post! It’s a pleasure to get to know your neighbours, Linda. Fabulous photos of the squirrels! The most commonly seen squirrels in Kerala are the Three-striped palm squirrels. There are many reigning around my home and they make so much commotion when a new bird enters the compound. They don’t mind the babblers, the bulbuls or the treepies but any new comer is an unwelcome intruder! These squirrels are fearless of human presence and given a chance they would build nests inside the house! Palm squirrels have a special place in our epic Ramayana. The white stripes are believed to be the marks of Lord Rama’s fingers. Rama was extremely pleased to see the little fellow contributing to the building of the bridge to Lanka and he caressed the squirrel’s back and thus the stripes!

    1. I love learning about your culture, rethy. When you mentioned Lanka, I thought of Sri Lanka, and looked it up. Now I know why there had to be a bridge to Lanka; it was an island, and Sri Lanka means ‘resplendent island.” I found this bit of narrative — is this when the squirrel helped?

      “The first name ever given to the island was Lanka, a word that simply means “island”. This is the name used for the island in the ancient story of the Ramayana, in which King Ravana steals the princess Sita and takes her to Lanka. Rama later saves her with Hanuman the monkey king, when the monkeys and the bears build a bridge to Lanka to retrieve her.”

      Here’s a great image of the three-striped palm squirrel.. It’s a cute one, too — and what a history its species has!

      1. Yes! Lanka is the present time Sri Lanka. Lord Rama with the help of vanar sena (army of monkeys) built a Setu (the sanskrit word for bridge) to bring back Sita.
        All the monkeys were carrying rocks and stones and seeing this a squirrel rolled in sand, ran to the building site and shook off the sand. Thus goes the story.
        Adam’s Bridge or RamaSetu link is here

        1. That article was fascinating, for many reasons: the geology, the legends, and the struggles among the various groups over its precise nature. I was interested in the very recent proposals to dredge a shipping channel through Adam’s bridge. Here on the Texas coast, our barrier islands have been cut through a few times, both by humans and by storms, and the results aren’t always good.

          It’s always worth reading these articles all the way through. I laughed when I got to this: “In recent times, some groups have attempted to recast this religious legend as a historical event, with Adam’s Bridge being the remains of the bridge built for Rama by the vanara, rather than having been created by natural processes. These groups include Tamil nationalists, Hindu fundamentalists, and Infotainment providers.”

          Those infotainment people are everywhere!

    1. Isn’t that a great thought? All things considered, four acorns are a perfect gift for someone who just completed some serious downsizing. Consumable gifts always are the best in those circumstances!

    1. I like the colors in the photos, too. It’s been very damp and foggy in the mornings, and the red color in the bark becomes more obvious then — as well as the green lichens. That second photo shows the different number of toes nicely, too: four in the front, and five in the back.

  12. Had to laugh at the idea of your pet squirrel hiding nuts in your shoes! Watched a grey squirrel having an episode of the ‘zoomies’ in a park once – was just like seeing a cat playing!

    1. “Zoomies” is just the right word — these are given to it as well, especially in the morning, when they’ve had a good rest and are full of energy. They obviously enjoy playing with one another, just like puppies or kittens — or the young of any species, I suppose.

    1. The nice thing about squirrels is that even when they’re being most active, like during play, they’ll sometimes pause long enough for a photo, as this pair did in the second photo. You almost can see both of them thinking: the top one perhaps thinking “Gotcha!” and the bottom one thinking, “Now what?”

  13. Great photos and how charming. Squirrelling away for a rainy day is what they are very good at. I don’t really want to know they are of the rodent family. I see them more belonging to rabbits or possums.

    1. One common name for them here is ‘tree rat,’ which is accurate enough, but hardly captures their charm. Like rabbits, they’re also hunted, although the hunting certainly doesn’t diminish their numbers. I’ve known more than a few country people who are entirely serious when they talk about ‘squirrel and dumplings.’ I’ve eaten rabbit, but I’m not sure I could bring myself to taste squirrel and dumplings. It would be like dining with a friend in the worst possible way!

  14. They are surely charming and I never stay irritated with them for long, but they are annoying little things!! I hate being outsmarted by a rodent!

    1. If any rodent’s going to outsmart us, these are the ones. They’re unbelievably clever, and I’m fully convinced they’re capable of reasoning. Exhibit A is my beloved pet, who figured out how to create a personal drinking fountain by chewing off the plastic fitting on the refrigerator’s ice-maker water line. Every time the thing turned on, he’d run for the top of the fridge and get a drink. I still can’t get over that one.

  15. I’ve been down with a virus and loopy as can be, so I can’t remember where I read that you have wrens, but wanted to agree that the songs that come from those wee birds is remarkable. Most mornings, they are the first to sing and it’s a wonderful way to face the day. I’m guessing you have Carolina wrens? Or Bewick’s wrens?

    1. I think I mentioned the wrens in a comment to you on a previous post. They are Carolina — it was the song that confirmed it for me. It clearly was the species I kept hearing but couldn’t spot in my previous apartment. I think now they must have been in the trees and shrubbery beneath me, but the way the buildings are constructed, there’s a ‘corner’ that causes sounds to bounce around a bit. On the other hand, being insect eaters, they might have spent some time across the water on the nearest dock, because boats are notorious for having lots and lots of spiders!

    2. I hope you’re feeling better now, too. There have been so many people sick here — it happened suddenly, perhaps because of holiday travel, parties, and so on. It’s a time for lots of groups of people, many of whom were going to travel and party (and work) despite knowing they were sick.

  16. It’s a good thing you found those acorns. The resultant oak would have made an exit difficult. Squirrels are the most entertaining of all our yard visitors. Especially the ones who try to climb the stove pipe I have around the pole feeder. They really give a new definition to pole dancing. Another bonus from your move.

    1. And this afternoon, some chickadees found the feeders. They’ve been around all afternoon, and while they’re not willing to get a tidbit from the feeder while the squirrel’s sitting in it, they are willing to scold. They’ll work it out. Now, if the bluejays show up, those squirrels are going to have their hands — uh, paws — full. I’m not even going to try for a photo of the chickadees until they get accustomed to the feeder, and I can go out without scaring them off. They certainly are cute.

      1. I’m not suggesting you try it, but our local chickadees are willing to land on your finger and eat from your palm. Or, in some cases, your hat. You can hand feed them and attract them by pishing.It’s a pretty cool feeling having a small bird sitting on your finger.

        1. I’d never heard of pishing, but it’s clearly akin to rattling up a buck, or calling waterfowl. I’ve joked about ‘speaking mallard,’ but I can get them to come to me by making the right sounds. As for the hand feeding, David Gascoigne, who comments here, is quite a birder, and he’s recently posted photos of people on his birding walks hand feeding chickadees. It would be a fun experience. I found some videos online of people hand-feeding other species, too, which I’d never seen.

          1. I was worried you thought I made a typo. It is fun and they weigh so little you’d hardly know they are there. BTW, that’s not me wearing the hat bird feeder. I’m off to see David’s blog now.

            1. Well, that didn’t work out. His name and Gravatar apparently are not linked or it is disabled and when I Googled him his site came back as unreachable. I’m not a birder but wouldn’t mind following one.

            2. Here you go. His blog is called Travels With Birds. It’s on Blogspot rather than WordPress, so I don’t think it’s possible to link a URL with a name. But you can put the URL in your reader and get updates there. I follow him through my RSS feed.

  17. I really enjoyed hearing about and seeing the antics of your resident squirrels, Linda. And how utterly and perfectly local that they’re playing on the cypress knees. I appreciate your attitude to enjoy, rather than battle with, this clever, playful mammal.

    1. As I’ve mentioned to some other readers, if I were trying to garden or harvest pecans from my own trees, my view no doubt would differ, just as some of my friends’ views of deer are influenced by the havoc they cause in the garden. But for sheer amusement, there’s nothing like a squirrel, and their cleverness knows few bounds. It’s a bright, sunny morning here, and three of them are playing ‘chase’ in the trees right now — either that, or they’re involved in a territorial dispute. I can’t always tell the difference.

    1. If I were trying to plant bulbs, as you do, I’m certain I’d vacillate between being entertained and aggravated. I might even fall down on the aggravated side of the equation. But for sheer entertainment value, there’s nothing like a few squirrels outside the window. When the bluejays discover the peanuts, I anticipate even more entertainment as they take on the squirrels.

    1. What’s funny is that one of them has started watching me. He sits in the feeder munching away, and every time I move he stops, watches to be sure I’m not headed his way, and then goes back to his snack. It’s great fun, really.

  18. Gorgeous photos by the way, and these two look like my backyard squirrels in Iowa. Tomorrow I am posting a couple of unique squirrels from Iowa, Michigan and the one I took a photo of in Texas. There are so many different kinds. And fun to watch.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. I certainly am enjoying the critters. There’s a good bit of genetic variation among squirrels, too. In Eureka Springs, Arkansas, there’s a colony of white ones. I never saw a pure white one, but I did get photos of one with a pure white tail. Believe me, that’s an odd sight! There are towns with all-black ones, too; I think they might be in Missouri, and perhaps elsewhere.

      I had a pet fox squirrel for eight years, and that was an experience. I wrote about him on my other blog — particularly, about the time he got drunk on fermented mesquite beans. He was a mean drunk!

      1. I have to go read that one. I have one squirrel that lives in my back yard, I have seen it for 3 years now. The prettiest one yet. I will post her photo tomorrow. Well, I don’t know if it is a she for sure. She is definitely unique.

    1. I’m beginning to think that some of the chasing I’m seeing isn’t necessarily sibling play. There may be some hanky-panky going on. It’s that time of year, and if parent squirrels are accustomed to the feeders, I may get to see some really young ones. That would be great fun.

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