Sep 262017
 

Over the past ten years, we’ve seen a marked decline in the number of Red Squirrels and a steady increase in the number of Gray Squirrels on our property. This year that imbalance may change. For the first time that we are aware, we have had two broods of Red Squirrels rather than just the one.

Back in May, an adult Red Squirrel was seen transferring her young family from a birth site in one tree to a nest cavity in our signature tall White Pine. The trunk separates into two part well above ground level, possibly providing a more commodious home. By May 21, five young were darting back and forth from the nest, exploring their immediate surroundings. It was most entertaining!

By the last week of May, only one youngster was still staying close by the nest cavity when an adult female Gray Squirrel took possession of the nest with five of her own family, chasing off the one remaining Red Squirrel. Again we were entertained by the little ones running about the tree branches and eventually out exploring the surrounding landscape.

On September 6, a Red Squirrel with five young took possession of the same nest cavity. She spent some time gathering new nest material to refurbish the bedding, then possibly tired and hungry after her exertions, took a break to consume fallen sunflower seeds below a nearby bird feeder. (In all three cases the adult female had teats visible on her underside.)

For the third time, we enjoyed the antics of little ones chasing each other about the tree until they too abandoned the nest to make their own way in the world. On September 7, I was able to capture a few photos of the youngsters in the tree and close up at the cavity entrance.

Here’s hoping the survival rate is good.

Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Red Squirrel in White Pine – Stephenie Armstrong

Young Red Squirrel at nest cavity in White Pine  – Stephenie Armstrong

Young Red Squirrel emerging from nest cavity – Stephenie Armstrong

Dec 042016
 

On November 20, we had 8 Pine Grosbeaks at our feeder. They only stayed for an hour or so, however, and we haven’t seen them since. During this past summer, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, along with their young, came to the feeder regularly. Two families nested in the woodlot behind our house.

Also, about 20 years ago, I witnessed an amazing interaction between a Gray Squirrel and a Hairy Woodpecker. The squirrel had scared the woodpecker off the ground feeder – a piece of plywood – on which I’d scattered sunflower seeds. Seconds later, however, the woodpecker returned, and actually landed on the squirrel’s back!  It then proceeded to hammer away on the poor animal’s head. I guess it got in a few good blows before the squirrel took off, because there was blood on the feeder!

Neil Boughen, Warsaw

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks - Drew Monkman

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks – Drew Monkman

Pine Grosbeak - Wikimedia

Pine Grosbeak – Wikimedia

Hairy Woodpecker - Karl Egressy

Hairy Woodpecker – Karl Egressy

 

Nov 202016
 

I thought you might be interested in the following: a Gray Squirrel and a Cooper’s Hawk dueled it out on the top rail of our split rail fence in mid-October. For at least 15 minutes they charged at each other fearlessly before the hawk called it quits. (When the hawk took the initiative the squirrel retreated to a lower rail.)
Burke Doran

Cooper's Hawk - Nancy Cafik

Cooper’s Hawk – Nancy Cafik

Apr 082016
 

We returned to our home on Dodworth Island on Stony Lake on Monday and immediately filled the four feeders. The activity is the most ever….We have 10 usual species but two things stand out. There are no Common Redpolls, but we have over 50 Pine Siskins. At least one Osprey is back..no loons here yet. The ice went out on April 1.  Rob Welsh

NOTE:  Pine Siskins are showing up in large numbers all over Peterborough and the Kawarthas right now. Flocks of 60+ have come to our feeder in recent days, along with close to a dozen Purple Finches. Drew Monkman

I was about to send out an APB. However, this evening around 5 pm. our pair of Common Loons finally arrived (Buckhorn Lake near Six Foot Bay) . Unfortunately, our “lone loon”, who usually arrives before them (as early as April 1) hasn’t appeared yet. Fingers crossed he’s ok.  Toni Sinclair, Buckhorn Lake

On April 6, I had 12-15 Purple Finches at our feeder for most of the day. No, they were not House Finches! Mostly females but at least 4 showy males.   Jim Cashmore, Wallis Drive, Peterborough

I heard the first Spring Peeper chorus for me this year, on March 31 @ 9th Line and County Road 32 (east bank along Otonabee towards Lakefield). Susan Chow

I saw my first Mourning Cloak butterfly on March 27,  just south of Keene.  Michael Gillespie

On the Indian River outside Warsaw, we heard an Eastern Phoebe calling March 28 at about 8:30 am – our harbinger of Spring!  Jane Bremner, Warsaw

Jerry Ball and I covered some of the side roads off Hwy 507 in the northern part of Trent Lakes Municipality and found Compton Tortoiseshell butterflies on three different roads. Martin Parker

We’ve had a weasel around all winter (a Long-tailed, we think), but never managed to get a photo until Easter Sunday, March 23… its white winter coat has started changing. Gwen Forsyth, Lakefield

I saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes on March 23. They were flying northeast over Centre Line of Smith at the 7th Line.  Jim Watt, Peterborough

I was outside March 23 cleaning the snow off the deck and about 20 feet above my head flew this magnificent adult Bald Eagle. He went upwards and landed on top of the pine tree on our point. Waited there for about ten minutes.  Derry Fairweather, Upper Buckhorn Lake

Today, March 22, my wife saw a pair of Gray Squirrels mating in our yard. It seems far too late, since Gray Squirrels give birth to their first litter this month. I haven’t been able to find a reference to mating in March anywhere online. Drew Monkman

Bald Eagle - March 23, 2016 Derry Fairweather

Bald Eagle – March 23, 2016 Derry Fairweather

Compton Tortoiseshell - Wikimedia

Compton Tortoiseshell – Wikimedia

Long-tailed Weasel - March 23 - Gwen Forsyth

Long-tailed Weasel – March 23 – Gwen Forsyth

Mourning Cloak - Maple Cr. - Apr. 2014 - Drew Monkman

Mourning Cloak – Maple Cr. – Apr. 2014 – Drew Monkman

 

Pine Siskin (by Karl Egressy)

Pine Siskin (by Karl Egressy)

Eastern Phoebe at nest - David Frank

Eastern Phoebe at nest – David Frank

 

Mar 162016
 

I am writing about the phenomenon of squirrels gathering stones. I found reports from a couple of folks, but my case is quite different. I have a heated bird bath on my porch, just 8 feet from my glass door. I clean it every few days. About two months ago (January 2016) I noticed some small river stones in the bath. They were about the size of a penny. I scratched my head and threw them out. A few days later, there were a couple more stones. I decided to leave them this time. Ever since, about every two to three days, a new stone appears in the water bath. At the moment, there are 15 stones and they are still coming (Feb 20th). We live in an older neighborhood in Fayetteville, Arkansas. There is a fair amount of trees and cover.

The squirrels visit the bath many time every day. It is part of their routine. Still, I have not been able to see one drop or carry a stone. I suppose another suspect might be a raccoon but we have never seen one in our yard before. They could certainly be here at night. Or a pack rat? We have seen a rat once this year below the bird feeders. Somehow, I feel it is the squirrel.

The stones finally did stop at 18. I still have them in the bird bath, hoping more will appear. However, I still haven’t caught the squirrels in the act.

I am deeply moved by this act somehow. I can think of no explanation, but it somehow make me feel affection for the squirrels. I’d love it if anyone can explain what is happening here. That would be thrilling!

Kelly Mulhollan, Arkansas

Stones in bird bath - Kelly Mulhollan

Stones in bird bath – Kelly Mulhollan

Note: More stories of squirrels gathering stones can be found in my post from November 30, 2014. D.M.

Nov 302014
 

I have recently received several emails recently describing Gray Squirrels gathering stones. There is very little on the Internet about this behaviour, so it would be interesting to know if other people have seen it too. Below, you will also find a possible explanation for this behaviour from Don Sutherland, a zoologist at the Natural Heritage Information Centre in Peterborough.    Drew Monkman

Gray Squirrel with stone - Nov. 2014 - Ginny Clark

Gray Squirrel with stone – Nov. 2014 – Ginny Clark

From Craig Kesselheim and Beth Dilley, Southwest Harbor, Maine, Dec. 29, 2014: We have just noticed this same behavior in our yard on the coast of Maine, and have been intrigued and mystified. It’s good to know that others have seen the same phenomenon. In our case the stones and the cache are about 20 feet apart, so we can watch the full event. The stone supply is a skirting of 1 – 3 inch stones around our garage. The cache location is among leaves under one of our ornamental shrubs.

From Ginny Clark, Peterborough, ON, Nov. 26, 2014: I finally got some pictures of the squirrel with a rock. He likes to lick it all over before he runs away along the fence to the woods behind us. I went back there, but could see no evidence of burying them, although there seem to be lots of places to hide stuff in the underbrush. It does not look like they are carrying them to their nests way up in the trees. Still a mystery!

From Carl Hymers, Peterborough, ON, Nov. 14, 2014  “Late this past summer and during the fall (September through October), we noticed that the smooth, washed, river rock stones we had used as ground cover for a garden feature were gradually disappearing. We then noticed that at least two different Gray Squirrels (black colour morph) were carefully selecting particular sized and shaped stones, placing each stone in their mouth and carrying the stones along the top rail of our fence, across two neighbour yard fence tops to disappear in the distance. Finally we decided we better remove the remaining stones, as they now had collected and removed more than a large bag and a half worth – for whatever purpose they had.  It was quite intriguing to observe their behaviour, while at the same time hoping it would soon stop . This went on almost daily from September thru October and did not stop  until we made the stones unavailable. The squirrels also collected the larger chunks of bark in the mulch layers on our flower beds. Who knows how the stones are being used, but maybe there are some very stable, wind proof, secure, comfortable dreys in the nearby trees with the enterprising effort of these squirrels using our stones and mulch bark as the foundation of their nest! There are at least 6 dreys visible from our surrounding trees now that the leaves are down. I will be getting larger stones for our ground cover next and the very fine chopped mulch for the flower beds next spring!”

From Ginny Clark, Oct. 15, 2014: We have noticed a squirrel gathering small rocks (around one inch) from under our deck, then racing along to the forest area at the back of our property. It’s been happening for a few weeks now, so obviously the squirrel has not clued in that they are rocks and not nuts! This behaviour does not seem to be common. Are you aware of any reason that this would happen?”

From Don Sutherland, zoologist, Natural Heritage Information Centre, Peterborough, ON:    “I’ve never seen this myself. I’ve never seen a definitive explanation for this behaviour. An alternate explanation in the literature has been that this sort of behaviour may be an attempt to disguise food caches and foil cache-pilfering by other squirrels. Gray Squirrels are scatter food-hoarders, caching food items in a wide variety of sites. When squirrel populations become dense and/or when food becomes scarce, the pilfering of caches by other squirrels becomes a problem. Caching stones, pebbles or other items may be an attempt to confuse/foil potential pilferers.”

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 192014
 

I was happy to see your Nov. 13 column on Gray Squirrels. Having on two occasions been in close contact and cared for squirrels, I can say that they are a very interesting and smart animal. Each one has its own personality. In the 90’s, while living in Scarborough, we had an adult female, Blackie, who would visit us outside for about four years to get peanuts. She’d show up as soon as our car pulled into our driveway and even climb up and sit on our laps. This June, I raised two orphaned baby males between two and four months old. We slowly released them in July, so they could learn to forage and set up dreys before winter, only to have a neighbour a few weeks later capture them (and many other squirrels) to release outside the city.

I’ve seen squirrels enter their dreys from the top. My two males tried to fix an abandoned drey in a cedar tree, only to have a dominant male attack and chase them out. They finally built their own drey somewhere else. In hot weather they’re active in the morning and late afternoon, rest during the day, and in their dreys before dark. Mine would sometimes stretch out on our deck and lay together in the sun. When I had them still in the dog crate, they would rest during the afternoon, curled together under a towel until their next feeding. After I released mine they would show up every morning and evening for food, and we have lots of video of them playing like two kittens and grooming each other.
Squirrels also eat rose hips which are rich in vitamin C.In the wild, they live only about one year (predators, weather, roads) but in captivity up to fifteen years. I’ve sent some pictures of the squirrels we’ve been lucky enough to spend time with.  Darlene McLaren

Feeding one of our orphaned Gray Squirrels - Darlene McLaren

Feeding one of our orphaned Gray Squirrels – Darlene McLaren

Blackie - Circa 1994 - Darlene McLaren

Blackie – Circa 1994 – Darlene McLaren

Our two orphaned male squirrels - Darlene McLaren

Our two orphaned male squirrels – Darlene McLaren

 

Nov 152014
 

Your article on squirrels was a very interesting read. A few years ago, I chanced upon a baby squirrel (eyes still closed) laying on the ground in my neighbour’s backyard. Through the supervision of a provincially recognized squirrel rehabilitator, my family raised the squirrel (Whirley), and re-released her in our backyard. We had a mature Silver Maple, which Whirley made her home. There was a drey in a branch that overhung our back porch, and she would spend her nights there. In the mornings, I would call up to her, and watch as she would peek out of the drey, stretch and yawn, before slowly making her way down for breakfast.

Whirley grew up quickly. We had first found her in the spring; she was living in our tree all summer, but by late August she had moved into a tree in a neighbour’s backyard, coming back most days for visits. At some point in September, her daily visits stopped. This is an amazing part… she came back for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Father’s Day. By summer, she was visiting pretty regularly again, and vanished in the fall. After that, we would see her occasionally, and after the next summer she did not come back.
I will admit that prior to this experience, I assumed that squirrels were dirty and unintelligent creatures. I enjoy animals and wildlife, and I have had some experience with rodents, such as pet mice, rats and rabbits… none of which impressed me other than their “cute” factor. Whirley, however, has given me cause to change my mind. She was one of the most interactive and intelligent creatures that I have ever had the good fortune to know. Some of my stories leave people amazed.

Click here for a link to a montage of photos and videos of her. I hope you enjoy.

Paul Laufer, Peterborough

Black colour morph of Gray Squirrel -Wikimedia

Whirley was a black colour morph of the Gray Squirrel and similar to the squirrel in this picture.

 

Nov 052014
 

For years I have had grey and black squirrels visiting my yard and deck. This is the first time I have seen this little guy. He is a beautiful brown with a yellow blond tail. I can’t tell for sure but his eyes seem to have a red hue to them. Is he a mutant?

Barb Evett,  Fairbairn and Highland Rd

(Note: There is a lot of colour variation in Gray Squirrels, which results in white, brown, black, grey, and silvery-grey colour phases. The black phase is most common in Peterborough. D.M.)

Brown-phase Gray Squirrel - Barb Evett

Brown-phase Gray Squirrel – Barb Evett