Squirrels are a normal occurrence in a great many beautiful wildlife gardens. Up until this year, suprisingly my yard was not one of them.
Perhaps not so surprisingly after all. When I purchased my plot back in 2006, it was pretty much clear cut sans a smattering of long leaf pine trees. Squirrel have a tendency to like to run up and down and across tree branches and my pines were a little too far apart to fit the bill.
I’d see the squirrels run playfully across the road down by wooded areas around the neighborhood. Properties rich with a good mix of flora: pines, dahoon hollies, redbay, saltbush, wax myrtles and more. Places with natural jungle gyms of adventure.
This year I heard the unmistakable chatter of the eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and was pleased to see one clinging to the side of a pine just over my fence. I had spotted either him or his cousin dancing across the pathways in the early morning. So why the change of venue for these guys?
Well, over the past 8 years, I have allowed portions of my place to restore to the flora that was meant to be here. As the trees mature and there is better coverage of shrubbery, much of the native fauna has returned. A couple of dahoon hollies, and the wax myrtles lead the pack. But, mostly the OAKS. This year is the first year that I have HUGE quantities of acorns. Bluejays have found them, thrashers birds are enthralled and now the squirrels are bellying up to the buffet.
I added a live oak that I received as payback for taking a tree learning class at the local county extension office. Learn to properly plant and prune and they give you a rather large starter sapling as a reward. Education pays! :) I also have two laurel oaks that were planted by the local fauna. They are moving toward being majestic trees now.
Back to the squirrels…this week was a war between the birds and the squirrels. It is bird nesting season and while Skippy…I called him Skippy…was skipping up and down the pine, the grackles and the mockingbirds were giving chase, zeroing in to dive-bomb Skippy’s head. And he was not too pleased with the situation. He loudly complained and you can see from the pictures that he was somewhat appalled at the unwelcoming by his birdie friends.
Why the name Skippy?? As a child, I always had a squirrel visitor to our lake-area bungalow on Long Island in New York. We gave him the name Skippy. “He” arrived like clockwork when we showed up since we offered some peanuts in the shell. They would open some to eat, but would also “squirrel” away a good portion for the cooler part of the year when we wouldn’t be around and acorns and cherries that were on the trees were depleted. It was fun to spot their cache in a tree hole or buried in the garden.
Hmmm, perhaps not the same squirrel each year, but we were young and somewhat unaware of the realities of life, so we didn’t know that Skippy might have really been “Skippy I”, and just may have gotten squished in the road or eaten by something or someone up the food chain. Hey, vultures, hawks and fly larvae have to eat too.
Having gone to the lake bungalow for more than 40 year, probably many generations passed through and Skippy II, III and IV were also visitors that we didn’t realize were different guys. Ok, maybe as I got older I had an inkling, but let’s just say it is a nicer memory if I believe that it was “Skippy I” all along for all the years.
While squirrels were never my first choice of visitors (at one point in NY as they dug up daffodils and tulips and taunted the dogs, I referred to them as “rats in fur coats”…MY BAD). I’ve come around as I watch their antics in the designated wildlife area. Besides, now living in Florida, I also don’t have daffodils any longer and Skippy is welcome to dig up tasty roots of what is around, actually keeping some aggressive species in check.
Squirrels are quite fun to watch with their antics and I’m glad that I am providing the proper habitat for them to join the party in my beautiful wildlife garden. You can too!
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