Squirrelly Squirrels in the Garden

squirrelPineApr2014CSquirrels 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.

squirrelPineApr2014I’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?

The fruits of Hollies, such as this Dahoon, will draw in wildlife

The fruits of Hollies, such as this Dahoon, will draw in wildlife

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.

squirrelFeb2014DI 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.

Other treats that draw the crowd are the fruits of blueberries, dwarf huckleberries and Cabbage Palmetto (Sabal palmetto).

huckleberry032412

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.

squirrelPineApr2014B

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.

squirrelPineApr2014AHmmm, 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.

squirrelPineApr2014Having 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.

who you looking at? This squirrel was a bit more subdued before he needed to defend himself during bird nesting season

who you looking at? This squirrel was a bit more subdued back in February before he needed to defend himself during bird nesting season

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.

They certainly can be entertaining

The certainly can be entertaining

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!

© 2014, Loret T. Setters. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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Comments

  1. says

    I love watching the squirrels’ antics! I learned that while many people like to feed them peanuts, that is not actually a good food for them. Peanuts are not nuts but legumes (beans) and can cause mold issues for their squirrelly bellies. Acorns are the better choice~ Enjoy your Skippy!
    kathy vilim recently posted..Why Not Eat Local AND Eat Native, too?

    • says

      Thanks Kathy for that info. I didn’t know that and I’m sure others will be glad to learn as well. Luckily it is not an issue here since no more handouts in my garden. All must “live off the land” :)
      Loret recently posted..Elliot Before and After

  2. says

    I have a Skippy! I do put out peanuts but they are for the Jays and the Jays always seem to beat the Squirrels to it. I have a younger Pin Oak and I can’t wait for my first Pin Oak acorn – bet “Skippy” can’t either. My dog Mojo really has an eye for Squirrels. Whenever we go to the park, he dashes out of the car, picks a look out spot and scans for Squirrels. Mine keeps an eye out for him and has plenty of higher ground to escape to – namely the fence around our property – it is his? her? highway. I like the Squirrels and miss the Red Squirrels we had in Maine – boy do they chatter!

    • says

      Skippy must be happy when the jays miss one…special treat ;)

      Before moving to my property here I lived in a community that didn’t allow fences so the dogs couldn’t run free. I used to take them to the dog park every day and the squirrels would entertain my irish setter for hours. The park squirrels seem the MOST entertaining. They would come down the tree and keep a distance just above the tip of the dog’s nose when she would jump. Then they would do that chatter thing, as if they were laughing at her.

      I have to say I always felt that I should pay them a little something since they exercised her far more than I ever could. Personal trainers, so to speak ;)

      So far the squirrel visitors here have been sticking to the dog-free wildlife-designated area. Alas today’s doggies are getting older (two are 11) and the younger one (6) has bad legs, so the squirrels are safe here.

      Thanks for sharing Kathy. First year of my acorns I had about a handful and the wildlife didn’t seem to find them. This year WOWEEEEEEE! There are daily visits from the bluejays and I saw a thrasher in there a few times too. Plant them and they will come. Good luck! Tell Skippy that patience pays off!

  3. Harry T. Mozen says

    My squirrels love the sunflower seeds in my bird feeder. They hang upside down and pick them, and then quickly shell one, swallow it and grab another.

  4. says

    They can be a problem when they have no predators like at my last house (eat wires, eat all the bird food, get in the attic, dig up every plant and shave off all the flowers) but they share here now in the latest garden….of course the birds do give them a piece of their mind if they get too close to nests.
    Donna Donabella recently posted..Gardens Eye Journal-May 2014

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