In the eye of a squirrel

This is Squeak – to distinguish her from Pip. I know she was a she because a) she was distinguished from Pip by a scar in her fur on the right shoulder and upper back – healed but still parting the fur, and b) because later in the spring her nipples were quite visible – so she had a family somewhere – I never knew where. I presume Pip was a male but never got that sorted out – and he vanished by mid-Winter. He may have been sharing the pad with Squeak as young siblings – I saw them together – sometimes quarreling over nuts I left for them – wedged between tree bark ridges especially. But perhaps it was just a squabbly courtship?

I was able to get her habituated to me because where the path down our wooded lot let onto a path at the bottom alongside a Hydro owned river there was a jumble of tall trees with many walnuts, creepers, strong shrubs and young trees that formed ideal cover for a red squirrel in winter.

It all started over a Hawk. I didn’t know it at the time, and we hadn’t met before (me and Squeak that is) but as I reached the bottom of the path with our very placid Lab I heard a persistent short squawk repeated about every second. I quickly located the red squirrel at about chest height, twenty feet away, crouched facing me (as it

Eyeofthe Squirrel

happened I suppose) on a sloping rotting trunk caught at the higher end by a tangle of creepers. She never moved position and never stopped her call, that sounded like a warning. I thought it might be me, or the dog that bothered her. I spoke gently to her, fished out my camera, snapped a shot, and even caught a short video. She continued and I, perplexed, left.

We returned half an hour later and she had vanished. Part way up the path home my attention was drawn to large bird flying overhead through the trees – a quick glance showed a hawk with a squirrel in its talons. The load was too heavy and the hawk alighted on a tree, dropped its load, and not appreciating our presence it departed.

I hurried round, and to my relief saw the prey had been a grey squirrel – bloodied and dead. Now I knew why Squeak was so disturbed – it was a warning call to all and sundry. The red squirrels are a smaller population in our area so I was glad it wasn’t her. Later in the day I returned – and the corpse had vanished – retrieved perhaps by the hawk – a red tail I believe it was.

I left shop bought walnuts at the spots she frequented and soon she would collect them from within a few feet of me. The photo you see is a zoom on her when I was only about three feet away. The left dark reflection in her eye is me! – you can see to the bent forms of trees behind me – the thin one on the right is a young walnut tree.

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