This is a squirrel in our backyard. Though, if you asked him, I’m sure it would be referred to as his backyard.
We have watched him flit around our deck, trees and lawn for almost a year now. We named him Mojo somewhere along the way as we have seen him learning how to be a squirrel. As he’s grown, boldness has emerged as a defining characteristic. A couple of weeks ago, he leaped on top of the barbecue railing and watched us for a while. He didn’t mind having his picture taken through the window – either he’s gotten used to it or he has become more than a little vain.
I went to the Bragg Creek Provincial Park just before the latest snowfall. Wandering along the Elbow River, exasperated chirping voiced several nearby squirrel alerts accompanied me.
Curiosity took over one’s hesitations and he climbed down from a treetop to watch me from a branch a couple of meters off the ground. I crouched low and stayed still and soon he was digging out a pine cone from the sticks and snow.
With the right one gathered, he raced back to the tree and had breakfast from the low perch. It was interesting to watch how he whittled down the cone. Clever, efficient and dextrous work.
Once done, he let out a few chirps. Conveying either the all clear or the threat’s still here – or something else altogether – before leaping away. A couple more jumps along with some branch runs and he was out of sight. His and a few other chirps spun through the woods now and again as I continued wandering.
Creatures in our forest are readying for winter right now. This squirrel, one of our long-time neighbours, was out collecting warm material to line her home with when she found one of our strings of Buddhist Lung ta prayer flags (Tibetan:རླུང་རྟ་; Mandarin Chinese:風馬 – Feng ma; meaning “Wind horse”). I found her while she was well into separating one of the flags. I really can’t take much issue with this resourceful little creature so I think we will have to buy some more flags to replace these.
Actually the Red squirrels that I was photographing a couple of different times over the weekend weren’t getting up to too much trouble so the title is a little bit misleading. However, when I watch them tearing up and down trees, leaping between branches, grabbing seeds, etc. they seem mischievous. We had one, in the image below, that found a way into our attic from the outside last year, that crossed from mischief into nuisance but a live trap and rodent proofing measures allowed us to remove it and for it to return to the backyard
(click on any image to open a page with a higher resolution version)
This same squirrel is drawn to the bird feeders I have put out over the years. It successfully pilfered from or destroyed each of them! That has been stopped with the current, rather ugly, feeder which the squirrel can neither knock down nor draw seeds from. Some of the birds that visit, nuthatches in particular, are very picky about the seeds they eat so many seeds drop to the ground which birds and squirrels alike enjoy snacking on.
Nevertheless the squirrel still takes a crack at this feeder every couple of days as seen above. Below, he is perched on the top of the metalwork that holds the feeder as well as flowers in the summer.
Even with seeds scattered on the deck, when I observe the squirrels eating they prefer stripping cones from the tall conifers they run around in all day to get at the seeds within. We seem to have an equilibrium with the squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, birds and voles in the backyard. May it continue to last.
With the temperature rocketing up to 23°C on Sunday, everything seemed lively throughout the day. The animals in my backyard were no exception and they were rather frisky while I photographed around my deck. The squirrel who has lived near us for five years was chirping away like he’d never seen us before. That was fun and I like this image of him poling out amongst the branches.
One of the chipmunks came down from the rocks looking for a snack. The blue jays were slow to arrive for their peanuts on the deck and this fellow wasted no time scooping up one near the edge.
After a short retreat to a scrap pile beside the fire pit, the shell was cracked and the feast was on. I’m really enjoying photographing the animals around my house at this point in the early spring. The drives into the mountains and out onto the prairies are fantastic but it’s nice to have the backyard as another great option that is so close at hand.
All along High,way 40 which runs through the heart of Kananaskis and winds through spectacular scenery, there are Columbia ground squirrels (Urocitellus columbianus) scurrying around. They are pretty low on the food chain so they are wary critters. When there is any noise or motion approaching they stand upright and assess the danger. When something gets too close, they chirp out a warning and then dive for one of the holes connecting to their hillside tunnel complex.
This little guy watched me from his mound above the pullout while I was loading up for a hike near the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park entrance. I was happy to have this little creature stand for a short portrait session.
This squirrel has lived in the woodpile beside our garage for more than three years. I used to think that he poached the bird seed for the woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches that stay near year round that we put out. Now I just put out extra for this little fellow. This afternoon I was throwing peanuts out on the deck and he showed up right after I whistled to the bluejays to let them know their snack was served. In this photograph the squirrel had carried one of the peanuts up to a low branch while a jay above set some snow loose when it jumped off its perch.