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Squirrels are not birds, of course. But they keep turning up in the Bird Project rather than the Animal series. They themselves, diurnal treetop dwellers, group themselves with birds -- usually at the bird feeders.
When we first moved here we had rock squirrels, which are darker and larger, noticeably longer than the gray squirrels that we now know. I would see the rock squirrels romping swiftly across the open back of our yard on the ground. I think they have moved west.
The gray squirrels spend most of their time well above ground, following an elaborate network of paths, covering the whole yard by leaping from the long, high branch of one tree to that of another, sometimes crossing the roof of the house.
They were eating so much of the birdseed that I offered them a squirrel log of their own. They now cheerfully eat both the birdseed and the squirrel logs.
They also like our pears. Every day, two of them come for pears. They each pick one and settle in the Black Haw, holding the pears between their paws and taking dainty little bites. Then each one takes its own pear in its mouth and carries it off over the porch roof.
One squirrel has a patch of silver hair right on the top of his head. We call him Butch. Craig thinks it's a rug. I think it's a scar. But maybe they just get gray hair when they get old, like the rest of us. A squirrel could grow old here.
One early morning I saw a dark object in the big hackberry tree between our yard and Norma's. It was a mass at the base of a thick, level branch about 25 feet up.
I got the binoculars. I saw that the object was a motionless squirrel lying prone on the branch with his fluffy tail laid up over his back like a down comforter. A golden ray of sunlight reached across from the east and touched him.
As I watched, he stirred, flicked his tail, sat up, stretched, yawned, and scratched himself. Then he headed toward Norma's birdfeeder for breakfast. So that's how he begins his little squirrel-day.
More Animals We Live With: Snakes and Frogs
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The Year of the
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