Squirrel Watching

Faced with a 30 degree drop in temperature and the arrival of a snowstorm, we all turn to our survival checklist. I was headed to the woodshed. Cream Puff, the resident red squirrel anomaly, was busy eating – and burying – sunflower seeds.

The firewood could wait – I had to watch and photograph Cream Puff in action. She had an impressive routine, which she repeated for an hour: grab a bite at the feeders, put a sunflower seed in her mouth, sprint 40 feet, bury the seed, sprint back to the bird feeder, and so on. She moved fast and the light was poor, so I tried my best to “pan” the action, swinging the camera at her pace.

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At one point the snow was so heavy that it overwhelmed my auto focus. It was winter again and the squirrels were fat, happy, and well prepared. On the other hand, I now had to shovel several inches of heavy, wet snow in order to get firewood to the house!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

The Subnivean Zone

Deep, fluffy snow is a blessing – assuming you spend time underneath the protective snowpack, insulated from the cold and hidden from predators. Grouse know about this, as do meadow voles and red squirrels.

Wait for it….

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Tunneling in the subnivean zone enables Red Squirrels to thrive in deep snow and survive the harshest of winters. I watched this one for half an hour as it expanded its elaborate tunnel system (with 4 access holes that kept me guessing) under piles of fresh snow. It can now sprint 40 feet, spruces trees to feeders, sight unseen!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.