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.









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!


Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Stubby the Red Squirrel: an Update

As reported in an earlier post


Stubby the Red Squirrel was discovered at the bird feeders months ago. After watching a Cooper’s Hawk attack and miss a red squirrel in December, I assumed that Stubby was doomed. Nature’s way. Miraculously, this feisty little squirrel is alive and well, doing what high-strung red squirrels do: running back and forth between feeders and retreat cover and battling other squirrels for dominance. Tunneling in the deep piles of shoveled snow between food and cover is the preferred mode of travel.


Looks can be deceiving. Despite this “Bring it on!” game face, Stubby has lost the dominance battle with three other red squirrels and is apt to feed when they’re not around.


Mobility has been the question from day one. Stubby can now motor along quite rapidly on a hard surface. In fact, the short burst from feed to cover is usually too fast for me and, in the absence of bright light, my camera. The healthy hind leg has become strong and powerful.




All things considered, Stubby climbs well. I’ve also seen him hanging upside down on the side of a stump, anchored firmly by the one hind foot while digging for grain.



Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.


Three young Red Squirrels visit the bird feeders throughout the day, feasting on a mix of cracked corn and sunflower seeds. Two are typical of the species, having prominent bushy tails, big feet and great agility.



However, the third sibling is unlike any Red Squirrel that I have ever seen and has become the center of attention, with rock star status in the arena of backyard wildlife activity. Meet Stubby, a Red Squirrel without a tail … or left hind foot.


I surmise that this young Red Squirrel was attacked from the rear by a predator, quite possibly a free ranging domestic cat. It managed to escape, the bushy tail providing a life-saving buffer and a mouthful of hair for the predator.


When discovered several weeks ago, Stubby appeared to be free of infection or discomfort. At first falling, stumbling and listing sideways when moving and feeding, the squirrel’s balance and motor skills improved rapidly. Soon it was posturing for feeding rights and could run, albeit awkwardly, to the nearest spruce tree for cover.



Like other Red Squirrels, Stubby is again feisty and domineering, his disabilities offset by a heavy dose of attitude.



Perhaps as a show of grit, strength and invincibility to intimidate his siblings, Stubby ran several feet with a large apple before stopping to munch on it (fast enough to blur my photo). Under the circumstances, this was a Herculean feat. Even when running for cover in the absence of a load, Stubby tumbles along like a furry ball rolling erratically across the the lawn.


The adaptability and recuperative powers of wild animals are miraculous. This case study is still unfolding: there is much more to be learned about Stubby the Red Squirrel!


Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.



Cold and Snowy Highlights from Central New York

Winter landscapes are uniquely beautiful and dynamic. They also convey the environmental dramas that unfold, for better or worse, as animals respond to subnormal temperatures and deepening snow cover.

These images are a modest and heavily biased sample of winter scenes in Central New York captured February 8 – 13, 2015. Temperatures were well below freezing and average snow depth was about 20 inches.


Everyone’s favorite winter companion: Black-capped Chickadee


Clearing deep snow from a windmill access road


Red Squirrel emerging from its protective tunnel beneath deep snow




Red Squirrel, on full alert


Hay bales (poly-wrapped round bales)


Deer feeding and grooming in deep snow


Frosty morning in the hills


Mature doe, with her two fawns nearby

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.