One of the benefits of having a yard full of trees is that there is always free entertainment from squirrels. The little creatures are the clowns of the rodent family. It’s hard to feel sad when one is watching squirrels.
There is also drama regarding squirrel life. My favorite rodents sometimes quarrel with my favorite birds. Squirrels chatter at blue jays and the jays jeer at the squirrels in return. I’ve never seen a physical altercation between the two headstrong species, but the vocal confrontations happen daily.
Although squirrels and blue jays are infamous as omnivores, squirrels have the upper hand, in my opinion. I’ve witnessed, in horror, a family of squirrels devour a pigeon but I’ve never seen blue jays kill a squirrel. I’m sure blue jays have a way of exacting revenge on the rodents, but I’ve never seen it happen.
Most of the time, though, squirrels and jays just go about their lives in peaceful coexistence. They have a common neighborhood adversary, the cat. When blue jays and squirrels are most noisy, that means a cat or two are within sight. The combination of the three in nature generally does not end well.
The most common animal sights from my perspective at home are the squirrels. There is usually at least one of them on the ground, foraging for snacks. Each of the trees in the yard has at least one squirrel nest, so squirrels can always be seen above me.
Trees are the natural venue for squirrel circus performances. I’m always amazed at the creatures’ agility. They run at top speed across branches and limbs. The rodents leap from tree to tree sometimes without pausing to plan their jumps. Aggressive males chase the females they desire around in circles at the bases of trees; then both of them climb higher in a moment because climbing is as easy as running on the ground. Up and down then tree to tree, the mating chase goes on. If there is an eventual rendezvous, it goes on entirely in private.
The entertainment goes both ways. Occasionally, I notice a solitary squirrel observing me at close range as I go about my outdoors chores. Sometimes I notice a squirrel standing on a branch near the garage. It watches as I raise or lower the overhead door. I wonder what it thinks as it observes me going in and out of the car. Sometimes, we are aware of observing each other at the same time.
It’s easy to fall to the temptation of anthropomorphism with squirrels. Sometimes they behave like tiny humans. This is especially true when they use their forepaws like hands. Even though their thumbs are not physically opposable, they are practically so. It’s fun to watch squirrels eat seeds and nuts.
It’s not all fun and games with squirrels. I respect them and keep a safe distance from them. There are rare instances of squirrels attacking humans. The little creatures are capable of causing serious physical injuries to people. Squirrels have very strong jaws and teeth. There have been cases of torn muscles and ligaments due to squirrel attacks. Perhaps the aggression is a symptom of rabies, but it could also just be due to fear. So, when I feed the squirrels, I set out the food and never attempt to feed them by hand.
All things considered, I’m glad to have squirrels in the yard. It’s not that they’re useful creatures, they’re simply amazing in ordinary ways.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the Turkish writer, Nazim Hikmet. “Living is no laughing matter: you must live with great seriousness like a squirrel for example–I mean without looking for something beyond and above living, I mean living must be your whole occupation.”