Saturday, April 29, 2006

Titanic Ego

One of the more delightful visitors to Sparrow Haven is the Red Squirrel.

Red Squirrels are small creatures averaging between ten and fifteen inches in total length, their tails taking up at least a third of that length. They are considered omnivorous, eating pretty much anything smaller than they are from mushrooms to baby birds. For all their size, they have titanic egos, defending large territories and taking on other creatures much larger than themselves.

Our first encounter with Little Red, as we so affectionately call him, was a brief glimpse of red among the green foliage of the Horse Chestnut that provides shade throughout the summer months. At the time, I had only been living at Sparrow Haven three months and so was very unaware that Red Squirrels call Ontario home. Being an avid nature watcher I purchased a Lone Pine Mammals of Ontario guide book as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

Throughout our first year at Sparrow Haven we would catch glimpses of Little Red or hear his sharp little chirps as he rummaged around in the leaf litter at the back of our lot. Occasionally, we would see him dart to and fro amongst the branches of the Chestnut, Maple, or Spruce that make up the tree population of Sparrow Haven. More often than not we simply heard him as he warned some invader away from "his territory" making loud piercing calls or buzzing in the way that only squirrels can do.

Our second year at Sparrow Haven we saw more of Little Red. He made a few trips to the squirrel feeder, fighting off the larger Grey Squirrels, to stuff his cheeks full of peanuts then scamper back to higher branches to enjoy his booty. When the apple tree, that we had been sure was dead the first year, bloomed and produced large quantities of small, but sweet, golden apples we watched as he would grab a ripe apple bigger than his head and leap from tree to tree disappearring from view among the leaves.

Early this year we made a grizzly discovery while taking the dogs for their evening walk. Not far from our driveway was the body of a Red Squirrel. Since we had only ever seen one Red Squirrel in the two years we had occupied Sparrow Haven, we were sure that this was the last time we would see Little Red. We mourned him as we would have mourned if one of our dogs had been on that road instead of just a squirrel.

Imagine our delight when March rolled around and we caught the first flash of a red tail as it darted up the Chestnut tree. We cried with joy to hear Little Red once again scolding the Grey Squirrels as they ventured to close to the old Maple that Little Red has claimed for his own.

Today, we watched light heartedly as Little Red shimmied up the bird feeder pole like an acrobat and stuffed his cheeks with seeds meant for the birds and not for a miniature, bullying Goliath. We laughed with glee when he stamped his feet, and scolding, demanded the Grackles leave his tree, and "his" feeder, at once. We could only shake our heads, smile, and murmur to each other at this Little Red Squirrel who has made such an impact on our lives. It just wouldn't be home without his raucous taunts and calls each day.

2 comments:

Blast said...

I loved this story. Where I live red squirrels are abundent and on the days when the wind is calm I can hear them "bark" at intruders seen and imagined. My first lanscape love are trees so its just logical to enjoy the towering beauties' lil' red tenants.

Dee said...

Little Red disappeared for a few months and again we feard the worst. This past weekend though, he made a rather loud and triumphant return. He immediately claimed the peanut feeder, platform feeders, and pedestal feeder as his. Much to the annoyance of the Rock Doves, Wood Peckers, and Grey Squirrels. So far the only birds he can't intimidate are the Chickadees, but that is another story all on its own.