For a Red Squirrel there is no event of greater importance than that of protecting one’s stash. Before I elaborate on that topic, please allow me a few lines to defend myself.
Yes, I am aware that I have either directly or indirectly referred to squirrels in many of my recent posts. Yes, I am aware that this might suggest to some that I am spending way too much time on the subject and that I must be lapsing into prolonged obsessive bouts of rocking and shouting out the names of nut bearing trees. You needn’t worry. It is the naturalist’s prerogative to dwell upon a subject to near obsession – heck, Charles Darwin spent a lifetime investigating barnacles. You have to admit that squirrels are far more fascinating than barnacles. And, I must remind you, there are no barnacles in my yard. The plain truth of the matter is that the squirrels in my yard are so active that they simply beg attention.
Now, shall we continue? First, a summary. During the recent Polar Latex… er, Vortex…the Fox Squirrels enjoyed free reign of the yard. They boldly treated themselves to the Red Squirrel walnut cache under the shed. After the Playtex…er,vortex …passed, the Red Squirrels emerged from hiding and were hopping mad at this breach of squirrel etiquette. The little red devils took immediate action to protect their stash.
Rather than launch a “Red Dawn” attack against their giant cousins, the Red Squirrels chose a much more subtle approach. They began to systematically relocate a portion of their stash to a new location. While one positioned itself as a lookout on the center Maple tree, the other acted as the nut courier. This top secret activity was conducted in the full light of day due to fact that the squirrel’s night vision goggles were destroyed by the intense cold of the Solar Gortex..er, I mean Polar…Never mind.
Over and over again the nut courier ran the route between the walnut cache and the new location which was somewhere over by the creek. The tiny squirrel covered the distance, about a hundred feet or so, in record time – bee-lining from creek to maple, then maple to shed and back. A single walnut was carried each time.
Apart from the amusement of it all, I was also able to capture motion with multiple freeze frames. Red Squirrels bound when they are running and so frequently become air born with all fours off the ground (Eadweard Muybridge would be proud of my photo evidence of this). Those who are familiar with squirrel tracks know that the front foot impressions are behind the back foot impressions. To those of you who didn’t know this, you now know this. At the end of a leap, the paired front feet make ground contact first and the critter’s momentum carries the hind feet forward where they strike the ground and launch the animal into another leap.
I can’t say how long my observed squirrel had been nut-couriering before I spotted it, but I can say that it performed at least ten more round trips before stopping. The lookout squirrel spotted me peering out the window and sounded the alarm. This ended the mission and the squirrels went “dark.” I went back into the house, began rocking back and forth, and started to continuously recite words that rhymed with Vortex.