Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shalom to Winter . . .


. . . and honor to the squirrels of the nest in the Bradford Pear outside my window---the same nest I wrote about on Dec 13 in "Hey, Hawk!" Usually the squirrels build their nests too high in the trees to observe closely on a regular basis, but this one is low and near enough to the window by which I drink my early morning coffee that I've observed it all winter. I didn't see it being built, and only first noticed it when the leaves of the pear tree fell away in November. Watching a squirrel's nest on any given day could never be considered a rewarding habit, but in the course of a winter of morning meditations over coffee, enough activity has accumulated in my memory to be worthy of comment.

First there was the Dec 13 invasion by the Cooper's hawk who stabbed at the nest and threw out dry leaves amid the outrage of the house finches. I wondered at the time if the nest was active or abandoned, because as far as I knew, the hawk only searched it, and did not find a meal there before the finches chased it off.

The next noticeable activity came on the morning of the third day of continuously below-freezing temperatures after our January ice storm, in an observation that touched my heart. Two house finches were clinging to the underside of the nest, apparently gleaning the warmth that leaked from the nest's interior. I assumed this was an indication that at least one warm-blooded squirrel was burrowed inside the nest, and I liked to think it hinted at a cooperative living arrangement whereby the squirrels lent warmth to the finches in January in exchange for the favor of chasing the hawk from their nest in December. Whether by agreement or random response to a need makes no difference. That it happened at all was a phenomenon I found sweet and paradoxical, given the otherwise brutal nature of life in the wild.

Later we had a week of unseasonably warm weather between our Jan & Feb snows, and during that week two squirrels busied themselves bringing leaves to the nest in an industrious display of homemaking activity that I observed on only one morning. I know not if they were fortifying for another possible cold spell, or preparing for an upcoming birth, but I'm committed to watching them throughout the spring season, which seems suddenly to have arrived, if today's warm air and returning orchestration of birdsong are any indication. dkm

p.s. The photo of the nest in question was taken on the day after the light snow of Feb 9 & 10.

9 comments:

Niki said...

Hi Deb, I had no idea that squirrels made nests like birds. I thought they lived in holes in tree trunks.

dkm said...

Chuckle chuckle---Jane said the same thing. Sometimes they do build inside hollow trunks, or in bird houses, but most often in the crook of a branch--big sloppy nests. Maybe further north they need to be more protected, but our Georgia winters are relatively mild and shortlived, so a tree branch does nicely. I think I'd be hard pressed to venture a guess about where your hedgehogs make their homes. Where do they?

Niki said...

They nest in grass and leaves under shrubs or logs. Speaking of hedgehogs we woke yesterday to the cracking sound of the electric fence shorting. A hedgehog had tried to climb through the fence and caught itself on the electric wire and the wire of the fence, recreating a short. It sounded like gunshots going off. Poor hedgehog is now in the offal pit!

dkm said...

Now THAT'S EXOTIC! I had to look up the word offal. Do the entrails get eaten by scavengers? Poor Hedgie! I have a friend with a fascination for hedgehogs. Will tell her your story.

Niki said...

hehe no our offal pit is a hole dug I dont know how metres down (help PG!!!) and has a round concrete lid on top. I cant even lift the lid up. It's way down the back paddock. It's for animals who die from sickness, and the offal etc from animals who make it into our freezer. eek I hope youre not a vegetarian. I get a bit nervous talking about meat eating on blogs :o)

Niki said...

...that's 'creating a short' not recreating... hehe sometimes my fingers and brain arent connected! :o)

dkm said...

we're both omnivores :-) though our eating habits have become more vegetarian-like, local, and organic, over the years---in the interests of better health and less processed foods---

Jane Robertson said...

I love that image of the finches clinging to the squirrel nest. A happy symbiosis. I hope you get to see a squirrel family in the spring!! Will look forward to further reports...

Nicole said...

What a sweet story :)!