June 15, 2011 • 11:26 am

Well, the squirrels have now built a nest on my windowsill (I’m three floors up), so I’ll be able to watch them from only a foot or two away for as long as they’re there.  There are four of them (since they sleep in a heap, I count tails), and they seem to either be all there or all gone.  This morning, when it was raining, they were sleeping with their tails over their heads, like furry umbrellas.  Then they were gone for a while, and now they’re back in the sack again. Since last night, they’ve cleared away the ivy and installed a bunch of small twigs and leaves to make a bed.

I’m really glad that I’ll get to learn about squirrel habits at such close quarters, but I wish I could install a video feed to share them.

Sadly, the window is dirty outside, and has a screen, so they don’t photograph well.  But they don’t seem to be afraid of me.

44 thoughts on “SquirrelCam!

  1. Is it a coincidence they have nested there, or have you orchestrated it in some way? If so, how? 🙂

  2. Excellent and interesting! Can’t really make out what’s going on there because of the reflection, though. Can you please take more pictures. Maybe turn the lights off while taking your next picture to reduce reflection. Suggestion: take video if possible.

  3. They’ve got you pegged, Jerry! Must be a little commune. What is their genetic distance from pussycats?

    1. The same as ours – we’re closer kin to the squirrels (and other rodents and the lagomorphs – the whole bunch are Glires) than we are to the cats (dogs, whales, pigs, and so on). Jerry’s most recent common ancestor with the squirrels there was about 75 million years ago; with the cats, about 85.

      1. My Google skills have been failing me…what’s that Web site where you enter two species and it gives you that information?

        I know both Jerry and PZ have posted about it, but for the life of me I haven’t been able to find it….


        1. I wish I had it myself – must remember to bookmark. I just grabbed The Ancestor’s Tale and looked up the branch points there. (Note – the data is about 5 years old now, but I’m not too worried about big changes on this scale in that time.)

          1. YES! THANK YOU!

            Squirrel / cat: 98.2 MYA

            Squirrel / human: 103.7 MYA

            Cat / human: 98.2 MYA

            So, we’re more closely related to cats than to squirrels, but not by much.



            1. Curious – Wikipedia (as well as Ancestor’s Tale has the cats, dogs, bats, and most other mammals in the Laurasiatheria clade. It has the lagomorphs, rodents, primates in Euarchontoglires, and both clades subsumed under Boreoeutheria.

              1. Of course it depends on how the clock is set. If its MYa (Im to lazy to look it up) you may get a different result than if its inferred generation time. Also, there is the problem with science moving forward, as more information becomes available the ‘specific’ times will become more refined.

            2. Isn’t that just marvelous! Cats and squirrels, separated genetically by about 5.5 my can get along just fine, adapt to one another, but humans, separated genetically by 0 years at all, can’t! Terrific!

              1. I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but look: squirrels and cats, two species separated by 98.2 million years of evolution, have just been thrown into the mix together. How can we possibly have the slightest idea of what to expect?

  4. A fair amount of the photographic problems are from glare on the window. You might be able to do something about that. The goal is to reduce as much light as possible from your side of the glass and increase it as much as possible from the other side of the glass.

    Just turning off the lights inside might help significantly, but you might need to duct-tape some paper over a portion of the window in a tent kind of fashion and shoot from under the tent. Pretend you’re Ansel Adams ducking his head under the towel to look at the ground glass and you’ve got the basic idea of what you’re trying to build. Whatever you do, don’t use the camera’s flash.

    On the other side, you might be able to set up a reflector of some kind to shine sunlight onto the squirrels. White foamcore works well, as can something covered in aluminum foil. Maybe set up a couple / few so they each reflect sunlight at different times of the day. Just aim the reflectors the exact same way you’d aim a signal mirror. Improvising stands / whatever to support the reflectors is your problem….

    Regardless, don’t forget to take lots of pictures with the only pair of cameras you have that matter — the pair just forward of your ears!



    1. They now sell foamboard (styrofoam) board at Home Depot with Aluminum foil on one side. It’s about $7 for a half-inch-thick sheet, four foot by eight foot.

      1. Sweet — didn’t know. That actually sounds like a great deal.

        Jerry, if you cut the sheet in half, you’d have a pair of perfectly-sized reflectors for your squirrels. Placed right, they’d provide lots of high-quality soft light as good as anything any pro would use. Indeed, it’d put lots of expensive flash setups to shame.



  5. This is wonderful! I’m absolutely nuts about squirrels (ugh, pardon the pun), so this is a welcome addition to one of my favorite blogs. Keep the squirrel pics coming!

      1. I have people – similar problem! I was bitten by a squirrel twice in one week a few years ago, which probably explains a few things about me!

  6. I’d always heard that baby squirrels were a myth. No one’s ever seen a baby squirrel, have they? A pity we can’t see them better.

          1. I think they are somewhat like large caterpillars. They build a leaf nest, and emerge 2 months later as full grown adult squirrels.

        1. And to move a notch further along, put:

          Dog nurses tiger cubs

          into the YT search window. You’ll get several to choose from.

      1. Squirrels are adaptable to being raised by cats.

        Here’s a video of a baby squirrel, raised by a cat, that learned to purr by emulating its mom:

  7. Sounds like a great reason to buy a videocam. Or at least a security camera that takes a pic every few sec and stores a day’s worth of images on a disk.

    And can’t you remove the screen when they’re out?

  8. Ooh, furry!

    Baby squirrels don’t look very squirrel-like at first: more like bald mice to the untrained eye. They’re about as appealing as day old canary hatchlings.

  9. “Sadly, the window is dirty outside…”

    This is just more naive evidentialist epistemology coming from Coyne. Surprise, surprise.

    He claims the window is dirty, but what’s his evidence that reason and sense perception are basically reliable? The pragmatic approach gives us no purchase on how to address the radical skepticism of Agrippa or Descartes (the ancient Greeks realized these issues needed to be addressed and worked to resolve them); rather, these questions are simply ignored. But on what basis? An adequate account of reason and sense experience should provide a basis for addressing those questions (e.g., see Michael Williams, Problems of Knowledge: A Critical Introduction to Epistemology).

  10. ###
    If you can open the window & the screen, then why not set up a battery-powered wireless camera that can ‘talk’ to your TV or PC ?
    They usually come with IR lights & motion sensors. They can be movie or still

    I search google.co.uk with this: pc bird wireless battery camera

    Here are three examples of my search results:


    I have done a simple version of this for my 93yo neighbour Betty. She lives on the 1st floor & I’ve installed a camera outside that shows live, close up, colour video streaming of the bird table action in her garden. It goes to a channel on her HD TV. She loves it. She especially enjoys the audio which was the trickiest part to get working well.


  11. Delightful story. How did you attract them to be outside your window? They must present some comedy to your day.

  12. Any fan of Dave Barry is well informed on the nature of squirrels: They are Evil and are trying to take over the world.

  13. Wow, what a treat! I’m suspecting these are some morph of the Eastern grey squirrel?

    One of my books relates:

    Leaf nests (dreys) are located away from the main trunk of a tree and are constructed to shed water. A squirrel can have up to seven dreys, which are sometimes used as emergency nests. Usually born in a cavity nest, babies may be moved to a drey when the mother feels threatened. Mothers raise their young alone and move them from nest to nest, perhaps to avoid flea infestation. Studies show that 80% die in their first year due to predation by animals…such as coyotes, foxes, and hawks.


    [Their] home is a leaf nest (drey) in summer, hollow with a single entrance hole and lined with soft plant material; nest is in a tree cavity or old woodpecker hole in winter; male and female live in separate nests in summer, but together in winter.

    (Stan Tekiela, Mammals of Michigan.)

    I wonder if what you’re seeing is a family group of this year’s pups, with or without Mom?

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