Squirrels on PBS tonight

November 14, 2018 • 2:45 pm

Yep, there’s a whole one-hour PBS show on sciurids, “A Squirrel’s Guide to Success” (including chipmunks and other relatives) on PBS tonight. Go here to see when it’s playing in your area.  It’s also available here after it airs.

To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt demonstrating squirrel intelligence:

h/t: Tom

Squirrels can solve mazes: quickly

July 18, 2018 • 2:45 pm

Reader Michael: sent this video of a squirrel faced with a maze that has only one way to the nut reward at the end. This is from the BBC television show “The Super Squirrels”, which you can watch here (but only if you’re in the UK).  The observers conclude that at least this squirrel learns the maze after one try.  I told you they were awesome!

Tuesday: Duck and squirrel report

June 26, 2018 • 2:30 pm

The pictures in the duck reports usually come from the previous day, and here are Monday’s duck snaps. I have found that sexing these little buggers is no easy task. The best way is to pick them up and inspect (and squeeze) the genitals, or somehow force them to make a noise. Female ducklings will quack; males will squeak. (You did know that only female mallards quack, right?) But I’m not picking up these precious little bundles of feathers: I don’t want to spook them.

Look at how big they are! Their appetites are huge, and have to feed them twice as much as I did just ten days ago. Most of their down is gone, with only a little behind their wings, and those wings are growing. It’s satisfying to think that those little stubs of wings will get so big and feathery that in a few weeks they can carry the birds hundreds of miles through the sky.

Dabbling time! Mom watches with a weather eye as her offspring learn to feed themselves.

Looking good!

Satisfied, Honey gives them an “A” and moves on:

I have bonded with this duck; who would have thought that I’d feel love for a waterfowl?

I haven’t written much about my squirrels, as I haven’t been paying them as much attention as the ducks this spring. But I still feed them, and several old and young ones partake of sunflower seeds and peanuts. Here’s a veteran squirrel standing erect:

Today I tried an experiment. I had a bowl of oatmeal with milk, raisins, and a bit of sugar for breakfast. I couldn’t finish it, so I decided to see if the squirrels would like it. This one, at least, did!

More tomorrow. . . . .


Readers’ wildlife photos

April 25, 2018 • 8:30 am

I’ve received several batches of wildlife photos on the road, but haven’t posted them as it takes a long time to do the travel posts, which I put together in my motel in the evening. Today’s post, from reader Don Bredes in Wheelock, Vermont, is an easy one, though, as it has only two photos. Nice ones, too: squirrels (Honorary Cats™):

His notes:

The sunflower seed feeder is down for the season (more than once I have made the mistake of leaving it up too long), so during the day I feed the chickadees, bluejays, and a few more exotic birds on the deck. That routine pleases the red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), who trust their speed and reflexes to save them from the hulking creature with the camera. We have a single gray squirrel this year, too, heretofore seldom seen out here in the hills. He isn’t nearly so trusting. Eastern Gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) have long been common the valleys and villages, but only in the last two or three years has their range expanded to these hilly rural reaches.
Here in the wooded hills red squirrels are numerous, and they’re not looked upon kindly by most people. They do a great deal of damage to the sugarmakers’ sap lines, for one thing. And they will invade a garage or open barn to nest and raise a litter, chewing through any wood or screen that may interfere with their purposes.

Karamel the squirrel gets a wheelchair

April 11, 2018 • 2:30 pm

I believe this is the world’s first squirrel to get a set of prosthetic limbs—or wheels. Apparently his front limbs were caught in a trap in the city of Batman (yes, that’s a city in Turkey) and had to be amputated.  As Global News (origin: Reuters) reports:

“A young man rescued him from the trap in Batman and found (me) and my videos and posts as a result of his researches,” said vet and animal rights activist, Tayfun Demir.

Orthopedists at Istanbul’s Aydin University designed the prosthetic wheels for him to replace his paws.

One of them, Mustafa Gultekin, said they waited for Karamel to adjust to the new device before passing on to the next phase.

“He is a wild animal trying to live in a home. He has a foreign object attached to his body. His reaction to this object was important to us. We passed this phase. We are now at the phase of walking.”

Karamel has become the first squirrel to receive a pair of prosthetic limbs.

I saw one news report on this where the male anchor poo-pooed this, while the female anchor was appreciative. Typical! I would suggest that, if the squirrel could run this operation, it would prefer to have wheels than to be killed, just like a person in a wheelchair.  Why does its being a squirrel make a difference? Besides, these vets and orthopedists are wonderful people.

Batman is a looong way from Istanbul, so I wonder how they transported it across the country.


Monday duck report (with an interloper!)

April 2, 2018 • 2:30 pm

I hadn’t seen Trixie or Norton for three days, and was beginning to get worried. But they showed up at today’s afternoon feeding—at least I think it was Trixie and Norton. Norton appeared to have a scar or slight wound on his chest (maybe it’s just the feather pattern), and now Trixie looks as if she’s missing toes on both feet. I am deeply confused. You tell me: is this light spot the result of some inter-duck fracas?

Trixie is lovely, as usual (if it’s her), but look at the feet. Are there now two toes missing? She also didn’t eat much of her corn, though she chowed down on mealworms. She’s still a bit skittish, and to my eye looks a bit plumper. Is that food or eggs?

How many toes? I’m pretty sure this is Trixie because both ducks came immediately when I whistled.

But here’s the big news. Unbeknownst to me, a huge behemoth was lurking in the pond! And when he saw the food, out he climbed to help himself. Needless to say, Trixie and Norton waddled away. Meet 88K!

Now I don’t know if 88K is male or female, but it’s big and it HONKS LOUDLY. It also displaced my ducks, but I managed to herd them into the pond for a healthy helping of mealworms. I like Canada geese, but I want this one to go away, and will avoid feeding it.  I guess I should report its neck collar to someone, and I hope a reader can tell me where.

Note that its eyes are set lower relative to the bill than are the ducks’ eyes. And that collar looks like it’s constricting the neck.

Oy, am I confused! It’s no picnic caring for waterfowl, I tell you. I don’t know what to do about 88K, either.

In the meantime, my squirrels are getting fed several times a day, and they like to have a drink after they eat their seeds and peanuts:

Saturday squirrels

March 24, 2018 • 1:30 pm

I haven’t neglected my squirrels, who get sunflower seeds, peanuts, and fresh water at least twice a day. Sometimes in the morning, when I haven’t yet fed them, they tap or bang on my office window to remind me that they’re hungry (they’re fed next door, in the lab). I’ll hear a banging or scratching, and this is what I see:

When I leave the window open while changing the water, they often come into the lab (one poked its head in my office the other day, looking for noms). I’ll shoo them outside and make sure they have a big pile of food.  If I leave the window open for a while, they’re perfectly capable of finding my bag of peanuts, gnawing it open, and making off with a pound or two. Yes, they’ve done that.