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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Squirrels of the Night

If you've followed my blog for awhile, you might have seen a few posts about my favorite night-time visitors: Southern Flying Squirrels.  You can read more about them in my posts "Gliding in the Night" and "Photoshoot: Boris and Natasha." There are also a few pictures, along with those of other nocturnal visitors in "Nightlife on the Ridge."

I have about a dozen bird feeders, and I refill the feeders for my feathered friends nearly every day with several kinds of seed and suet. (The cats truly appreciate this, because they get to watch the Birdie Channel from the comfort of the family room bench.) At night, I add a few item to feeders--a mix that is designed to appeal to my furry fliers; in addition to the seeds and suet, I offer a tasty buffet of peanut butter, fruits and berries (they seem to really like blueberries).  I think they know my voice, since I'll call out "Boris! Natasha!" as I feed them; within a minute or two, at least one shows up. 

(Why Boris and Natasha? Some folks might remember Rocky as the flying squirrel from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons of decades ago. Their arch nemeses were Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. The names just seemed right.)

This has been a busy year for Boris and Natasha; they have created a lovely--and large--family. Many times this summer, I would count more than 8 squirrels on the trees, leaping from limb to limb, and noshing on the spread I left out for them. Their high-pitched squeaks and squeals contributed to the nightly chorus of insects and frogs. Sometimes, I'd hear one squeaking off to the left and, if my timing was right, I'd watch him (or her) swoop in and land on the tree. 

I never tire of watching these creatures; their big black eyes epitomize cute. And they are just so unique. I hd no clue such creatures lived in the US, let alone suburban New Jersey. And they come to my back yard. I feel somewhat honored. Some of the brood are so used to my presence that they'll come close enough to touch as I put out the peanut butter or berries. 

But I won't touch them; they need to be wild. And I don't try to befriend them. They need to be appropriately apprehensive of humans. 

But they are darn cute.

Of course, the photographer in me can't resist a challenge, so many a warm summer night found me and my Canon and my tripod standing in the dark, and hoping to snap some good pictures. I challenged myself to see if I could capture a squirrel in mid-flight--without resorting to a trip wire or motion detector. 

So take a scroll through today's post and meet Boris and Natasha and their family--just don't ask me who is who. 

Posing for the camera. 
Here you can really see the skin stretched between the paws. I like to describe these guys as a washcloth with paws on each corner, a head on one end and a tail at the other.

When they are at rest, the skin folds up and it's hard to see; only the white color makes it obvious.

When the squirrels run up and down the trunks, it almost looks like they're not even touching the tree. Maybe they're not.
This is the best I was able to manage of a squirrel in flight. His white underbelly with skin flaps glows as he comes in for a landing on the tree trunk.

Three squirrels feasting on the peanut butter buffet.
Seeds and berries are the featured item in this feeder.
And someone is enjoying the suet feeder.
One of the babies eating from the sunflower feeder.

I'll have the cabernet, please...

A busy night: four squirrels.

Even busier. Count 'em: SIX squirrels.

"Your buffet has run out of sunflower seeds. Could you please refill?"

Now that summer is nearly over, there are fewer squirrel visitors. Perhaps the young ones have moved out--something I can truly identify with, as Aaron, my youngest, left for his freshman year at NJIT just a few weeks ago. But Boris and Natasha still come by, and I continue to offer them a good nosh, every night.