One late January morning during breakfast as I was facing the back window, I noticed what appeared to be long stringing ribbons hanging in the pine tree up high and close to the trunk in a section of thick foliage, but hanging long enough to be swinging in the breeze. There were several of them. I wondered: what in the world is that hanging out of the tree! I watched the curious sight then forgot about it until sometime later when the movement of hanging, swinging “ribbons” caught my attention again. Then I realized what it is... a squirrel’s nest. It is still there.
I have read that squirrels mate and have their first litter in February in a nest they built in a cavity in the trunk of a tree. If a cavity cannot be found, then they build close to the trunk. February seems a cold time to be having those tiny, naked little “pinkies”, as I have heard them called. Brrrr, poor little things! I hope mama stays with them to keep them warm, but she must leave to find water and food for herself sometime!
Later in summertime they have another family in a nest out on a branch where it is cooler and can catch the summer breezes. I have read that the mother may take them back and forth from one nest to the other depending on the weather and temperature.
Their nests are large, bulky, bushy, amusing to see, collections of leaves and whatever else the homebuilder finds attractive and useful. That is what I was seeing up in the tall White Pine tree.
At first I thought the “ribbons” were pieces of old dead strap foliage from daylilies. Later I realized the daylily foliage was already rotted away so it couldn’t be that. Then during a front yard clean up, I discovered long strands of ornamental grass were all over our yard and the two either side of us. The long tan strips were blowing about the neighborhood from the across-the-street neighbors’ large, fairly new landscaping clumps. They were everywhere, and as I picked them up it dawned on me that was what I was seeing hanging up in the pine tree --- the squirrels had found a new building material.
Most of what I know about squirrels I learned while reading, and a little from observation of the resident squirrels in places where we have lived.
Here in the eastern United States we mainly have the cute little gray squirrels Sciurus Carolinensis. I am just guessing, but I suppose they were so named due to their eastern locations in the Carolinas – states: North Carolina and South Carolina, U.S.A.
I read that a black form of this species is seen in the most northern states and Canada. I have seen them in Ontario. Also, albino gray squirrels are not uncommon, especially inside towns where they are safer from predators. I know several have been seen in two towns that are 42 miles apart as the crow flies and located in western Tennessee: Jackson and Rutherford, Tennessee. The Rutherford white squirrels were well known. Then in a few years albinos were noticed in Jackson.
Usually the gray squirrel is predominately gray and in wintertime has cute little buff-colored tufts of fur on the tips of their ears; they remind me of earmuffs. The species is usually mild mannered and are driven out of their territory if the fox squirrels move in.
However, in the British Isles it seems the gray squirrel has somehow arrived there and, sadly, is causing the population of the smaller native red squirrels to decline. I am sorry about that. Too bad they cannot collect all the gray squirrels they have and swap them to us for all the English House Sparrows, House Finches, starlings, grackles, and probably a few other of their native species that are wreaking havoc over here.
During a lovely, relaxing weekend in one of Kentucky’s state resort parks, I especially enjoyed watching the squirrels on their feeders just outside the huge windows of the dining lodge. They were so cute, so full of antics, and put on such a show; I decided we should have such a feeder at home.
A similar feeder was installed here near our kitchen’s back window and stocked with uncrushed, whole grain corn. They, and an enterprising, fat little chipmunk, entertained us greatly. All day everyday they were running up and down that wooden pole putting on a show for us… and burying it all about the place. We had squirrel planted corn coming up everywhere!
Here are a few photos of baby gray squirrels when they are older and have grown their fur coats.