Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Last week we were savoring our first out-on-the-porch dinner of the season, and suddenly heard an astonishing racket coming from the direction of a stone wall known to be the residence of a chipmunk or two. But this wasn't the high-pitched sound of chipmunks; it was as insistent as a cat-spying squirrel, and similar, but not quite....a pair of binoculars and some patient vigilance exposed the culprit--an Eastern Red Squirrel. First, it's astonishing that something so small can be SO loud (but then, I said that about my kids, too). Second, they make Speedy Gonzalez appear to be in slow motion. As we've discovered in watching this newcomer to the neighborhood, they are also fearless and have delusions of grandeur that they try mightily to live up to. Last night a tiny flash of foxy red went streaking across the porch carrying a black walnut nearly the size of its head; fortunately the chilly day had convinced the girls to stay inside, but most days there's a cat or four roaming the porch. We were absolutely tickled when we went out front to get the baking pan Linda had used earlier for fish and popped outside to cool down and discovered a black walnut on it! The walnut tree is at the far end of our property, nowhere near the front door; this nut had to have been left there (momentary safekeeping? a trade for salmon remnants?) by our little visitor. Just now s/he was back, this time on the porch rail, drinking from empty plant flats, racing back and forth along the rail....very red tail and ears, gray-red body, white belly....tiny, bigger than a chipmunk but noticeably smaller than the ubiquitous gray squirrel, and far too cute. I'm a bit worried; the girls may be getting older but they still think they're hunters as the occasional mouse body will attest...Red is speedy but if caught unaware, well....it could be awfully sad. I'm just amazed because I've never had one in the neighborhood; other viewings have been in uninhabited (by people) woods....and there Red goes again! Up the flowering quince with a red-squirrel-head-sized walnut...and over to the porch where it has just carefully tucked its treasure in the tightly packed top branches of Albert (the shrubby potted evergreen shrub that we inherited when we bought the house and have left there because, well, it seems happy)....and off again!