I had an exciting squirrel Friday. It turns out that “our” squirrel – the one that hops over to say hello to us – is a female. And she’s a new mom, too!
Friday afternoon, one of her youngsters made the daring decision to follow her out of the nest for the very first time. It watched her hop to a branch, and did the same.
For the next three or four hours, the little squirrel alternated between sitting very carefully on the branch, and trying out some squirrel skills. Mom squirrel helped a bit, but also was tough and made the little one try things on its own.
Mom squirrel spent her time biting off branches of the hemlock tree and dropping them below the branch they were sitting on. Was this to cushion a possible fall? Clear a pathway for easy travelling?
She would also hop over to the young one every once in a while to say hello and do a bit of checking and cleaning. She’d do some grooming, hop over the kid, and try to get him to play a bit. And he did. He’d follow her a bit, then sit some more.
She’d come over and pick him up and readjust him on the branch. Then she’d tease him a bit to come and play, and pretty soon he was able to jump from one branch to another and follow her around the tree trunk.
Mom would then run out to the end of a branch and jump to go back to the nest. Junior would follow, but stop near the end, not sure if the long jump was even possible. It would sit, then return to a safer part of the branch and sit some more.
This went on for hours. Mom would come out, she’d say hello and groom junior, they practice running around the tree and trying out different branches, then she’d show him how to hop back to the nest area. And, junior would go almost all the way, then decide not to try.
While this was going on, two other little heads peeked out of the nest. They weren’t ready to come out yet, but they were very curious and excited about their sibling and watched closely as their bolder nest-mate ventured out.
As it got near dark, the little guy still hadn’t made the big leap, so I piled up some leaves in the driveway under the jumping area, just in case it missed and fell 20 feet. I doubted they needed it, but felt it couldn’t hurt to have something to break a fall if necessary.
Today, I went out and saw mom and junior running about in the tree. Junior was more skilled than before and a bit more confident, but still a bit unsure about the big jumps. Whether he spent the night in the tree, or got back to the nest, we do not know. But little squirrel is fine today.
These young squirrels, by the way, look very much like grownup squirrels. They are slightly smaller, but have nice bushy tails. Their heads aren’t fully formed, and their eyes haven’t become full and round, but they are very much squirrels at this point.
So, if you are curious about baby squirrels, now is the time to go look carefully at the nests up in trees. Look for the slightly smaller ones, a bit unsure of themselves.