A new resident has moved into the garden neighborhood. One day I noticed movement in the back yard and discovered that a Douglas squirrel (or pine squirrel or chickaree) has built a stick nest in an old birdhouse on the end of the shed. There is an auxiliary nest in another birdhouse. Because a large maple tree spreads over the back section of my lot, the squirrel can move from nest to nest without ever touching the ground.
I had to look up the scientific name–Tamiasciurus douglasii. In describing the small mammal, one author noted that the Douglas squirrel is the noisiest of all squirrels and I was left wondering: in North America? In the world? How can someone make such a claim?
It is true that this arboreal pipsqueak has a large vocabulary and is not shy about turning up the volume. Words like chattering, scolding, barking and calling have been used to characterize the variety of sounds. It’s easy to imagine that the resident squirrel yells at the cat. And looks at me skeptically when I go out to the chicken coop. The alarm call sounds like a high-pitched ratchet, and sometimes I hear it from high in the neighbors’ ponderosa pine trees.
Because my friend Jon calls all squirrels “Sparky”, this one is Sparky. I look for Sparky when I go outside, and when I leave for work in the morning. The squirrel is often about, perched on the roof of the big birdhouse, or the shed. The nests are being improved, and I suspect Sparky is busily caching cones and chicken food somewhere nearby. I can relate to that as I add to my stash of homemade applesauce and canned green beans. And fix up the nest before the weather turns colder.
Happy Autumn! Stay tuned for the adventures of Sparky.