At the edge of the wood we always appreciate a good hair day. But the clever Blue Jays actually communicate mood with the crest feathers on their heads. When the crest is erected, making a prominent peak, the bird is excited, surprised, or aggressive. If the jay is frightened, the crest bristled out in all directions. If the bird is relaxed, the crest lays flat on the head. Here we have a relaxed Jay basking in the glow of this squirrel’s admiring gaze. Yes, we wish we could fly like that too.
A few years back, a BBC television series called Daylight Robbery featured squirrels performing hair-raising stunts worthy of the eight actors who played James Bond. The producers claimed their star was just an average squirrel off the street. Could this program have been the beginning of the reality show craze? We here at the edge of the wood know that no squirrels would sink that low. We often wonder why humans do. Here is our little star sharing a quiet moment with a red-bellied woodpecker amongst the green swan plant blooms and the pebbly osage orange and leafy eucalyptus.
Here at the edge of the wood it is always a joy to see a cardinal couple having a meal together. They mate for life, so if you see one, look around and you will surely see the other. Over at the Project FeederWatch Blog they are trying to figure out why males seem to frequent the feeders more than females. Could it be the ladies like to lunch elsewhere? Maybe with their girlfriends, a la Sex in the City. Do the guys need some male-bonding time? Perhaps it’s not such a mystery after all.
Here at the edge of the wood, well, we don’t like to call names, but yes, squirrels are as smart as some geeks, but only seasonally. The portion of a squirrel’s brain associated with memory actually grows 15% in the fall. Scientists think this helps them remember where they have buried nuts for the long winter ahead. Or maybe it’s because when they go back to school they will ace those spelling pop quizzes. Here is a little student standing on a birch log, surrounded by late fall cosmos flowers and hanging wild blueberries.
Here at the edge of the wood a dedicated band of animal cognitive behavior researchers have come to our attention. Cal Squirrel at UC Berkeley is studying similarities between squirrel and human behavior. When looking into caching, Mikel Delgado states, “We’re finding that squirrels are not making random decisions… they’re thoughtful about their investments.” The work is being conducted under psychology professor Lucia Jacob with the help of the campus squirrels. So we applaud these squirrels for their wise deployment of capitol. Are we surprised? No. After all, only 25% of everyone who applies to Berkeley is accepted. So they must be some pretty smart squirrels to begin with. Here is one posing among the Montauk daisies, mum daisies and hanging groundsel bush.
At the edge of the wood the squirrels and chipmunks are stocking up on the abundance of fall food for the long winter ahead. Everyone seems to enjoy the cool autumn temperatures, and frisky play abounds. Here the squirrels are among the newly ripe pumpkins and pears; flowering anise hyssop and globe amaranth, and hanging chokeberry bush.
Here at the edge of the wood we remember our favorite founding father, scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin. In a letter to his daughter he stated his preference for the wild turkey. He wrote, “I am on this account not displeased (about) a Bald Eagle…. for the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.” We admire the wild turkeys. They are curious, fearless, love a good get together, and have beautiful feathers suitable for any social occasion.
Here at the edge of the wood we notice that all the animals have a super human/super hero sense of what is around them. The squirrels are in tune with the woods. They know the comings and goings of their neighbors, especially the predators. Are they completely defenseless? The California ground squirrel can heat up its tail, wave it in face of a predator that hunts with infrared, and confuse it (think snakes). This allows time for a Ninja-like get away. Scientists Aaron Rundus and Donald Owings said after making this discovery, “It taught us to focus on the perceptual world of the animal… rather than thinking only of human perceptions.” Thus, thinking like a squirrel may one day save you from a snake. Here they are among the new rhododendron flowers having a frisky morning.
Here at the edge of the wood we have come to realize squirrels seem to love a good park, well, who doesn’t? The White House sits at the center of an 82 acre park. The very special squirrels who live there have had a profound relationship with many presidents. For a detailed essay please go to Julie Feinstein’s wonderful blog Urban Wildlife Guide. To sum it up: George H.W. Bush and George W Bush let the dogs chase them, thumbs down! Eisenhower tried to trap and release them for the sake of his putting green, which Congress used to paint him as a wildlife hater. Thumbs down! Warren G Harding, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton…thumbs up! They all fed and/ or studied the squirrels. So we notice that kindness to squirrels can be bipartisan. Maybe the Congress and the President should get together on the South Lawn, feed the squirrels and get some work done. The squirrels would be happy to consult.
Here at the feeder we love to watch everyone interact. We find these encounters quite complex, and we wonder what is truly going on. It has been found that squirrels can communicate via ultrasound on a frequency higher than human hearing just like bats. So while the squirrels, chipmunk and grackle look as if they are having an awkward social moment, they might actually discussing the upcoming Warhol retrospective at the Met surrounded by newly flowering phlox.