Friday, December 31, 2010

We Never Tire of Baby Pictures

M-L writes on New Year's eve day: 

I just spent about an hour taking pictures of Missy and Jackie and tried to get a closeup of Jackie's beau.  It is frustrating to take pictures of squirrels who don't stay still long enough to get a shot.  I have lots of pics of empty spaces where a squirrel was a second ago or pics of the tail end of a squirrel moving out of the frame. 

At first the big fir tree appeared empty, then I saw a leaf drop to the ground.  Look up and there is the red squirrel on a branch tossing off dried leaves. Weird, but perhaps making a point that fir trees are for red squirrels to hibernate in and the grey and blacks one shouldn't get any ideas about nesting in her tree, even this late in the season. After standing for a while longer under the fir, some branches started waving-- here comes Missy on the run.  A few seconds later, there is a whirlwind in the fir tree. Jackie and her beau are chasing each other through the branches, then run into the ancient overgrown cedar hedge and on to another yard. Same as human teens on a warm day, just a different species.

After a visit and something to eat, Missy climbed her tree and took off over the branches and onto the roof and disappeared. Jackie sat on her nesting box and looked for her lad. He was running across the back of the yard on a power line, through another hedge and away. Lots of mumbling from Jackie when she saw this and she sat grinding her teeth for a while.  Men!

Which brings me to the best man in the world. Oscar.  I hate New Years Eve. It makes me think of all the things I did wrong over the last year, which reminds me of all the things I have ever done wrong in my life, and in 10 minutes I am despondent. But this was the year of Baby Squirrel Oscar.
Setting alarms for feeds, warming up puppy milk replacement to be fed through a syringe, washing a hairless then furry little body after a feed as all babies make a mess when they eat and stimulating a little squirrel bottom to pee and poop before back under the fuzzy blankets and heat lamp to sleep.

With two weeks to show the squirrel expert he was viable, he completed the Infant Squirrel Stimulation program devised by his foster mom with flying colours.


Next he went on to Squirrel Boot Camp run by his foster aunt to build muscle through lots of new exercises and new solid food.  Then off to squirrel school for a few weeks where he met Missy and Jackie.

Finally, all three to the inner sanctuary for socialization with Honey and the fun of fresh leaves for nest building, climbing on branches and enjoying twice daily freshly chopped apple, banana, sweet potato, avocado, red grapes, green beans, snap peas, snow peas, spinach and broccoli followed by sunflower seeds topped with almond, walnut and cashew pieces as a treat.

Best day was release day. The yard they looked at through the large window was finally their home.

So thank-you Oscar for being you and enriching my life.
Amen to that, M-L. Oscar enriched so many lives.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Squirrel Chit-Chat

On the day after Christmas, M-L writes a bright, cheery message from the squirrel sanctuary:
The two nut trays overflowed for a special feast yesterday, but Missy, she who rules the world, didn't feel I was quick enough.  She was tearing across the railing and aiming to land on my back as I filled the five sunflower seed trays on the deck, the three sunflower bird feeders (remember, I got the ones that people at the store complained were really easy for squirrels to raid), the niger seed feeder and the two suet trays. Bad human for not filling the nut trays first.  I made amends by handing her one large cashew to settle her and another one just because.  I think she's really got the knack of taking things from my fingers now as she is more gentle and not as rushed when she does it. Perhaps she thinks she's finally got me trained. 

I'm not sure if Missy is still living in the nesting box now that the grey squirrel has moved in with Jackie. Perhaps she is in the neighbouring box, or perhaps she is off with Honey. She can't be too far away as she is in the yard when I fill the dishes, or at least comes running from a few yards away when she hears my voice. Maybe they have a place with Oscar. 

I know the squirrels won't reach sexual maturity until eleven months of age--about May 2011,  gestation is 44 days, and they stay inside with their mom until 10 weeks or there about. If Jackie doesn't slow down, she will be a teenage mom! Then again, squirrels will overwinter with anyone for body warmth-- remember camping trips with inadequate sleeping bags.

Mr. Grey Squirrel Has Made His Move

And he's moved in! Here's what M-L wrote yesterday:
And guess what I saw early this morning as the sun was just rising? A grey squirrel sticking his head out of the nesting box. He looked casually around, yawned, and  backed inside again. Oscar would be appalled.
Grey Squirrel as seen at Wikipedia.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jackie Finds True Love

M-L writes:
Just saw the blog re no female squirrels refusing sex.  Explains why I have seen a grey squirrel coming out of the the nesting box followed after by Jackie.  Three times!!!! Martha Stewart has turned into Jackie Collins!! She won't even meet my eye and her young male friend boots it when he hears the "old auntie" yell a greeting. 
Missy is nowhere to be found while Jackie is fooling around with the grey squirrel. Missy is still quite protective of her territory when he isn't there. I wonder what Jackie says to her to get her to leave---can't give her money and say go to a movie for a few hours. Not that I'd try to tell that Missy anything.  I thought she would have the first boyfriend as she was hanging around with the other squirrels form the beginning.  Just goes to show that you really have to watch the quiet ones.

Jackie waits for Mr. Grey Squirrel.
Honey has been back a few times- easy to spot now as she is a bit smaller than the other black squirrels and isn't chased away by Missy on one of her clean sweeps of any unwelcome squirrels (in her eyes) from the feeding area. 
The mystery still remains.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sex and the Single Squirrel

News flash! This just in from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, female squirrels never turn down sex.

A research team from the University of Guelph has published a study in the journal, Biology Letters, that indicates that genetics have little impact on squirrels' mating habits.

Read more:

Of course, this pertains to female squirrels and Oscar and his strong, silent gender are not included.

However, what was M-L's observation that Missy was looking "bulked-up" which may or may not be a result of her seasonal fur coat? Missy's name may become Mrs.come spring.

Or perhaps it's all the food she's been eating.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Squirrel Fur Galore

M-L writes today about the winter coats the squirrels are sporting:
The furry rodents are wonderful. 
The grey squirrels are still scattering with I announce a "good morning", but they aren't so frantic.  Just getting used to me, I guess.  The rainy day this week, every one ran but little Jackie.  She stayed on the trunk of her tree on a branch, tail over her head, with the rain plodding down. She looked miserable, and accepted cashews put in the nut treat tray.  Bad foster human.......I had none of her favourite walnuts ready. 
One of the little dickens frolicking on the rail.
Blue Jay at the nut tray.
Today was sunny, cool and breezy, and a very fluffy black squirrel came to see me when the others ran on hearing my voice. Missy really has bulked up in fur and I expect weight as well. She just wanted a cashew treat and to go eat it on a tree limb. No jumping on my back to ride around with me while I fill up the feeders and seed trays today. And she is still sweetly taking the nut from my fingers with her mouth as her wee  hands rest on mine. But, twice bitten, always careful when I offer her a treat.
There's a big mystery in squirrel sanctuary.  You have to see the photo to appreciate it.  As soon as I get the pic, the fun of solving the mystery will begin!!

Photographed through a window to give a soft focus.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Additional Photos of Jackie and Missy

Still life with Squirrel eating.
 I hope the squirrels are used to the snow. Ottawa is expecting storm this weekend which might bring many inches of snow along with ice pellets.

This is why we are known as "the true North, strong and free."

Jackie on a branch beside the nesting boxes.

These photos and those of yesterday were taken by M-L.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oscar's Girls Frolic at the Sanctuary

Dateline: December 10/10, snow on the ground and Missy and Jackie dine on exotic nuts. Photos taken by M-L over several days.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Brief 2nd Week December Addendum

M-L writes briefly about her experience with one of Oscar's girls:

Missy sweetly took a cashew from my fingers as she rested her little hands on my hand. No bite!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Update on Oscar and His Girls

M-L writes a day or two ago: 
Squirrel update has Oscar still being AWOL.  No doubt he has charmed himself into the hearts of a bevy of lovely female squirrels in another tree. We did want him to be wild and free--- the lad is being both to the max. Still haven't given up on seeing him again.

Missy remains very friendly, running to me and jumping onto my chest, then scurrying down my arms to see if I have any treats in my hands.  She objects to me filling all the feeders/dishes with sunflower seeds before she is given a treat.  I swear she knows the word "treat" when I say it. 
The look on her face was so funny earlier in the week with the first snow that stayed for a bit.  She came running towards me,covered with flakes of snow then jumped on the barbecue and with wide eyes glared at me as if I was responsible for the change in weather.  

Jackie tolerates me and devotes her time to amassing the winter supplies under the carpet of leaves around her tree. She shooed away a big gray squirrel who was taking too big an interest in her walnut halves. Actually ran him up the tree trunk and around it a few times, all while holding a massive half walnut shell in her mouth. Honey comes to eat a few seeds from the dishes, then runs away, to return a minute or two later. Shy wee thing still.

I just ran into my neighbour who asked if I found the gray squirrels to be extra friendly this year.  I told him they were no doubt expecting that a bit of encouragement on their part would motivate him to set up a high class resort in his yard like the one I have established in mine. No fast food allowed. All species welcome.
Photo taken of Oscar in late-August.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sno-Globe Daze and Knights

 On the first day of snow, a dear friend presented me with a Sno-Globe of, well surely that is Oscar and one of his lady friends? Not Honey but perhaps Missy or Jackie?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Addendum Seven - To-ing and Fro-ing of Squirrels

M-L writes this update:
The really good news is ..........(suspense).................. guess who is back????  Honey!!!  I had been watching this smallish shy black squirrel for a few days as she ate at the periphery of the squirrel haven. She seemed to feel at home, but was wary of attention from any of the other squirrels.  Today she got brave and came on to the deck to eat. She has no real distinguishing features, unlike the other of our squirrels, but her behaviour is the same as Honey's was inside. She and Missy touched noses, and then Missy ran her off. Missy did like Honey when they were inside, so I think Missy was just establishing who is boss. As Jackie never liked Honey while their cages were abutting, I'm curious to see how she will react to her return. Jackie was up the tree eating a walnut when Honey and Missy met.

Missy runs everyone off, except Jackie, Oscar and I, but there are degrees.  The red squirrel is run off to the fir tree.  The resident black squirrels are chased all around the lawn and trees for a while, then off 'her' property. The grey squirrels are run right out of the yard as quickly as possible and with a more authoritative manner.  Jackie is inconsistent on whether she will run off the other squirrels, I guess depending on how brave she feels on any given day.

Oscar is still not around and I presume off with the lads.  He is a teenage male. I miss him, but as long as he is having a happy squirrel life, I'm content. 
And Honey did come back, at least for a bit, and I had given up any hope of seeing her again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Raining so Worms but no Squirrels

The rain is a warm one but rain, nonetheless, so the squirrels have stayed  in their nesting box.

Meanwhile, Harvey, my year-old orange and white kitten with a blue eye and a gold eye, he loves the rain as it gives him a chance to do what he appears to do perfectly, that is, catch worms.

Perhaps it's a dietary thing, maybe he needs more protein, but if there are worms in the driveway or garden, then Harvey, consummate "wormer" that he is, chases them, catches them and brings them home in his mouth to dump unceremoniously on the kitchen floor.

Well may you say, don't let the wretched beast in with worms dangling from his kitten maw but (said with consternation and a certain amount of defeat) I have a cat door!

I located a fake worm for him today and visually, he's attracted to it but once he smells it, he loses interest. The ersatz rubber worms just don't have the same aroma and taste as the real thing.

Harvey's not the keen on the fake squid, either.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Addendum Six - Oscar Off Being With the Boys

The four black squirrels, Oscar and his harem of Missy, Jackie and Honey, were released two weeks ago. Ottawa's weather has been Indian Summer-like which is a boon to these neophytes who are not used to searching  for food under leaf-cover much less under snow. Food will be provided for them all winter long so no worries there and this good weather has allowed them to adapt slowly, putting on extra fat and fur.

ML had an interesting time with her furry friends today:

Honey is still AWOL. Perhaps off with the squirrel who kept eying her through the window.  I still hope she comes back, but if she is happy elsewhere, that's what counts. The giant grey squirrels haven't been back, but there are still 4-5 regular greys and the same number of black squirrels, not counting "our" squirrels. And that crabby little red squirrel. Lots of birds showing up now the giant greys have gone.

I finally spotted Oscar today. He is being quite the man and not hanging around with home as much.  He would go for a week ignoring me when he was inside, so this isn't unusual for him. I got the camera going and tried to get a pic of him, but he just went off with another black squirrel into the neighbour's yard. Jackie is still shy.  She sits on the fir tree 10 feet in the air on a limb that was cut off and extends only six inches  from the trunk. That or she stares down at me from on high in the maple.  She listens to my voice, but won't come close unless there are seeds to eat, and then she prefers to be at least 4 feet away.

And then there's Missy.....  I guess I am her best friend because my blood must taste good. As soon as she sees me she comes running and leaps onto my jacket and rides around on my chest, back or shoulder as I check out to see what bird/squirrel feeders need filling. I really have to watch she is not under foot or trying to follow me inside these days. The little piglet had me in stitches today as she tried to stuff  two unshelled almonds in her mouth to bury elsewhere.  Jackie loves to eat the almonds after she shells them, but Missy is planting a forest of almond trees.

Oscar at six weeks old was carried in a pouch around my neck. This was part of the Infant Squirrel Stimulation Program that ML and I initiated to bring him up to snuff. Being premature, he was behind in development and needed extra attention to bring him into full squirreldom.

Oscar in Trust

 This A-frame sign was seen outside one of those investment places on Sussex Drive in Ottawa yesterday.
Made me think that perhaps Oscar should set up an education fund...for all his children that will be born in the spring.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Raining in Ottawa

I hope Baby Squirrel Oscar is snug as a bug in a rug this evening with his three lovelies, Missy, Jackie and Honey.

I am thrilled to see that people from Croatia, India, Romania, Tunisia and Bulgaria have taken a look at what Oscar 's up to.

Ah, the wonders of the Internet.

Best wishes, everyone!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gentleman Baby Squirrel Oscar - Addendum Five

M-L mentioned yesterday that she was going to give the squirrels some nuts in the shell to see if  they can navigate their way through. Here's her report:
The in shell almonds were a hit.  Missy got them first and liked them so much, she went up her tree and across the tree highway to another yard to eat it.  Oscar and Jackie just sat on the roof of the nesting box to eat their nuts. Blasted blue jays still take the unshelled nuts, but at least they cannot quickly gulp the almonds as they did the shelled nuts.

I had a visit with Oscar and Missy this afternoon as I filled the various bowls, trays and bird feeders with seeds.  For the first time they just ambled around the deck as I topped up the food, while the resident squirrels raced to hide in the cedar hedge to watch me. I offered Oscar a shelled almond. He came over from the dish of sunflower seeds, rested his front paws on my hand and gently took it from my fingers. Sweet Oscar! 

Missy was offered a cashew (her favourite).  She turned from the sunflower seeds and promptly bit my finger.  On reflex, I lifted my hand up and had a squirrel hanging from my finger! I dropped the cashew, shook her off and was given an annoyed look as her cashew rolled off the deck. I shook a few out of the jar onto the deck and tapped the wood so she could see them. She went over, still giving me the "you stupid human, you lost my cashew" look, and took another. I didn't like the way she was looking at my bare toes, so I went back inside to put on shoes.

When I came out again, all three were munching on almonds they had shelled themselves. I pulled up a chair to watch them, with a jar of Oscar's shelled almonds for me to munch on, and to my surprise, Missy came over, climbed up my jeans and sat on my lap, eyeing the almonds in the jar.  She helped herself to a nut and ran off to bury it in the leaf cover. This was repeated twice. The third time, she got a nut and just hopped onto my shoulder and ate part of the nut. Then she climbed down my back and tried to bury the remaining piece under my sweater!!  Didn't I say she was a very confident assertive squirrel!  But, Oscar should teach her some manners.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Addendum Four--Digging in the Leaves

Amazing how even though squirrels seem to all look alike, M-L can tell who's who in her back yard squirrel paradise.

M-L writes:
The yard was squirrel-free at noon. All the seed and and the water in the dog bowl were gone. (Annie always got barking if she saw a 'squirrel from Mars' - imagine what she'd do if she saw them using her bowl). The bird feeder with the two extra lid catches was open and the seed removed from the top not the tray. I'm sure it was a black squirrel, but I don't think Oscar or his ladies could do it (yet). People refer to squirrels as tree rats. They are really tree pigs!!

It's fun to see how the squirrels are interacting now they have been living outside with the resident squirrels for 6 days now. Oscar is as laid back as usual, getting on with everyone.... unless they are after his almonds. Jackie is a home body.... I've never seen her other than in her tree or the big fir. She is on edge around the others, especially the greys. She'll go after the black squirrels if they don't show her respect. She seems most happy just digging around the fallen leaves under her tree. Missy interacts more with other squirrels, but still loyal to her nest mates. She is a very confident and assertive squirrel.  Honey was AWOL today.  I sound like an adoring relative, but this is how I see things. Same personalities they've always had.

Tomorrow I'm going to see how they do with walnuts or almonds with cracked shells.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oscar and Family, all Doing Well

Squirrel Haven or is it Heaven?

Latest update from ML, November 10/10

Oscar is quite a guy.  I don't think he knows he is on the small side..... maybe that means his testosterone is more concentrated and therefore more bluster.  It seems that way with the  male of our species. The bossy red squirrel later came to eat, chattering at everyone for 1/2 hour from a tree first and then chasing everyone away. Jackie got brave and chased away a regular size grey from the plastic feeding bowls, though she let him feed at another nearby pile of seeds. When he tried to look in her nesting box after she had entered, he got treated to the growls I got when I pissed her off and he had the sense to leave just as she thrust out her angry little face. I've seen Oscar, Jackie and Missy in the nesting box that Oscar checked out when released, but I don't know for sure if Honey sleeps there or elsewhere.

Oscar Defends His Territory - Addendum Three

M-L writes on November 10, 2010

Another update so we can all relax. When the squirrels were inside, I came down the stairs with a loud 'good morning squirrels' no matter what time of day. I've kept this up when I go outside to feed them.  Another familiar thing to make them feel reassured, but likely not reassuring to the neighbours (tee hee). 

This morning there were the 2 giant greys, 3 regular greys and 6 various black squirrels--word is spreading this is a great place to eat apparently.  As I gave my morning greeting, all scattered.  After making a sumptuous spread of sunflower seeds, I was watching the birds then I just about leaped out of my skin when a squirrel came out of no where and landed a foot away from me.  Oscar! 
Slowly 3 smallish black squirrels came to eat from the trays and get a drink from the dog bowl. Missy, Jackie and Honey!! We celebrated with almonds. Gradually, the other squirrels came back to the buffet (I'm putting out lots to minimize the fighting). One of the giant greys tried to come over and get an almond, not knowing this was a private party, but Oscar chased him away. Did it ever look funny to see little Oscar chasing a squirrel the size of a baby ground hog.

Oscar, big, brave squirrel.

Addendum Two - A Yard Full of Squirrels

M-L writes on November 9, 2010

I checked out the back yard this am and the place was full of squirrels!! Oscar was eating under a bird feeder that had a big black squirrel hanging upside down on it fishing out seeds and spilling lots.  Jackie was digging in the leaf cover near the cages and eating who knows what, but appeared happy.  Missy was sitting on the railing 3 feet away from a giant grey squirrel and pigging out on seeds.  There were 2 other grey squirrels and other black squirrels and I'm hoping Honey was one of them. The cages have been moved into the house again and hopefully will be uninhabited until spring.  Updates as exciting events happen.

Addendum to Release Day, Nov. 7/10

Something of which you may not be aware but there were two of us shepherding Oscar, Jackie, Missy and Honey over the months. ML and I shared custody of the young rodents and it is to her back yard that they were released on November 7.

I know you are going to be fascinated in ML's account of what how the squirrels are adapting and what they are up to. 

In her words: 

Wasn't it lovely to see the squirrels, lead by the intrepid Oscar take off to live their lives!  At 4 pm yesterday afternoon, Missy was still hiding in the tree at the front.  It took a bit of talking but she stuck up her head so I could tell her the new digs were at the back. Jackie was way up the top of their tree as she was when you left. Oscar was in Honey's nesting box doing who knows what, but did come out to get an almond and then boot it up the tree to go in one of the new nesting boxes.

At noon today, there was a wee squirrel who looked like Jackie up at the top of the fir tree in the back yard. No sign of the young man, likely exploring.  I watched for a while from the inside and saw 3 big greys come over to eat the seeds left out for our squirrels.  The 2 medium sized black squirrels ate off the feeders only. 
 After a while, a smaller black squirrel came across the lawn and perched on the door to Oscar's cage.  It looked like Missy, and listened intently to my voice as I spoke to her through the opened patio door. No sign of Honey.  Hopefully she will reappear, but she was such frightened little girl from square one, so I don't know what will become of her.

I don't expect to see much of them with the weather so good and so much world to explore. 
Oscar enjoying sunflower seeds left out for him and his friends.

How Oscar has Grown!

This photo was taken five days after he arrived, gently carried home by my cat. I thought it was a June Bug in his mouth, at first, but since it was squealing, I quickly disbelieved myself.

What a fortuitous evening that was!

Anyone involved with the raising of this squirrel, we all agree, it was The Summer of Oscar.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Baby Squirrel Oscar

Haven't heard one way or the other if the young squirrels are safe and sound but expect so. Their cages are being left in place at the bottom of the tree for a couple of days in case they feel the need to check back and to provide them with a touchstone should they forget that the tree and nesting boxes up top are now their home.

What a grand experience it's been raising Baby Squirrel Oscar!

Come spring, there will be an entire population of baby Oscars and Oscarettes as Oscar is quite the man-squirrel and he does, after all, have three charming girl friends, Missy, Jackie and Honey.

There will be updates as they happen.

Thank-you, everyone, for being part of this past summer's amazing events. Who knew that an embryonic rodent brought home by a cat, something that looked like a new-born chihuahua, would flourish and provide endless delight in so many people's lives.

The Big Day Arrived Today

Cages, doors open, leaning up against the tree.
The weather in Ottawa was superb for squirrel-release today. Sun shining, no precipitation and none called for the next few days.
The two cages were carefully brought outside and propped up against the tree in which two nesting boxes had been secured.

The idea was for the squirrels to exit and run up the tree to discover the familiar boxes, into which dried leaves had been stuffed, and to realize that this was their tree, their new home.

Nesting boxes well-placed in a mature tree.

Oscar was first out.

He headed right up the tree, circling it as he did.
Looking into their nesting box in the cage, it was packed with the stuffing from a plush toy they'd ripped apart.

Oscar on the left and Jackie headed up the tree together.
Oscar perched on the roof of his new home.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Release Date Moved Up

With the good weather and the fact that the squirrels are more ready than what we thought a week ago, we will be releasing the four of them Sunday morning.

They have been acclimatized by reducing the temperature in their room by allowing in as much fresh air as possible. Several nesting boxes have been secured in a tree that overlooks the kitchen window so that we can be aware of what is going on with the menagerie at all times

They are healthy, muscular and capable young squirrels at present and ready for the adventure of release.