Emergency Exits

on Monday, February 02, 2009

Spikey, the vagabond clown and professional smoocher, was my original guide into the neighbourhood world of squirrels. I first started feeding him in early autumn and I got into the habit of leaving him some peanuts on a small rock with a concave surface which just the right height to act like a feeding bowl for squirrels. He would come by in the morning and also in the evening before sunset and feed from this feeding station.

This feeding rock just happened to be right next to the base of a small, one foot high evergreen bush. When winter came and the snow arrived, the whole garden would be covered in white. However, the small evergreen bush with its tight interlacing branches and leaves was only covered with snow on the outside, leaving its interior snow-free. In a sense, it became a miniature igloo with one opening which was just the right size and location that Spikey could reach the peanuts on the feeding stone and yet be mostly protected from the bitter winter winds. It became routine to see the little rapscallion installed in his place there, sheltered and comfortably feeding at the station.

One evening, I happened to be watching from the window as Spikey took his usual spot. He was happily munching away for several minutes when suddenly he straightened up in alarm so that his head was fully visible above the surrounding snow. I scanned around to see what had got his attention. There was some movement amongst the bushes further down the path. I watched and soon a large squirrel appeared on the path.

It was Speedy. Speedy is a large and rather fearless squirrel. He had been seen standing his ground and fighting off crows. He was also a bit of a bully with the other squirrels and was very much Spikey's nemesis. He would occasionally chase Spikey away from enjoying the bounty of hard earned peanuts from his begging and clown routines. Nobody stood up to Speedy.

This was the first time though that I was witnessing a Spikey - Speedy encounter in the winter snow. As Speedy ran up the path to the feeding station, I quickly realised that Spikey had disappeared from the entrance of the snow igloo. I would have seen him and so would have Speedy if he had tried to run out. It was therefore reasonable to assume that he had sought refuge inside the interior of the snow igloo.

I watched with interest as Speedy, quite unaware of Spikey's presence, came up to the feeding station. To my amusement, Speedy came and took over the same spot at the entrance of the igloo and began feedingon the peanuts. I was transfixed. I knew that my charming Spikey was a bit of a chicken-heart when it came to facing up to Speedy so I was imagining the state of panic he would be feeling as he found himself in the dark interior of the bush with the only entrance blocked by the huge bulk of Speedy.

I watched in wonderment and interest wondering what Spikey would do next. The minutes began to tick onwards and Speedy showed no hurry to leave, happily devouring the peanuts. Maybe about 10 immensely stressful minutes had passed when suddenly there appeared to be an "explosion" of snow flying into the air from the back of the bush. Out came a flying, snow covered Spikey. It was over in seconds and Spikey disappeared into the distance. It happened so fast that Speedy didn't even understand what happened. He stopped for a moment but then went back to his feeding. I, on the other hand was on the floor rolling in laughter at the image of the snow-covered squirrel flying out in the explosion of snow. Priceless.

The very next morning, I had a close look at the feeding bush on my way to work. To my surprise and amusement, I found that some squirrel (most likely Spikey) had during the night, dug an additional three exit tunnels from the feeding bush. He was probably thinking, "Never again! Never again will I be caught like a rat in a trap!" And indeed he never had another such noghtmare experience with Speedy blocking his escape!



geewits said...

What a fun story. I love watching things like that too. Squirrels are great here. I love watching them chase each other across the trees. And I love that picture! (You do know my husband gave me my "rap name" and it is "Squirrelio?")

the walking man said...

When the most reasonable defense is an exit, three exits sounds like the best defense.

Gledwood said...

I luuurve those pictures...

... did you hear about how Grey Squirrels were imported into the British Isles deliberately by the way from North America because they were considered "cute" (and are, I do suspect, rather less shy than their redder cousins and hence more likely endearingly to approach park goers and wantonly beg for dinner...)

anyway these have steadily wiped out the native red squirrel population to such an extent I've only ONCE seen red squirrels and that was in Regents' Park just outside London zoo

last time I was in the area I had a good poke and peruse round the park ~ lots of greys ~ but nothing at all of the red variety, so maybe the rangers have stopped culling 'em and the Greys now Rule On...

yeah: we got snow, quite a few inches of it last night

and you would not believe the chaos caused by ordinary winter weather: shops not opening, services shut etc etc it's utterly RIDICULOUS... honhestly!

ps in your storey, I notice you use the British English spelling, so were you in the UK..?
I thought you were in Malaysia...??

Gledwood said...

yeah man: snow in Kuala Lumpa, MY?? Come on man tell us where you were!! up Kota Kinnabaloo or somewhere?... or where??!!???

Dr.John said...

A squirrel with three exits. That's as good as it gets.

Anonymous said...

Very cute!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Dear Squirrelio,
I no longer have the opportunity to watch squirrels where I currently live. Don't forget to enjoy their antics from time to time. :)

Always make sure you have an exit strategy!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Didn't mean to play games with your mind! All my squirrel stories are from my time in Canada (which was 3 years). I am in Kuala Lumpur where we seldom see squirrels but we have a lot of tree shrews (much less cute). As for my UK type spelling, well, I did my University in London but also most older generation Malaysians (of which I am also one) use UK Spelling whereas the younger generation use USA spelling on account of the widespread influence of USA TV shows. By the way, Mount Kinabalu does have a bit of snow but no squirrels at the top.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Dr. John,
My squirrels KNOW how to plan for the future! :)

Thanks. I think so too.

Janice Thomson said...

What a priceless story - I would loved to have been there to witness that.

daysgoby said...

I love Spikey stories!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Wow. What an amazing story! I had no idea squirrels were so intelligent (except for you, of course) and strategically brilliant, really.

There is always a schoolyard bully who is much bigger than the other kids because he terrorizes them for their food. It sounds as if Spikey made up in brains what he lacked in brawn, though.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

These are nice memories which I am happy to share with you.

Thanks for the encouragement. I'll try to do some more squirrel stories ....perhaps one every two months ( I do have only a limited supply!)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Have you seen those videos which show squirrels negotiating obstacle courses to get at the bird feeder? They are natural puzzle/problem solvers but only if there is an edible reward at the end.

Eastcoastdweller said...

On my bookshelf, deserving mightily to be read, is a book I have skimmed, entitled "Sharing a Robin's Life."

One of the great revelations that a person can have is that the lives of the little things around us are important -- that they think and feel, as we do, perhaps not at the same level, but still, they think and feel.

You have had that revelation.

Joyce's Ramblings said...

Great story and great advice- Have an exit plan if you can!

Marja said...

What a delightful story and pictures. I was hooked. No squirrels here to feed. Must look out for some possums than or maybe better not.

Jocelyn said...

My kids just got done listening to the book-on-CD of MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN. Much of it--from the hero, Sam's, attachment to a weasel and a falcon and a raccoon, to his love of the beauties of winter--is reflected in your post here.

If you haven't ever read that book (sure, it's technically adolescent literature, but I was so glad to "read" it again), I strongly urge you towards the pleasures it would hold for the person you are.

tsduff said...

I usually have between 5 and 6 squirrels in my yard at the feeding stations or in the poplar trees where they nest at any given time. They are so funny to watch. I LOVE your snow squirrel picture, and the story is priceless :)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Very true. Watching the squirrels was like having a vast inter-generational family drama on my doorstep. Truly fascinating.

Ah, a story with a moral. That was kind of accidental but I guess it is a lesson we can all learn from.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I have no experience with possums but I have read a few accounts where they showed some remarkable intelligence in their interactions with humans.

Thanks for the recommendation. I wish I had time to read it. Perhaps one day. At the moment I am struggling with work related reading.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Once again the squirrel thanks the crow for kindness towards his brethren.

Glennis said...

Thats a nice snow Squirrel, mind you I just love squirrels, maybe because we don't have any in New Zealand.

Anonymous said...

I can feel with trapped squirrel, always check how to come out: I do not want to sty over night in the cellar of a high security lab ... :)

MedStudentWife said...

he's so cute :) and smart !!!!

(obtw.. the squirrels here miss you)

I have been dying to ask you ... did you hear that they are trialing squirrel flavored crisps in England ?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Pleased to meet you. Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. Australia has its possums instead of squirrels. Is that what you have in NZ too? I have driven through Picton before. A nice part of the NZ country.

Whatever you do, do not read any science fiction story set in the cellar of a high security lab. Oh, and always remember at least 3 exits. Good luck! :)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Squirrel Flavoured Crisps? ......Dissected Rat knitting projects?...........really?

squirrelmama said...

I think Speedy and Spikey should get their own show. Kind of like Radio's old "Bob & Ray" - of their time. Or Gracie & Allen. Or the Smothers Brothers (or in the snow, the smothered brothers! LOL!)
Your tale reminds me too of "Scoiattolo" (the Italian word for squirrel), she was my introduction to this gray bushytailed world that we both treasure. That was in 1995.
Anyway, LGS thanks for your sweet remembrance, a fun one, and of course your excellent taste in photographs.

kat said...

I was as transfixed reading your story! as you were transfixed watching the story unfold! Priceless.
Thank you.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Their own show? What a great idea! They would probably be more like Laurel and Hardy, I think.

glad to be able to share the experience with you.

Linda said...

Where is the video you mention with the squirrel negotiating obstacles? I saw something like that on TV years back and it was amazing.

P.S. Love the snow squirrel!

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