photocredits: Deep river
“Twas the night before Christmas,
when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse……..”
(Excerpt from poem by Clement Clarke Moore; 1822)
Snow had fallen thickly during the night and the wind had blown fiercely with its own melancholic howling through the trees. I was glad to have
been tucked in bed that night safe and snug. Christmas was a couple of days away and when I drifted off to sleep, I was soon in a dream world filled with the visions of the expected wonders of warm fellowship and the joys of the season.
I awoke the early the next day while the morning light was still dim, feeling fully rested and fresh. I excitedly went to my small basement window and as expected the night’s
storm had dusted everything with an inch or two of snow, creating a wonderland. The distant street lamps were still able to cast sufficient light on the newly fallen snow that everything seemed to sparkle like diamonds.
It was then I realized that someone had already been up and about before my eyes had opened to the new day. Just in front of the window was a wooden walkway and a small bush. Both were coated in snow but clearly visible all around them were tiny tracks. Spikey had already come by.
Grey Squirrels do not hibernate. They remain active during winter and are most active during the daytime when it is warmer. I had continued to feed Spikey during winter with nuts. Initially, I left them in a pile on the wooden walkway. However, I soon realized this exposed the poor creature to the blowing wind. I eventually found a large rock that was suitable as a feeding table because it had a shallow hollow on its top surface which was ideal for placing the nuts. I placed it next to a small bush.
I had chosen the bush because its network of leaves and branches created a scaffold for the snow to layer upon creating a snow igloo of sorts with the interior spacious
and ice-free. Spikey was able to enter and shelter under the snow-covered bush and feed while reasonably protected by the elements. The bush was also within easy view of my window which enabled me to observe squirrel behavior throughout the winter.
At the Feeding Station
Drawing from Anonymous. Animal Tracks, Stackpole Co., 1954.
The tracks of the grey squirrel in the snow is fairly easy to recognize and has been described as the double exclamation marks, “!!”. This pattern stems from the gait of the squirrel who first plants its two small front paws in the snow and pushes himself forward before his hind legs land in the snow, just ahead of where the front paws first was planted. The long strokes of the double exclamation mark is made by the relatively long hind paws while the front paws provide the periods for the exclamation mark.
For me, seeing a trail of “!!” was a real heart warmer on a cold winter’s morning.
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