RSPB: BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH 29/03/2013

    WELCOME BACK TO OUR ‘BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH’

This week we are being graced by the presence of our local Grey Squirrel

Enjoy the photos we were blessed to capture.

Gray Squirrel 25th 1   Gray Squirrel  25th 2   Gray Squirrel 25th 3

Gray Squirrel 29th 1   Gray Suirrel 29th 4

 EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL  Sciurus carolinensis

‘Sammy Squirrel’

We have nicknamed our local Squirrel who’s nest site is high up in this Ivy clad tree way up high the front entrance where he scampers up into after gathering his monkey nuts we throw down to the ground for Squirrel and the ‘Jays’. Squirrel sits upon the branch nibbling the husks off the nuts as he allows us to watch in delight then he turns and hides back to us he munches away quite happily. Then he scampers down his tree and gathers courage as shy as he is, comes down to the the grassy bank laden with monkey nuts and picks one one up and returns back to his branch. And sometimes we are graced with a show of affection with a shake of a bushy tail or a dance amongst the trees as we watch with glee. For we are so blessed to be able to be caretakers of sweet mother earth, to look after the winged ones, four-leggeds and creatures, our LORD’s Creation.

 

GRAY SQUIRREL  Sciurus carolinensis

These squirrels have grey fur and often sit upright with their large bushy tails arched over their backs. Grey squirrels, originally from North America, were released in the UK by 19th century landowners. They are now very common and widespread. Grey squirrels are active during the day, foraging for food in trees and on the ground – they often visit peanut feeders in gardens. In the autumn they spend time storing nuts to eat during the winter. Their nest, called a drey, is a compact, spherical structure. It is slightly larger than a football and constructed of twigs, leaves, bark and grass.Grey squirrels tend to breed in between January and April and, if food is plentiful, they may have a second litter in the summer.They are extremely successful and have replaced our native red squirrels over most of the UK.

Eastern Gray Squirrels are the most frequently seen mammal in our area. They are members of the Rodent family,  and spend most of their lives in threes.

Eastern Gray Squirrels can grow 17 to 20 inches long. They have greyish-brown fur, except for their bellies, which have pale fur. The tail often has silvery-tipped hairs at the end. This animal doe have a black phase, which means some of them are nearly all black; but thee are not as common.

Eastern Gray Squirrels usually live in forests, but they are also seen in back yards, gardens, and city parks. Basically, they live anywhere there are large, deciduous trees (trees whose leave leaves die in the Fall/Autumn). These squirrels live in trees all year round, either in cavities or nests they build out of leaves. Cavities are often old woodpecker holes. Nests are usually high up in the crotches. Nests are hard to see in the Summer because they are made with green leaves, and are hidden by foliage (leaves on the trees). They are easy to see in Winter, when the nest leaves have turned brown and tree leaves fall to the ground. The trees most commonly ised by Eastern Gray Squirrels to live in are White Oak, American Beech, American Elm, Red Maple, and Sweetgum, though they will use  others also.

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‘Sammy’ Gray Squirrel’s Home Beech Trees

This is our local Squirrel’s nesting holes you can see the front entrance and there is a back entrance to their nest at the back of this tree. Just below where the Ivy starts there is a tree hollow which is also used as an entrance to the nest. I have been watching this family of Squirrel’s for over 12 years and the many generations of  this Squirrel Family.

Squirrels mate in the Winter, and you can often see males chasing females up, and down, and around trees. Once mated, both the male and female build the nest.

Gray Squirrel 29th  2  Gray Squirrel  29th 3  Gray Squirrel  29th 5   Gray Squirrel  29th 3

Gray Squirel 29th 7   Gray Squirrel 29th 9

Gray Squirrel 29th 10   Gray Squirrel 29th 11

Gray Squirrel 29th 12   Gray Squirrel 29th 13

Gray Squirrel 29th 14

We were graced by our local Squirrel’s running up and down and along the trees and branches showing off his graceful leaps n bounds. We were able to capture this frame by frame pics with our Nokia Camera which was awesome, we just watched in awe. This last shot was just before he jumped to his Ivy clad tree and shot up to the front entrance of his nest head first all you saw was the bushy tail following his head and body bless.

Eastern Gray Squirrels are very active, especially in the morning and evening (crepuscular times). During these times they are constantly moving. Usually, they are looking for food.”text-align:The diet of the Eastern Gray Squirrel includes: Acorns, Hickory, Nuts, Walnuts, Beechnuts, Maple (Buds, Bark, and Samaras), Yellow Poplar Blossoms, American Hornbeam, Seeds, Apples, Fungi, Black Cherry, Flowering Dogwood, Grapes, American Holly, Insects, (adults and larvae), Baby birds, Bird eggs, and Amphibian. Sometimes they even eat each other!

Eastern Gray Squirrels will also visit bird-feeders, dig up flower bulbs, and steal garden vegetables. Squirrels will often bury their food at a new spot, near the surface of the ground. In winter, when food is scarce, they will use their sense of smell to relocate their “Secret” food. But they don’t always find all of their stashed food, so they indeed help “Plant” new trees and plants, letting them grow in new places.

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An Abundance of Money Nuts especially for “Sammy” Squirrel and when Squirrel is not around the Jays will swoop down for them too!!

The most important predators of the Eastern Gray Squirrels are Hawks, Owls, Red Fox, Raccoons and Snakes.

Sometimes you will see a nearby bald squirrel. This means it is suffering from mange, an illness caused by mites. This needs to be reported to RSPCA or RSPB or other animal/wildlife rescue centers in your area.

From time to time, Eastern Gray Squirrels have short battles with Pileated Woodpeckers over tree cavities. Usually the Squirrel Wins!!

Well folks it is time for a well earn’t mug of hot mocha coffee and go to our “hide” and watch our birds and wildlife do their wonderful thing.

Written by Lizzie & Joshua Christian. Copyrighted (c) 29/03/2013

 

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