They are everywhere. Running across the lawn, scurrying up trees and gutters, darting across the roof tops. Squirrels gathering their provisions for the cold winter months ahead.
The Eastern Gray Squirrel, common in this part of the country, is part of everyday life. I only notice a squirrel if it is particularly noisy or chasing another squirrel high up in the trees. A nature photographer in Sweden has turned his backyard squirrels into supermodels by setting up props outside to capture squirrels in unusual scenarios.
Geert Weggen captures the local squirrels in a variety of cute photographs which he has turned into books, postcards and a new calendar titled, Gettin’ Squirrelly. Using flowers and vegetables from his garden, along with small props and dollhouse furniture, squirrels are featured sitting in a tiny canoe and inside of a toy VW minibus. My favorite is a photograph of a squirrel with ears sticking straight up standing beside a toy baby grand piano and seeming to pound on the keys like Little Richard. The photogenic squirrels in Mr. Weggen’s neighborhood in Bispgarden, Sweden, have rusty-reddish color fur with a white stomach.
Mr. Weggen really enjoys working with his furry models. On his website, geertweggen.com, you can see Mr. Weggen leaning out of an open window with a peanut in his mouth and a hungry squirrel about to grab that peanut for a snack. That’s really throwing yourself into your work!
Did you know that the word squirrel derives from the Greek word skiouros ( skia means shadow and oura means tail). Shadow tail refers to the way a squirrel looks when it sits upright, raising its tail up and over its back and head, providing shade on a sunny day. Squirrels are members of the Sciuridae family which includes chipmunks, flying squirrels and prairie dogs among other rodents.
Here are a few squirrel facts that you can pass along to fellow commuters or other people standing on line at the grocery store: A squirrel’s front teeth never stop growing; squirrels can find food buried beneath a foot of snow; squirrels zig-zag to escape predators; squirrels communicate with each other through chattering and screeching noises; there are more than 300 different kinds of squirrels worldwide.
Squirrels appear very industrious in their pursuit of nuts and seeds during daylight hours. Squirrels in the wild are perfectly capable of finding enough food outdoors without people throwing peanuts and sunflower seeds outside. These shadow tails may be hard workers but they can also be destructive, digging in garden pots to bury their nuts, raiding backyard birdfeeders and finding their way into attics. A family in Pennsylvania recently discovered the reason that their car started to emit a burning smell. Upon lifting up the car hood, they found a cache of large acorns, nuts, seeds and dry grasses covering the entire engine block.
People are often compared to animals. Sly as a fox, quiet as a mouse, as fast as a cheetah, as loyal as a dog. No one wants to be compared to a squirrel. The term “squirrelly” means someone who is acting furtive or nervous and possibly hiding something.
Northern Westchester seems to have an abundance of squirrels throughout the year. The biggest dangers for squirrels are hawks, snakes, cats, cars, transformers, and fans of biscuits and gravy. There is actually a website called BackwoodsBound.com that lists over sixty squirrel recipes. The entrees include bacon-wrapped squirrel, squirrel pot pie and squirrel croquettes.
Kim Kovach is a writing teacher, author and vegetarian. As a writing coach, Kim helps students make college application essay writing a positive experience! www.kimkovachwrites.com