— Extraordinary acrobatic skills featured!
We must cultivate our own garden — Voltaire
T’was a beautiful day on Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts. I live here.
But this day was special. I held what can only be described as a prime time, best-in-house kinda seat for The Squirrel Olympics. Top dollar would have paid extra for the show I’m about to describe!
My deck is off the third floor of a large house, set within treetops and much like a tree house. Its back and side are graced with bountiful maple trees. A clearing to the front enables great bay harbor views and a continuous parade of shore birds over sparkling tidal waters.
It’s a nice setting and one perfect for morning coffee, sharing a drink with friends or simply sittin’ ‘round pleasantly adept at doing nothing. But on this deck the ‘duh’ moments are few and far between. It’s amazing how at any time so much can happen, how much nature can fill the small space of a deck.
I awoke to rapid rustling and chirping movements and sounds from the trees. I wandered outside to discover eight or so adult and baby squirrels, seemingly at great risk to self and others, chasing through the treetops. They were engaged in a very risky treetop version of Ultimate Tag — otherwise known as You Can’t Get Me, I Won’t Fall!
They were amazing. No human from any professional sport could possibly match their quick wit decision-making, their skill set or athletic achievement. For me, the only thing lacking was video replay! The very best professional sports announcer would be hard-pressed keeping up with any of the squirrel play live-action I was witnessing.
Looking intently through the trees and mesmerized by their quick and sudden scatter and chase, I realized deeply the cleverness and athleticism of these gifted creatures. But there’s more behind the scenes.
Much like we humans spend lotsa bucks building interstate highways, state roads, local roads, bridges, walking paths or ramp ways — so also do squirrels … but with more intricate design, well ahead of schedule and at no cost — lol!
Possessing high degrees of squirrel survey and engineering skills, they literally map out and reconfigure trees as if constructing tree stadiums. Few, if any, folks on the ground ever notice it’s happening around them. I only knew about it due to my having a great deck in the treetops.
I noted how they removed the topside leafy branches from large, medium and small-sized tree limbs. The branch and leaf removal was not only for building plentiful tree nests, but also to create intertwining — certainly entertaining — tree navigation routes. They reshaped key branches to enable high running speeds, created limb routes with daring jump or hide options, created obstacle courses and some areas had become platforms for resting, scouting or strategic overview.
When the sustained chase gets on, it becomes: The Squirrel Olympics.
Extraordinary acrobatic skills are featured! For the human onlooker, pretty much all of the squirrels appear the same and it’s hard to pick a favorite. So I root for the ones with shorter tails as they likely are younger and less-experienced. I guess it’s similar to a back-up quarterback who nearly everybody always roots for when coming into a football game.
The Fans in The Stands
Noteworthy, not all of these Olympic fans are human. I always watch these Critter Olympics with sparrow, starling, blackbird, cardinal and/or blue jay friends. These birds are many and they’ve got closer seats, certainly more access. Sometimes they even get in the games as they hop, flop and fly with the squirrels in real time. They often appear as rodeo or bullring clowns.
But sometimes, in other situations, the birds and the squirrels become jeopardizingly too close:
[NOTE: Just before baby sparrows are born I hang an upside-down umbrella under the tree house so none of the babies will fall a long distance. It’s rewarding when the mother or father sparrow looks at me after I place the umbrella. I get a feeling they wink at me and think: “that human did good!”]
As I was writing this, a blue jay appeared atop one of the plants on the rail of my deck. Due to my cats, I always keep a close eye. The blue jay had a peanut in its beak. The peanut was placed vertically into the soil of one of the plant pots. The blue jay then used its beak as a hammer, hammering the peanut into the soil. I was amazed!
Next, it saw me and my cat Winkles watching. It quickly flew off.
I went out to check on the fate of the peanut. The plant pot it selected to store its peanut was a freshly-planted baby rubber plant. The blue jay had pulled the tiny plant from its soil, threw it out of the pot and then placed into the hole in the soil the peanut. Hammering it down with the beak, the blue jay then covered it with soil.
Fingering through the soil and finding the peanut I realized I could have eaten it. I didn’t. After all, it was the blue jay’s peanut!
In summation, I lost a rubber plant but could have gained a peanut. More special is I got to share something beautiful in nature and I held a role in its play. This happened because I planted the rubber plant — I will grow another!
Peanuts to all who want ‘em!