Monday, February 16, 2009

The Suet War, continued

Squirrels vs. Me and the birds, Round 3:

(Round 1, Round 2.)

It's been over a week since I hung the suet basket on sturdy wire. The squirrels continue their assaults on it, to no avail. The big black squirrel that stole the first batch tried his hand, of course, and gave up in disgust. A couple of greys worked at it for a while, until Scruffy chased them off.

(With all the running up and down, dashing from branch to branch, dodging Scruffy's angry teeth and chatter, the little maple was shaking from the ground up.)

And now, with the field to herself, it's Scruffy's turn. And she proves as talented, in her own way, as the first thief:

"Hmmm... Looks easy enough."

The toehang.

But look at that toehanging technique again. The knees face the camera, while the toenails grasp the branch. The bottom of the foot is now towards the camera. How does she do that?

Look at your own legs and arms; we can manage that swivel with our arms, but definitely not with the legs.

Ah, but that's not all that swivels:

The Spinal Twist yoga position.

Here, the knees and belly face the camera, while the upper torso is turned to show us her shoulder blades. (The white markings are scar tissue from an old injury.) She's still holding on with the toes, but one foot seems to be losing its grip.

7 seconds later, she has fallen:


When she falls, her hind legs drop, but she propels herself upward, ending up on the branch above.

She tries again, this time, hanging by only one foot.

"Look, Ma! One foot, and a tail!"

"How about one toenail?"

How long can she hold that pose? So far, it's 12 seconds.

And then she spins and grabs with the second hind foot.

"Nom, nom."

I have noticed, before, how the squirrels use their tails for balance, curving it inwards to stand on the edge of the feed bucket, or dropping it on the far side of a branch. In some of these photos, it almost seems that Scruffy is using it for grasping, like a tame version of the monkey's prehensile tail.

I looked it up; opossums and porcupines have prehensile tails; squirrels do not. But some rats are able to use their tails in this manner, hanging from branches, at least briefly. (Wikipedia.)

Scruffy is probably using hers for balance; a bit of weight on the far side of the branch. If, in this manoeuvre, the tail rests on the branch, so much the better, but the tail does not have the ability to actually grasp the branch.

Be that as it may, she can't break the cage down, and finally gives up and checks out the ground for crumbs.

"Not much suet here, but maybe there are some sunflower seeds?"

So, I won this round. The current score is Squirrels 1, Home team 2.

Go, Team!



  1. It is amazing the positions those guys can get into!

  2. Don't you just love squirrel wars ... squirrel to squirrel and human to squirrel? Amazingly agile are the little buggers ... and ever so persistent.

  3. I totally enjoyed reading about that squirrel's antics.

  4. I know I should be grateful that I can feed the birds without any interference from squirrels, but their antics are so much fun to watch. At least I can get my tree squirrel fix by reading posts like yours. Interesting to see how limber those little guys are!

  5. I can't remember how I ended up here. I enjoyed your squirrel show. My husband says that I should count squirrels, not would be easier.....Michelle..NY-US

  6. Hi, Michelle,

    However you got here, I'm glad you did. Unfortunately, I don't think there are any squirrel-watching groups. We'd be naturals!

  7. I remember learning at the natural history museum in NYC that the ability to rotate the ankle joint is what makes a squirrel a squirrel. No other rodent can do it.
    What great photos! My mom gets mad at the squirrels, but I don't mind them. Our cat keeps them from getting too cheeky - one weekend we left him in the care of the neighbor girl and there was a squirrel holocaust. 4 big squrrels on our doorstep when we came home. I think the neighborhood squirrels still talk about our cat the way some parents talk about the Boogey Man - he'll come to get you if you aren't a good little thing :)
    Great photos! I love reading your blog :)

  8. Hi, Alyss!

    I didn't know that about squirrels. Fascinating!

    Thanks for the kind comments. And the cat story. "Boogey man" cat; so funny!


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