Chirps about birds—and tales about bushy-tailed squirrels | An Alternative View | Diana Diamond | Almanac Online |

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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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Chirps about birds—and tales about bushy-tailed squirrels

Uploaded: May 10, 2022
I’ve always enjoyed my garden, especially during the spring, when birds build their nests and baby birds emerge.

Two summers ago, two birds nested and nestled in a small wall planter outside my family room door. One evening, my husband and I were sitting on our deck, sipping wine, watching the parents each bring dinner to their hungry crew. The father would go out and deliver a piece of something to the nest, the mother would make sure the birds got the food in their mouths, and then she would scurry out off to bring more tidbits back.

Suddenly, their timing was off. The two parents flew toward the nest, seemingly unaware their mate was heading the same direction. They collided midair, fell gently to the ground, stood up and shook their tousled feathers. But then the argument began.

The mother started circling around her mate, chirping furiously at him. We thought we could understand her conversation: “Didn’t you look where you were flying? Why did you bump into me? Did you have your signal on? How can you be so forgetful?”

The ruffled father just stood there, trying to look away. We both laughed, and then my husband said, “Sounds like you commenting on my driving!”

Last year there must have been a big sign in the sky over my house that read, “Bird lodgings below. Free rent.” The reply was outstanding. – and I had room for all.

Three mourning doves scattered around the yard – one of them next to the same family room window. The mother was a evidently a laid-back bird, because as I routinely opened the door to go outside, she would just sit comfortably. No fluttering. I started talking to her, and she looked a me. Soon she let me pet her! On her forehead!

The day they all took off in flight, I looked up and mother and kids flew right by, evidently thanking me for the stay. It was a wonderful farewell.

At home with squirrels and my dog

The fence on the east side of my house has become Squirrel Highway 101. It leads to an oak tree in the back yard – which produces an abundance of acorns ach fall. This two-lane highway had lots of daily traffic– back and forth, to and from the tree.

Now, my little dog loves squirrels, with a passion. He dreams of catching one, but he has failed for six years. Each morning he comes down. jumps on the sofa by the window, and patiently waits for them to scurry by. He can hear them coming, runs to the window, and goes out through the garage to chase them. The squirrels recognize him, so if they go one direction and he follows, they quickly turn around and run the other way, oftentimes onto the roof. Dog comes inside, and waits for the next one.

This all caused me to look into squirrel life in this area, which has been increasing, especially the black squirrels. I am not being racist, but the black ones, originally from the Southeast, have more testosterone, and the gray babes evidently prefer them as mates. (Honestly, I read this in squirrel facts.)

The characteristics of these creatures with bushy tales are:

• Communication: Squirrels are extremely vocal -- they bark, chatter, scream, and purr to communicate with one another. They also communicate through body language, by moving their tails and stomping their feet.
• The majority of a squirrel's diet consists of a hard mast like acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts, or seeds. In fact, from September through March, one squirrel requires around 1.5 lbs. of mast per week to survive.

• Squirrel's teeth never stop growing, so squirrels must continually chew and gnaw to keep their teeth filed down.
• Squirrels use their fluffy tails to balance when traveling throughout treetops and electrical lines. A squirrel's tail can also serve as a parachute to ease falls - squirrels can fall from heights of up to 100 feet without injuring themselves.

I soon found online a recipe for squirrel stew (use only the back feet and the adjacent meat), but I passed on that thought

Squirrels are around the house all year round. In the fall and winter, they claw into my flower pots to find hidden acorns. But this spring they’ve used the same techniques to nibble on my newly planted impatiens. But, and I rationalize, this gives my dog a better chance to be entertained daily.

I can’t close without this comment I found online:

“Why are there so many more squirrels in California than there used to be?”
It has to do with the conspicuous nature of those who win elections here.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Lateisha Williams, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on May 10, 2022 at 7:19 pm

Lateisha Williams is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Leila Chen, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on May 10, 2022 at 7:39 pm

Leila Chen is a registered user.

The squirrels in our backyard eat all of the fruit and nuts on our trees so we bought some squirrel traps.

The black crows are very noisy.

Posted by Lauren Jacobs, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on May 11, 2022 at 6:58 am

Lauren Jacobs is a registered user.

The City of Mountain View had a squirrel eradication program a few years back at Cuesta Park because they were proliferating and biting park visitors who made the mistake of trying to feed them.

Squirrels and black crows seem to have become the dominant species in many residential areas because they are very aggressive and territorial.

Like the previous poster, we also trap squirrels and dispose of them accordingly as they will literally destroy your fruit and vegetable garden.

My husband considers squirrels rats with big tails and they are not welcome on our property.

Posted by Paul Michaels, a resident of Los Altos Hills,
on May 11, 2022 at 7:56 am

Paul Michaels is a registered user.

Ground squirrels burrow and tunnel leaving massive holes all over the place which can pose an ongoing danger to livestock and horses.

As I recall, the City of Mountain View used gas at Cuesta Park to reduce the ground squirrel population.

We set metal traps and drown the captured squirrels by dropping the cages into a discarded 50 gallon oil can filled with water.

For adherents of 'catch & release', one way to tell if the squirrels have made it back to your property is to spray paint their tails prior to letting them go (on someone else's property of course).

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 11, 2022 at 10:54 am

Bystander is a registered user.

The birds here are wonderful, but we have been invaded with noisy black crows but even they are fascinating to watch. We recently freed one that had got its leg stuck and as we freed him, the others in the area watched with great excitement. For many days afterwards the crows would circle round in the air and make a lot of noise as if to continue thanking us for freeing their pal.

As for the black squirrels, I have heard rumors that around here they are due to an escapee from a Stanford experiment lab and mating with local squirrels. This is one article about them as a species. Web Link However, squirrels are carriers of disease and are not to be petted. They can be a nuisance as they steal fruit off trees and dig up bulbs that have just been planted.

Posted by Eeyore (formerly StarSpring), a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on May 11, 2022 at 11:51 am

Eeyore (formerly StarSpring) is a registered user.

The introduced Eastern Gray Squirrels prefer spaced disturbed by humans, which is why they colonize city parks and streets. The native Western Gray squirrels are more reticent and prefer being deeper in the woods. Web Link

Posted by Mandy Smith, a resident of Shoreline West,
on May 11, 2022 at 2:07 pm

Mandy Smith is a registered user.

I like most birds but detest black crows, city pigeons, and seagulls. Crows are excessively loud while pigeons and seagulls are very dirty birds who will crap on nearly anything in sight (e.g. patio furniture, railings, cars etc.).

Not too fond of vultures either because the remind me of lawyers.

Posted by ArtL, a resident of Barron Park,
on May 12, 2022 at 12:20 pm

ArtL is a registered user.

Squirrels may be cute but they wreak havoc with your garden and they ravage the fruit in trees, especially the apricot trees. I bought a Havahart squirrel trap a few months ago and have moved about six of the critters to a more welcoming locale.

Posted by Barbara Winston, a resident of Barron Park,
on May 12, 2022 at 12:27 pm

Barbara Winston is a registered user.

• I bought a Havahart squirrel trap a few months ago and have moved about six of the critters to a more welcoming locale.

And where was that? Did you transport the squirrels to Foothills Park or to another Palo Alto neighborhood?

Posted by J.Johnson, a resident of St. Francis Acres,
on May 12, 2022 at 12:40 pm

J.Johnson is a registered user.

>> "Not too fond of vultures either because the [sic] remind me of lawyers."

Anyone who covets money at the expense of others is a vulture.

Posted by Cheyenne Taylor, a resident of Downtown North,
on May 12, 2022 at 1:03 pm

Cheyenne Taylor is a registered user.

Squirrels crows are spirit forces from another dimension.

They are here to teach and enlighten us.

Posted by Bernard Smith, a resident of Barron Park,
on May 12, 2022 at 2:38 pm

Bernard Smith is a registered user.

"Squirrels crows are spirit forces from another dimension."

Curious...which dimension? Please be specific.

"They are here to teach and enlighten us."

New Age talismans & Carlos Castaneda drivel aside, what are they here to teach us?

How to be nuisances and pests?

Posted by The Crow, a resident of Gemello,
on May 12, 2022 at 2:54 pm

The Crow is a registered user.

~ Squirrel facts withstanding, is this some sort of tongue in cheek racist metaphor?

@Lateisha Williams
Contrary to popular belief, not everything is about race. Seriously.

Posted by Wendy, a resident of Menlo Park,
on May 12, 2022 at 4:07 pm

Wendy is a registered user.

Hard to believe some of the incredibly cruel and inhumane things that people do to wildlife (drowning trapped squirrels!). Terrible. Please Google Humane Ways to Keep Squirrels Out of Gardens to find alternate ways of dealing with "nuisance" wildlife. Check out WildCare's (San Rafael) website to learn why trapping doesn't work and how relocation efforts are most likely dooming the animal, and for some great ideas for transforming conflict with wildlife into coexistence.

Posted by Melissa, a resident of Portola Valley,
on May 12, 2022 at 7:35 pm

Melissa is a registered user.

Contrary to popular belief, squirrels can make great pets.

The key is to rescue a baby squirrel and treat it as part of the family.

Like early man who domesticated wild wolves and eventually turned them into dogs, after 5-10 generations, squirrels can adapt themselves to humans and respond accordingly.

We have three pet squirrels that scurry about inside the house and they are very endearing and entertaining.

Squirrels are omnivores (meaning they eat just about anything) and can be house trained over time.

The only problem is that if they are domesticated, they will not survive in the wild.

Most wild squirrels live about 18 months, their short lifespan due to predators or getting run over by cars.

Their average lifespan is about 5 years but a domesticated squirrel can live 11-12 years.

Our squirrels are gray but we would have no problem having a darker one as part of the family.

Posted by Calvin Prescott, a resident of Atherton,
on May 13, 2022 at 8:22 am

Calvin Prescott is a registered user.

@Melissa in Portola Valley

It is ILLEGAL to have pet squirrels in California & you are breaking the law.
Web Link

@Cheyenne Taylor of Downtown North

"Squirrels [and] crows are spirit forces from another dimension."

Squirrels & crows are not 'spirit forces from another dimension'...just common garden pests seeking a free meal at the homeowner's expense.

@Mandy Smith of Shoreline West

"Crows are excessively loud while pigeons and seagulls are very dirty birds who will crap on nearly anything in sight (e.g. patio furniture, railings, cars etc.)."

Agreed. Pigeons and seagulls are not 'spirit forces' either, just scavengers.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Bonita Miller, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on May 13, 2022 at 10:31 am

Bonita Miller is a registered user.

The primary reason for the squirrel eradication program at Cuesta Park was because people (especially children) were feeding them and getting bit.

The squirrels having no natural predators at the park, got overly accustomed to humans and no longer feared them.

Feeding wild squirrels by hand is a bad idea as squirrels have very sharp teeth and some carry rabies.

It is the parent's fault (or the babysitter's) if the children they are supervising get bit and the resultant trip to the ER at El Camino Hospital usually involves a shot of novacaine, some stitches, and a rabies test, all of which are no picnic for a small child.

In our backyard, we have electric fence wire strewn along the perimeter which effectively dispels squirrels, stray cats, and crows.

It puts out about 25,000 volts (at very low amperage) and when an unwelcomed animal comes in contact with it, they get zapped and I've actually seen a cat go airborne (about five feet in the air) upon coming in contact with the wire.

It was hilarious as well as safe because the low amperage will not kill or injure an animal.

Legally and to avoid further liability, you do have to post a warning sign as it could trigger a heart attack or seizure in the event a human (i.e. prospective burgler or prowler) accidentally comes in contact with the live wire.

It's no different than having to post a Beware of Dog sign if one has a vicious guard dog patroling the backyard.

While wild animals cannot read, it is unfortunate that one must protect the criminals who enter your premises.

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