It's yet another beautiful, sunny autumn day. How blessed we are when we enjoy the wonderful miracle of the changing of the seasons.
A fat woodchuck peers out from the pile of old weatherboards, then casually he edges out into the yard and grazes in the sun on the dandelion leaves and clover. He has decided that the clean sheets that are waving from the clothesline are not a threat.
The woodchuck is a squirrel that must gain extra fat to help him through a long winter of sleeping hibernation. By mid October he will no longer be seen in the yard until the grass turns green again, in the Spring.
Woody's smaller cousin is doing the same, but the chipmunk game is to hoard his food. Chippy and Woody will both be asleep by the end of the month, but Chippy may appear for short visits from time to time through the winter. I think that most of the sunflower seeds that he hides for future use are found and carried away by deer mice. Surely the chipmunk couldn't eat as many seeds as he hides, could he?
An even smaller squirrel yet, the little flying squirrel, glides on velvet wings to land on the bird feeder. By the light of the moon he nibbles away, and tomorrow he'll sleep through the light of day. The flying squirrel doesn't hibernate, so to speak. He does a deep sleep and slows his heart to a much slower beat.
Like mice, the little squirrel has a very fast heartbeat and a high metabolism and if he doesn't eat frequently he will starve to death. His sleep is the very thing that will save him. The woodchuck is a vegetarian with a hardy appetite for "greens." When the "greens" are gone, it's time to sleep because he would starve, with nothing to eat.
The Gray squirrels, Fox squirrels, and Pine squirrels forage for food all winter, but are excelled climbers, which adds greatly to their ability to find enough to eat. Being able to move through the treetops is the next best thing to flying. Much of the food that these squirrels eat is on the branches of the trees. Nuts, dried fruit, berries and seeds and the nutritious leaf buds for next summer's leaves. They also don't seem to forget that there is usually a free meal at the bird feeders.
The smaller thirteen-lined ground squirrel is another squirrel that isn't much for climbing. Just before the ground freezes, he will curl up in a ball in a nest of dry grass and leaves, deep in his earthly burrow. His body may become stiff and rigid as though he is dead, but there is a small but determined flame deep in his chest that keeps him alive all winter. Once while digging in the frozen ground, I reluctantly unearthed one of the sleeping squirrels. At first, I thought sure that he was frozen and dead. I wrapped him in my hanky and put him in my coat pocket until the job was done. When I got home I laid him in a hamster cage near the woodstove. He still felt frozen. But to my surprise, within an hour or two, he was moving around in the cage. I wasn't sure what to do next, so he spent the rest of the winter with me, and I let him go in the spring.
The truth is, all squirrels are very resourceful and know how to survive a long, hard, Wisconsin winter.
How lucky I was to see a small flock of Cedar waxwings this morn. They were just passing through, and I heard their high-pitched calls from a highbush cranberry bush in the neighbor's yard. Waxwings are best appreciated when seen close up, and my binoculars let me see their beautiful blended colors as they really are.
Over the years of sharing my outdoor experiences with readers, I've written countless pages and drawn a couple thousand pictures of Nature's wonderful subjects. My dream was to pass on what I have learned, and to install a little compassion in the hearts of my readers. The truth is, no matter how nice the pictures look or how descriptive the writing is—no matter who the author is—there is no substitute for witnessing the Natural world, first hand.
That moment when you are face-to-face with another life form is a unique space in time that never truly can be reproduced.
All art ©2013 Organic Valley