Tag Archives: Tamiasciurus hudsonicus

LITTLE RED SQUIRREL OF THE WOODLAND

Much more commonly seen in our neighborhood are Gary Squirrels so it was a real treat for my daughter and I to see this little Red Squirrel on a recent walk at Halibut Point. He scampered over a quarry pool frozen with thick ice and then retrieved from a midden, hidden in a jumble of granite rocks, a sprig of what appeared to be Bayberry. The little fellow then proceeded to devour both the fruits and twig before retreating deeper into the wood.

Red Squirrels eat a wide range of foods including seeds, bark, nuts, insects, fruits, mushrooms, maple tree sap, and pine seeds and pine cones. Occasionally, Red Squirrels also eat young birds, mice, and rabbits. And as we can see from the photos, Bayberry fruits and twigs.

Going, going, gone

Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is a wonderfully easy native plant that doesn’t mind salt, compacted soil, and is both heat tolerant and very tolerant of flooding. The waxy winter fruits of Bayberry are eaten by myriad bird species including Tree Swallows, Chickadees, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Gray Catbirds, and Eastern Bluebirds. The wax coated fruits are high in fat, making them a great source of energy for migrating birds such as Cedar Waxwings and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Bayberry thickets also provide excellent nesting habitat for songbirds, offering protection from raccoons and other nest predators.

A (RARELY SEEN) FOX SQUIRREL IN GLOUCESTER MASSACHUSETTS??

Rare for Massachusetts that is. This afternoon a very unusual colored squirrel briefly stopped by our garden. He sat atop the fence post, had a quick snack from our neighbor’s black privet berries, then departed as quickly as he arrived. At first glance I thought he was a Red Squirrel, but he was much, much too big. Next thought, perhaps a melanistic Gray Squirrel. Or perhaps a Gray and an American Red (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) had interbred, but that isn’t possible. However, I did learn a Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and a Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) can interbreed. But possibly what we have here is an actual Fox Squirrel, which would be quite uncommon for Massachusetts. I am still researching this. If any of our readers has seen a Fox Squirrel in Massachusetts, please write and let us know. Thank you in advance.

Eating privet berries

Fox Squirrels are diurnal, which means they feed during the day. This little guy stopped by for a snack at about 1:30 in the afternoon. Conversely, Eastern Gray Squirrels are crepuscular, which means they are more active during the early and late hours of the day.

In this year of tree squirrel super abundance, I wonder, too if that could possibly be an explanation for an appearance by a Fox Squirrel; perhaps expanding its territory in search of food.

The coat of a Fox Squirrel comes in many colors, from nearly all black to rust, tawny gold, and gray combinations–like a fox. Gray Squirrels are mostly gray with white bellies. The average size of a Gray Squirrel is 9.1 – 12 inches; the average size of a Fox Squirrel is 10 to 15 inches.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Mystery visitor

American Red Squirrel Midden

Pine cone stipped clear to the core, photographed at a Pine Squirrel midden. The mid-day light was very harsh and too contrasty-click images to view details.

Adjacent to where we noticed the Japanese maple tree, Dale Resca, the Facilities Manager at Willowdale, discovered an American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) midden.

American Red Squirrel Midden

A squirrel midden is essentially a squirrel’s favorite place to eat; the fallen scales from consumed seed cones collect in piles, called middens. Sitting on their claimed stump, fallen log, or branch, the squirrel pulls the scales off the cones to get to the seeds.

American Red Squirrel Cache of Pine Cones

You can see from the above photo why the American Red Squirrel is often referred to as the Pine Squirrel. Ripening in late summer, the squirrels collect pine cones and store in a central cache. American Red Squirrels do not hibernate during the winter months; the caches of cones supply nourishment when food supplies are running low.

The American Red Squirrel is widely distributed throughout North America. They are smaller than a gray squirrel and somewhat larger than a chipmunk, with reddish fur and white venter, or underbelly.

American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) ~ Image courtesy Google images