SMBO 2015 – 5

Hello, Stalkers! Welcome to another week of Stalking Mike Blair Outdoors. Did you all catch Mike’s new video? It’s a beautiful representation of our majestic world and the passage he paired with it fits wonderfully. Didn’t get the update? Be sure to join us on Facebook; we always post new videos there, for followers to view and share. Our goal is to hit 100 ‘likes’ here in the next few days, so invite your friends to help us meet that goal!

Mother Nature seems to be quite finicky this year with temperature fluctuations that will give you whiplash. However, regardless of whether or not you have snow, it’s still winter and according to Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog, it’s going to stick around for awhile. This means no new buds yet and animals must make due with the winter furnishings they have.squirrel12

Squirrels are no exception to this. My kids have a few books about squirrels preparing for winter and the nuts they bury. However, they really enjoy watching squirrels in the backyard and find joy in Mike’s pictures and videos of the quick, resourceful creatures.

Fox squirrels are the most popular type of squirrel in the eastern and central United States. Mike has a lot of information and visual aspects of these animals but I went to BioKIDS, which is out of the University of Michigan, to get the few facts I didn’t have. The most common color for fox squirrels is reddish-brown, tipped with brown; this gives them a ‘frosted’ look. Fox squirrels can live up to 18 years in captivity but most in the wild don’t make it to maturity, which is one year.

During spring and summer, squirrels have a plethora of food sources; however, like most animals, these food sources diminish during the winter. So, autumn is the time when the familiar image of squirrels foraging, hoarding and burying food occurs. This process makes the squirrels excellent growers of trees. squirrel17Usually, they take care to cut off only the nuts, leaving the acorn caps. Then, they take the ripe, intact nuts and bury them, saving them for a cold, winter day. If they fail to find the nuts again, the nuts will sprout into seedling oaks. Also, according to Mike, squirrels tend to plant the nuts in ideal places for the seedlings to grow, which he doesn’t think is a coincidence. But, are nuts the only thing squirrels eat? Certainly not.

Actually, Mike has a rather interesting video of a ‘meat eater’ squirrel, who takes advantage of leftover turkey. Squirrel Meat Eaters was quite a surprise to me. Squirrels eat another type of meat as well, one that is a bit detrimental to their habitat. Their practice of bark stripping gains them access to the meaty part of the tree called cambium. This is the thin green zone of living cells just below the park. This part of the tree carries residual sugars that are stored in the tree’s root system and is essential to the tree’s growth for the next spring. squirrel11When a squirrel strips the bark all the way around a part of the tree it’s called girdling. A tree will not have any new growth above a girdled spot. So, this process effectively kills the part of the tree above this area.You can see some video of this process and hear Mike explain it a bit more in the video Squirrel Stripping Elm Bark.

Other than these practices, squirrels like to eat berries and nuts. Hawthorne berries, maple flowers and the black walnuts make great meals for hungry squirrels. I learned from Mike’s work that squirrels are the only wild animals that can eat black walnuts. squirrel2The shells of this nut are one of the hardest natural substances. The only reason the squirrels can crack through these shells are because of their strong jaws and razor-like incisors. This process is called cutting and can prove to be a pretty noisy job. Squirrels like high-energy food and this is the reason black walnuts are such a good meal for them. The nutritious kernels contain 200 calories per ounce of kernel. Mike’s video Hungry Winter Squirrels shows a variety of squirrels and their meal of choice and how they attain it.

Despite their high-energy diet it is commonly perceived that squirrels sleep late and retire early, however Mike’s observances have shown him that this isn’t the case. The squirrels he’s followed have known to take their last snack up to twenty minutes after sundown. squirrel7So, where do they go to retire and take shelter during the harshness of winter? Many squirrels take shelter in a tree hole, protected from the elements and potential predators. Other squirrels make a leaf nest up in the branches of trees. They hide in these leaves and hope the winter winds don’t blow it away.

We don’t often think about the harshness of the wild but Mike often experiences it. He found this blind squirrel and captured a few photos. squirrel4Apparently, this happens more often than one would think; especially, with animals that move through trees quickly. They may catch a branch or twig as they’re flying, jumping or running through the trees. There is no medical help or pain medication in the wild so they must live through it and learn to compensate with their disability or they may end up as someone’s snack.

This squirrel took a timeout during a heatwave last summer. squirrel1Doesn’t have much to do with our winter talk but I think it’s funny and had to share with you guys since we’re talking about squirrels. Squirrels get hot too and we’ve talked about their eating habits but they get thirsty as well. Mike has a very informative video of a squirrel taking advantage of wetwood. Squirrel On Wetwood gives a delightful insight to a day in the life of a squirrel, as well as quite a lot of information on wetwood, which is a condition of trees. I’d explain it here but I believe Mike covers it very well and very effectively in his video, along with some great footage.

I don’t know about you, but I’m learning a host of information while Stalking Mike Blair Outdoors. What have you learned so far? Anything new? I’m a firm believer that if you learn something new everyday, you’re life will be infinitely fuller, if not, more knowledgeable. Please help us to reach our goal of 100 likes. Comment on posts, give it a like and share it with your friends. How else will they learn of our great outdoors? Don’t forget Mike is also present on Twitter and Google Plus.

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Also, be sure to check out the Squirrel Photo Gallery.