I first noticed the squirrel late in the fall when he took a flying leap from the carport vines to the hanging bird feeder, causing it to swing erratically. He held on, swaying to and fro as he feasted on sunflower seeds. On a subsequent visit he noticed the supply was running low, so he opened the hinged lid with his nose and stuck his head inside to better investigate. Apparently satisfied that there was an ample supply of sunflower seeds, he decided to take up winter residence, not in a tree, but under our front sidewalk.
He would, however, need some nesting material to ward off the chill of that cold concrete. I looked out one day and saw him pulling and tugging at the cloth cover I had made for our snow blower. I had to give him an “E” for effort, but there was no way one red squirrel was going to get a piece of material that size into his den. I was quilting at the time, so I began putting out small scraps of material and batting. They kept disappearing, but I was not absolutely certain “Peter,” (as I had named him) was availing himself of my offerings until the day I looked out and saw him sitting on a branch of the apple tree, his mouth stuffed with quilt batting. And then he disappeared under the sidewalk. By the time snow fell, I imagine Peter had made himself a cosy and colourful bed.
More snow fell, and Peter made tunnels all over our front yard, with holes at strategic points where he would pop up like a gopher to check whether he’d have to put a run on those pesky sparrows who were always stealing “his” birdseed. And Woody the woodpecker was another nuisance. Just when Peter would be all snugged up underground beneath his patchwork quilt, that woodpecker would start tapping on the suet cake hanging just above Peter’s den. And if there was anything more annoying to Peter than sparrows, it was that woodpecker who kept chiselling away at that suet cake – the one Peter had claimed long before Woody came around. Every time he heard the telltale knocking, Peter would bound out of a hole in the snow, race up the apple tree, and put a run on Woody. Then Peter would hang by his hind feet and feed on the suet himself.
As yet, Peter has not had time to even think about a short hibernation, what with his “gopher holes” to maintain, the sparrows to chase and Woody to scold. In the meantime we are enjoying his antics, and every time I quilt, I wonder what kind of “pattern” Peter made with the patches I gave him. – Alma Barkman writes from Winnipeg