Naturalist (2021-11)

two douglass squirrels
photo of shore pine

Squirrel Wars

A shore pine stands firmly rooted at the very edge of the waterfront bluff. It overlooks the Saratoga Passage and has been beautifully sculpted by many years of wind and water. Its branches of stiff, green bristles and prickly cones have served as habitat to wildlife, large and small. Occasionally, it provides a landing spot for Bald Eagles and other assorted birds.

douglass squirrel

For a few weeks this summer it was the site of a war. The warring factions: a pair of Douglas (or Douglas’s) squirrels and my dogs. I don’t know exactly when my resident Grey squirrel was usurped by these thugs, but one day -POOF- they appeared with quite a commotion. The Douglas’s squirrels spent their days chattering and chirping insults, while acrobatically jumping and chasing each other up and down and all around the scaly, red-gray bark of the trunk and branches of the tree. At times, one or the other of them would drop straight down out of a branch – Flying Wallendas style – and disappear into the brush below, only to reappear and run right back up into the tree again.

two douglass squirrels

My dogs, ever ready to protect and defend against any threat – real or imagined – flew into action at the slightest hint of a chirp or the faintest scratching of tiny squirrel claws scaling up and down the tree bark. These squirrels feeling equally bold about claiming their new trophy would taunt and hurl insults and warnings towards my dogs or me if we wandered into their perceived territory. And so it went for weeks, until, one day, the Douglas squirrels disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. My peaceful paradise restored. 
  
Now summer has slid into fall. The only reminder of the squirrel wars is the super soaker-squirt gun, resting on my outdoor table, that I used to dissuade and persuade the little invaders. The shore pine still stands stately, anchoring the south corner, watching quietly over the Saratoga Passage for another year. 
     
— essay and photos by Lucienne Miodonski, Class of 2021

View from north Camano toward Penn Cove on Whidbey. photo by Lucienne Miodonski

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