It was a toss-up whether to call today’s post “Shadow Dancing” or “Parker, Patience and the Predator” (you know how I love alliteration).
My favorite furry friend, a/k/a Parker, has made a triumphant return to Council Point Park. However, it is important to tell you that he is hanging out in the fringes of the Park these days, no doubt due to the fracas with the robin who attacked him a few weeks ago on the perimeter path.
After that, he went missing in action, perhaps even scared of his own shadow.
On our first, post-robin fracas encounter, Parker saw me rounding that last bend of Pagel Avenue, a street with a good share of twists and turns. Oh, I saw him racing over toward me, and then he stopped short of the tips of my walking shoes.
While pulling the Ziploc bag of peanuts out of the mesh bag hooked onto my fanny pack, I bent over to greet him, asking “where’ve you been sweetie?” He danced around at my feet, clearly happy to see me (or maybe the peanuts – I am a realist, after all).
I tossed out four peanuts near his front paws and he took two between his front teeth, then made a beeline across the street, before I even got a chance to whip the camera out of the case. “Please watch the cars and don’t bury those in someone’s lawn because they’ll get mad at me” I called out to him, then I continued on my journey to the Park.
The next day we went through a similar exercise, but this time he had stationed himself at the entrance of the Park. Once again, I was fumbling with the peanuts and couldn’t access the camera, so it was a missed photo op as he scurried off again.
But last Friday morning I was a little smarter and hung the Ziploc bag off my fanny pack, so that I could use the camera and dole out peanuts with my left hand.
On that sultry August morning, there he was, at the parking lot entrance, just like a sentry guarding that corner, lest any other squirrels come to grab his cache of nuts.
He followed me and I shooed him away from the parking lot. His eyes followed my every move. This time the camera was accessible and I was ready for him … or so I thought. Our shadows made an interesting picture as you can see in the picture at the top of this post.
With the camera in my right hand, I dug into the bag with my left hand, ready to drop the peanuts and get a shot of him up close, when he zipped over for a closer visit than I expected (and would have liked). Patience was clearly not a virtue with Parker. He gave me about two seconds, then inched closer, first with front paws on my shoe, then sitting on his haunches on my foot and putting his front paws with those sharp claws pressed onto the front of my bare leg. I inched back a little, not wanting to make any sudden moves, and he backed off, so I raised the camera up again to catch him in another pose, but he would not be so easily deterred and started climbing up my leg again. Obviously, there was no peanuts-for-posing bartering to be done, so I gave up and just fed him.
Once again he took a pair of peanuts “to go” while scurrying across the parking lot, over the curb …
… and clear to the middle of the field.
Next thing a furry tail popped up in the air and he was busy burying his goodies.
Now, I know I am partial to Parker for his loyalty and his antics, As squirrels go, I think he is pretty smart – savvy even. He likely remembers the long, cold and snowy Winter of 2017-2018 and the crummy Spring, and just how many mornings that none of the walkers who regularly feed the squirrels made it down to the Park. I remember those days as well Parker. The walking paths were not cleared, so we depended on the sun to melt that asphalt so we can walk. Parker is squirreling away every peanut he gets, preparing ahead, like a Boy Scout.
I’m just glad to have him back and greeting me on my morning jaunts to my favorite go-to nature spot.
It’s like old times again – once inside the Park, at least ten squirrels came running over to greet me. I meandered along, doling out nuts and saying my “good mornings” to the other walkers and the squirrels as well.
I might be sharin’ the love with Parker and other furry friends, but not all of them unabashedly come running over for peanuts. For example, I couldn’t coax this squirrel down from his tree because he was too busy enjoying his apple. In the Park, a few apple trees are starting to bear fruit, tiny apples, just the right size for a pair of front paws.
This squirrel was tucked up in this tree, happily noshing on an apple. Look at the technique here – off comes the rosy red peel, faster than your mom could skin an apple when she was making an apple pie.
Then he was chomping away at that apple – nope, he didn’t need no stinkin’ peanuts.
In fact, that squirrel chomping on its apple was reminiscent of an old black-and-white picture of me enjoying corn on the cob back in the day.
As blissful and idyllic as this setting may seem, it was far from peaceful as my walk progressed.
When I finished the first loop, just as I neared the pavilion area, along came Stubby, flicking that shortened tail in the air and running toward me. I walked to the side of the path and laid down four peanuts then started to walk away. A woman, with a young boy by her side, was laughing as Stubby lunged for a peanut and she said “we were watching another squirrel following you back there – you didn’t see him and he finally caught up with you.” Smiling, I told her that happens all the time.
Suddenly our conversation was interrupted by a flash of brown and outstretched wings that appeared out of nowhere. A predator had descended upon our peaceful Park. The predator swooped down from the sky and was in pursuit of Stubby. I gasped in horror. In a split second Stubby took off as fast as his little legs could carry him. He dived underneath one of the picnic tables in the pavilion. Thwarted in his effort to snatch Stubby, the predator never missed a beat and turned its body around, and flapping those big wings, it went airborne, then flew to the chain-link fence, where he perched, his back toward me.
The woman and I looked at each other – I said “I think it’s a hawk!” I was going by its coloring. I said “Thank goodness he didn’t get the squirrel; I’d have felt responsible for making that squirrel a sitting duck, but I want to take a picture of it.”
I was still a little shook up and managed to get one shot of it, albeit a little blurry, before it took off. I walked back the way I came, looking for the predator, while wishing I could warn each and every squirrel to watch their collective backs. Another walker saw me and he said “if you’re looking for the hawk, it flew over the Creek.”
I finished the entire first loop, for the second time, and passed by Stubby on my way out of the Park. He was still near the pavilion, munching the rest of the peanuts I’d given him, looking none the worse for the wear.
I wish I could say the same for me.
Note: Later I searched “hawk images” on All About Birds and found this predator – I believe it was a Cooper’s Hawk based on the black tip on its beak and the markings on its back: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Coopers_Hawk/id