We couldn’t have asked for a brighter or more beautiful Saturday, despite the fact that it was only 13 degrees F (-10C) with a “real feel” of -5 degrees F (-20C) and it was windy to boot. I bundled up in multiple layers, and, with a brand-new bag of peanuts in hand, I set out for the Park. I figured that Thursday’s rain and mild temps had wiped out the ¼ inch of ice we got the day before, but I wore my hiking boots anyway and was pleased to find I didn’t need them and I got four miles walked today.
Before I left, I tried to get a photo op with Grady and his friend, but I was surprised they didn’t show up … maybe they sleep in on Saturdays. So much for that idea. No worries … one or both had stopped by, as evidenced by a trail of peanut shells and redskin chaff they left behind.
I drove to Council Point Park to give the car a run and surprisingly the parking lot was empty. No diehard walkers today? So, for the first hour I was there, I had the Park to myself … oh, and about 15 or 20 squirrels too.
Unlike the warmer weather, when Parker meets me in the parking lot, or the beginning of the trail, there was no welcoming committee this morning. I thought to myself “well, you’ve stayed away since last Sunday and they probably thought you abandoned them.”
Well banish that thought as the first furry friend, came bounding over to see me moments later. It was none other than Parker, who planted his little body in front of me and looked up as if to say “so, don’t hold back – where are my peanuts?”
For Parker, it’s peanuts first, THEN a photo op and that’s because I’ve indulged him since day one. But this morning, I got my photo of him taken before he could protest.
Today, there was no carting away of peanuts to hide as he was clearly aware the ground was too frozen to find any long-buried nuts or other treasures squirreled away, long before this deep freeze set in. About the only place the squirrels could hide peanuts now would be in the large area of mulch that is under the playground equipment in the center of the Park. I wonder if any of them thought of that?
I gave Parker his treats and I knew he would be in peanut nirvana. I was carrying a plastic bag on my arm to reach in for peanuts, so I shook it, guaranteed to stir the senses of each and every squirrel who might have missed “The Peanut Lady” as she started on the trail.
I had to laugh, as rattling that bag of peanuts did the trick, and soon at least ten squirrels were beating a path across the soccer field to see me. I now know that squirrels may have better hearing than eyesight.
The bitter cold temperature and a stiff wind made it difficult to dispense peanuts while trying to take pictures. I had on gloves with liners and they kept getting caught in the camera strap, and jockeying around the bag and keeping it away from all the ground-level shots, while feeding my furry friends was difficult. I came home with lots of shots of squirrels missing tails and snouts.
These squirrels were chasing one another in this tall tree, two silhouettes on the bare branches against a flawless blue sky.
They saw me and quickly began their long descent to ground level. Watching them almost made me dizzy as their sharp claws expertly carried them down the bark.
They arrived at the base of the tree, then came racing over as they skidded to a stop and both eyed the pile of nuts placed near my feet. I was hoping for a photo op of the pair cozying up to my boots, but that didn’t happen. They each ate a few nuts, then took a few “to go” … only “to go” didn’t work out so well, when one squirrel tried to bury a peanut …
… and quickly realized the ground was too frozen to do that task. Note the sheepish look on his face, as he wondered if anyone was watching him. Priceless!
These same two squirrels paused a few moments together, and I got this shot.
Then they scurried back up the tree to munch contentedly.
By now, the word was out that I was packing peanuts and every squirrel on site was in close proximity.
It was so quiet at the Park that I could hear those squirrels cracking the peanuts with their teeth. Most of them ate on the ground …
… but others preferred to munch atop a tree branch.
This past two weeks of harsh weather has taken its toll on the Park. Even the bushes that line the perimeter path have been stripped of their bright-colored berries, no doubt by the birds or squirrels foraging for precious morsels of food.
The Creek was frozen over completely, and, unlike last week when a small, ice-free area near the storm drain permitted the mallards to paddle around freely, today the area was barren and completely devoid of any waterfowl. Traces of snow that fell last night stayed on top of some of the icy surface.
I didn’t even see a single bird flitting around the trees. How I wish we could fast forward two months when the call of the Red-Winged Blackbird would echo through the reeds and phragmites, tender green leaves would be unfurling and tendrils of ground cover would slowly be filling in the bare spots beneath the trees and bushes. The ducks would be quacking and the geese would be honking as Spring begins in earnest at Council Point Park.