Working in a park affords me plenty of opportunities to take to the trails during lunch or when I need a little break. But some days, the work is piled up just a little too high and I never get away from my computer.
Luckily, my office window overlooks the ravine behind the Hogback Ridge Park building, and every time I look up, I'm greeted with views of woodland and wildlife -- and the busy bird-feeding station, which is always highly entertaining.
We'll get the occasional trauma of a songbird snatched from a feeder by a hawk and the thump of a bird flying into a window. But mostly, it's just fun to see the birds fly in and out and to watch the squirrels.
Often, the squirrels are the stars of the show, and today they are the stars of this column, for they are unfailingly entertaining.
Squirrel No. 1 must have thought the small tree just outside my window was climbable and would bring him closer to the seed in the feeders.
He was wrong on both counts, but boy, did that little guy try to make his plan work. Scampering up the 1-inch-diameter trunk was not a problem, nor was working his way out on a narrow limb. But the next limb was an issue. More of a twig than a branch, it extended 2 feet and came enticingly close to the seeds that the squirrel was salivating over. My furry friend took one step forward, then another. The branch -- er, twig -- started bouncing up and down as the squirrel stepped forward, then back, trying to decide if his approach was working. Up and down, faster and faster the branch bounced -- and now the squirrel had all four legs wrapped around it as the bouncing continued. He couldn't go forward and he couldn't go back. Other squirrels were chattering encouragement -- or laughing at him, I couldn't tell.
Finally, he fell to the ground, staggered around a bit, shook his head free of the dizziness and walked away -- a little unsteadily, I thought. I hope he found food later, because he deserved it.
Squirrel No. 2 eschewed the aerial approach and decided to attack the largest feeder from the ground -- clearly undaunted by the large, round baffle blocking his path up the pole. He climbed to the baffle and leaned backward as far as he could, his two front paws reaching out to grasp the disc. No luck -- and the squirrel back-flipped to the ground, whipped his tail back and forth, and tried again. Three attempts later, he was still mostly on the ground looking up.
Distracted by a phone call, I quit watching for a moment, and the next thing I knew, that squirrel was above the baffle, perched on the base of the feeder, triumphantly gobbling down lots and lots of seed. I'm still not sure how he got there, because in my 10 years working at Hogback Ridge Park, I have never witnessed a squirrel climbing around a baffle. But I assume it happens all the time.
Now here's the final scenario: Picture a dozen furry little squirrels, some on the ground, some perched on feeders and some in the process of running up trees. Then a hawk lands on a nearby tree, and all the squirrels stop in their tracks -- for 15 minutes. They do not budge, even after the birds -- which had fled to the treetops -- venture back to the feeders.
Those squirrels were taking no chances, and it was comical to view them splayed against tree trunks or standing stock still on the ground without even a tail twitch. Clearly, immobility renders them invisible to hawks.
Maybe it's not nice to laugh at the little creatures when they are dead serious about saying out of the hawk's talons, but I laughed anyway.
Watching the squirrels doesn't take the place of a brisk walk along the trails, but -- when work calls or the weather is truly nasty -- it will do.
Sue Hagan is marketing and communications manager for Preservation Parks of Delaware County.