OMG: a squirrel builds its nest on my windowsill

For the past few days I’ve been hearing scuttling noises outside my window. Since I keep the blinds closed by my desk, as the sunlight makes it hard to see my computer, I thought it was just snow or ice falling off the roof. Yesterday, however, I opened the blinds because the noise was insistent.  And, lo and behold, I found an eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) building a nest on my windowsill.  It (sex is indeterminate yet, and both sexes build nests) is breaking off stems of Virginia creeper to make the framework, and rearranging the twigs in what seems to be a haphazard manner (I’m sure there’s method in its madness, though).

squrl 2

I’m not sure why this crazed rodent was building a nest in the middle of a snowstorm, but maybe it’s preparing for baby season. I thought that squirrels also built nests to protect them from winter’s ravages, and it’s a bit late for that.

Sqrl 1

Right now there’s just a roughly circular pile of twigs, which the frenetic squirrel supplements and rearranges at random times.

I will of course keep readers updated on what happens next.

52 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Cool.

  2. Posted February 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure the squirrel would appreciate just happening to discover some scraps of something soft and insulating, such as a cut up old sock, in a strategically convenient location….

    b&

  3. Woof
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    OOOOoooo! Looks like a perfect opportunity for a time-lapse camera setup.

  4. ladyatheist
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Set up a webcam! PLEASE?!?

    • SA Gould
      Posted February 27, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Yes!

    • Justicar
      Posted February 27, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Someone just mentioned that to me on twiiter; it’s a GREAT idea!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 27, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think that Jerry needs to set up a “poll” for this, but I’ll vote for a webcam too.
      Jerry, don’t you have graduate students to enslave for this sort of thing? [GRIN]

    • ewertz
      Posted February 27, 2013 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      Web cam! Web cam!

  5. Posted February 27, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Last spring, an outdoor bird decided to make a nest on our windowsill. We kept our blinds angled in a way that we weren’t able to see the nest. When I angled the blinds differently, I noticed the bird arranging more twigs into an almost complete nest. When it saw me, it decided to move its nest to the tree across from the window. It took all the twigs from that windowsill and placed them in the tree. I guess it needed more privacy.

    • Marta
      Posted February 27, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      There is this place outside in the nook of some cross boards where finches build a nest and lay eggs outside my bedroom window. Twice per year.

      This is in the place where I practice [a martial arts form/not interesting or relevant] every single day. When I start, the finches yell at me. Yell. I don’t get it. Every day, I’m in the same place, at the same time. Every day, the finches yell at me. This has been going on for years. I really don’t understand it.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted February 27, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        It’s birdish for “Get off my lawn!”

        We young’uns are not required to understand that.

        • Marta
          Posted February 27, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

          The thing is, and this is the mystery, if they find me so damned annoying (and why should they be different?) why don’t they build their nest somewhere else? It’s not like I haven’t been in the same place for years. Every year, it’s like they’re discovering me, the same old harmless me, brand new. And they don’t move. They just hatch generation after generation, every single one of which acts like I’m the surprise in their hope chests. I don’t get it.

          • Posted February 28, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

            LOL! And the birds are probably thinking, why doesn’t this person go practice their martial arts form somewhere else instead of where we build our nest? (Not saying they are right…usually humans are guilty of hogging scarce habitat, but in your case it sounds like the birds have more options for nest sites than you would for martial arts :) I have often wondered the same thing about the crows who live peacefully with us year round but hate us for the few weeks their youngsters are learning to fly. We haven’t eaten them up yet…why would we suddenly eat crow for a few weeks in spring? I guess they’re just so amped up on being helicopter parents in nesting season, EVERYbody becomes an object of suspicion!

  6. lamacher
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Maybe it’s a newbie!

  7. Diane G.
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    What fun!

  8. Ann Braden
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Fun fact: A squirrel’s nest is called a “drey”. A handy Scrabble word.

    • still learning
      Posted February 27, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Neat! Love learning new words. Thanks!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 27, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Not to be confused with a “dray”, which is a (horse-drawn) cart laden with beer.
      Also a handy Scrabble word (except in Gaelic), and also a “fun fact”.

  9. Posted February 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Well, I’m jealous! Looking forward to seeing how this all unfolds.

  10. gravityfly
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Whoa!

  11. marlonrh
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I once spent a lazy afternoon watching a squirrel run back and forth across the power lines in my yard with golf ball size mouth-fulls of pink insulation. Origin and destination unknown.

  12. Marta
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    But Jerry, weren’t you just this excited last year (could be the year before. My memory is shot. It’s the beer, you know?) when you found you some squirrels? In the same location?

    I don’t care. I love squirrels.

    See you at TAM.

  13. Adam M.
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Do keep us updated. :-)

  14. Posted February 27, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    That’s pretty awesome, what an amazing thing to discover.

    Our campus at Leeds University in the UK has lots of squirrels, some very tame. Sit in a quiet place for long enough on a warm day and one is bound to approach. Some will let you stroke them.

    My building at my previous university in Newcastle had a couple of ducks that used to visit every few days. I don’t know why, there was no water nearby. They just used to show up, walk around, eat whatever people threw to them then vanish.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted February 27, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      “They just used to show up, walk around, eat whatever people threw to them…”

      That’s why!

    • marlonrh
      Posted February 27, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      On the University of Texas campus red squirrels will sometimes get up in your lap, especially if you have something yummy like a bag of peanuts. That became less cute when one peed on the knee of my Levis.

      • Posted February 27, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

        Hahahaha!

        One year, I had squirrels clambering over me, as I sat on a park bench eating Xmas pudding. They wanted it, and they even checked my handbag for extras. I gave them some, and the one that got a piece with maraschino cherry tore up a tree with the other in hot pursuit!

      • ladyatheist
        Posted February 27, 2013 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

        There used to be a grad student there who fed the pigeons near the tower, I think. I went with her one time. She’d hold out her arms and they would perch on them, and she knew each one’s personality. She lives in Florida now, I think. Probably charming the flamingos

  15. still learning
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I vote for a cam too! Yesterday, there were 2 squirrels mating in my backyard. Seems early for that kind of behavior in SE Minnesota.

  16. Posted February 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I apologise. But I look at that fella and think ‘They’re the invasive scumbags over here!’

    Eastern Grey Squirrels are an invasive species in the UK. They’ve decimated the native red species (not that the greys attack them, they’re just carriers of a disease that kills the reds, and they also out compete them for food). I’m sure the greys are nice guys really. They just get a bad rep around these parts…

    • BilBy
      Posted February 27, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      A bit of cognitive dissonance is all that is required. When in the UK the sight of a fox brings me pleasure, and a road killed one makes me sad. When in Australia it is the opposite.
      Grey squirrels are cool (in the US)

    • Posted February 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      They invaded and have damaged the red squirrel population but it’s not their fault and I find it impossible to dislike them.

      I hope we can find a way to preserve populations of both. For my part, I’m thrilled by both varieties of squirrel. They are beyond charming.

      • Posted February 27, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        ‘I hope we can find a way to preserve populations of both.’

        I agree. To be honest my comments were largely in jest. But in response to your comment, one possible way forward may perhaps be with the encouragement of Pine Martens. They were once prevalent across most of the UK but have suffered due to persecution and habitat damage. But they are predators of greys (reds spend less time on the ground and therefore come into contact with them less). It’s been found that in areas where Pine Martens are located the spread of greys is halted. So, working to support Pine Martens may not only reintroduce a once prevalent species but also help keep greys at bay.

        • Posted February 27, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

          “keep greys at bay”

          Yep, you are the sole arbiter of everyone about this, well done.

          • Diane G.
            Posted February 27, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

            ???

            I thought latsot was agreeing with you in his/her post. Just suggesting ways to keep gray numbers in check…

          • Posted February 28, 2013 at 1:40 am | Permalink

            ‘Yep, you are the sole arbiter of everyone about this, well done.’

            Hmmm…not sure the point you’re trying to make there. I don’t know if you’re new to this debate but I’m far from the first person to suggest something should be done to help the reds.

            The last great stronghold for reds in the UK is Scotland. It’s been said that without major conservation the reds will be lost within a generation. Is that what you would prefer?

            Reds were once the only species across Europe. Some greys have now escaped in Italy. There are now spreading. Unstopped they may well go to wipe out all the reds across Europe. Is that what you would prefer?

            • Dominic
              Posted February 28, 2013 at 4:58 am | Permalink

              I think we should eradicate invasive species – where possible & desirable – & perhaps we should include us humans!

        • Larry Gay
          Posted February 28, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

          Where live (northeastern US)the reds and greys eat different nuts — the reds live almost exclusively on conifer seeds and the greys on hardwood seeds, especially beech nuts and acorns. Perhaps more pine and fir forests would help maintain the reds in Britain.

          • Dominic
            Posted February 28, 2013 at 6:41 am | Permalink

            But they are not the native trees – only the Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris is native to the British Isles, so we had deciduous woodland with red squirrels across Eurasia. The decline of Red squirrels has been linked to the decline of pine martens – Martes martes – which are beautiful cat-like mustelids.

            • Larry Gay
              Posted February 28, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

              Thanks to Google I now know that your red squirrel and my red squirrel are totally different species. My only other suggestion (don’t tell Jerry) would be to hunt grey squirrels as we do here.

  17. Barry
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Someday soon you’ll open your office door and see a note like this taped to your chair: “I cleaned all that ugly debris off your window sill for you. You’re welcome, the janitor.”

  18. Posted February 27, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Leave it peanut butter. Squirrels love peanuts.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 27, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      Uh, I don’t know the details of squirrel (grey or red) diet, but I do know that “peanut butter” does not equal “peanut”. There will be a lot of extra fat from the butter ; different types of fat to the (admittedly high) fats in it’s normal nutty diet ; things like lactose. And FSM knows what else.
      Probably a local vet would know what would be a suitable diet supplement. Actually, given the popularity of “squirrel assault course” videos … the pet store probably has something appropriate in stock.
      Possibly peanut butter would be good. But from first principles, I wouldn’t expect it to be good. Note : “popular” does not equal “good”, despite what politicians and fizzy drink manufacturers scream at us every day.

      • Posted February 27, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        It would depend entirely on the peanut butter in question.

        The only nut butters I buy is the grind-it-yourself kind, common at Whole Paycheck and other boutique groceries. Basically, there’s a hopper filled with nuts sitting atop a grinder. Flip a switch and gravity feeds the nuts into the grinder, and the grinder extrudes nut butter into the plastic tub you’re hopefully smart enough to be holding underneath the spigot.

        There’s often two or three such machines at stores that sell nut butter that way. There’s at least peanuts and almonds, and often a third with cashews or honey-roasted peanuts or the like.

        They fill the hoppers with the same nuts that go in the bulk bins right next to the grinders, so the ingredients in the nut butters is exactly the same as the ingredients on the nuts — generally, either just roasted nuts, or maybe roasted nuts and salt, or maybe roasted nuts and whatever sugars they’ve coated them in.

        It’s been ages since I bought peanut butter in a jar, but the last time I did I made sure to get one with a single ingredient on the label: peanuts.

        Believe me, you don’t want to look at the ingredients list on the stuff they market to children…whatever that shit is, it sure as hell ain’t peanut butter….

        Cheers,

        b&

        • ewertz
          Posted February 27, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. Just-peanuts peanut butter is ok, but why not just cut out the middle man and leave some peanuts. As one would (hopefully) think, unsalted only.

          Also, peanuts are absolutely not a complete diet for squirrels. They lack a lot of things that squirrels also need in their diet, so only in moderation. Mix them up with the better nuts (walnuts, pecans) if possible, along with other seeds (sunflower, etc). Vegetables are probably all fine, too. Squirrels eat about their weight (1.5 lbs) per week, so let that be a guide. Not more than 10% of any one thing is probably wise.

          Bottom line is — they’ll eat anything. It’s up to you to make sure that they don’t eat sh-t that *we* (stupidly) choose to eat.

          You’re lucky to have (had) a sqneighbor — wish we had one that close. Not as nice as a red fox tree squirrel (which are even funnier), but greys are far better than nothing!

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted February 28, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

          The only nut butters I buy is the grind-it-yourself kind,

          I’ve never heard of such things. I assumed from the name that “peanut butter” is, essentially peanuts and butter. Which when I put it so bluntly, sounds rather silly. how are they going to put horse meat in there if I think like that?
          Actually … I’m trying to think of the last time that I had peanut butter … it’s so far in the distant past, I can’t remember when, and I can’t recall having brought any. Ever. Which shouldn’t be terribly surprising, really.

          • ewertz
            Posted February 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

            I’d guess that the “butter” part of “peanut butter” is that the latter is spreadable — because both have sufficiently high oil/fat content. “Peanut butter” is nothing more than ground-up peanuts at its core. Other stuff may be added (salt, sugar, oil, preservatives, etc) to suit those that can’t deal with the “normal” stuff — just like every other processed foodstuff in recent times.

            Children in many cultures grow up eating nut butters rather than whole nuts. The converse tends to be true as one’s food preferences change with age.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 27, 2013 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

      Boy, nonameleft, I’ll bet that’s the last time you offer a casual comment here!
      :D

  19. ladyatheist
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Evolution in the works? Correct me if I’m wrong on this, but I think the pigeon evolved from cliff-dwelling doves in the Middle Ages when cathedrals gave them urban “cliffs” to nest in.

    FYI, if you ever go to Notre Dame in Paris, take wet wipes with you ;-) Their pigeons have very good aim

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 28, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Their pigeons have very good aim.

      Is it possible that they’ve got large magazines and are unloading in “full auto”?

  20. abrotherhoodofman
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s a squirrel drone built and operated by The Vatican.

    Be careful, Jerry. Hold up a copy of your book and see if it hisses…

  21. starskeptic
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Squirrels always seem to know where the nuts are…


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