Squirrel report

There are actually two squirrels involved in building the nest on my office windowsill, so I have hopes for a brood of babies later this spring. In the meantime, twigs continue to accumulate and, as per Ben Goren’s suggestion, I have cut up strips of soft, clean socks for them to use as nesting material.

At the moment I have only peanut butter to feed them, and I understand the problems with this food, but I’m going to buy some seeds and nuts in the next few days.

Here’s their current situation (a dollop of Skippy on the right).



  1. Grania Spingies
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Lucky SQRLZ

    • Dominic
      Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Sleeping in Jerry’s old socks?! πŸ™‚

      • Hempenstein
        Posted February 28, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        Next they’ll want boots!

  2. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    It’ll be interesting to see how the nest takes shape.
    Does anyone know how “instinctive” nest construction is, and how much it benefits from individual experience at nest construction?

    • Dominic
      Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      I recall a discussion about ‘instinct’ before here a while back – maybe Greg initiated it…

      • gbjames
        Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        You mean sleeping in stinked socks?

        • gbjames
          Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

          (and this time… the “notify” check box…)

        • Dominic
          Posted March 1, 2013 at 2:32 am | Permalink


    • ladyatheist
      Posted February 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      The folks over at Raptor Resource Center discuss nest building quite a bit. The Decorah Eagles have built a new nest this year and will be using it rather than the one with the eagle cam. Apparently nest building is an instinct but *good* nest building is an acquired skill.

  3. Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Maroon socks!! Go U of C Maroons!

  4. Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I’m eager to see how well my proposed experiment plays out! Here’s hoping the hypothesis is demonstrated….


  5. pktom64
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    I just think this is awesome (granted, the hotdog kind of awesome but still) and can’t wait to see further development!

  6. Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Jerry, be nice to us and install a squirrel-cam πŸ™‚

    • pktom64
      Posted February 28, 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Let me recant my above comment.


      Now that would be awesome.

  7. E.A. Blair
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I expect a full report on the development of a new squirrel mythology regarding “the great provider from beyond the great transparent barrier”.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 28, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Jerry is God!

      • Sarah
        Posted February 28, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        Ceiling Squirrel!

  8. Sarah
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Some eons ago when I was a grad student in Philadelphia I was visited by gray squirrels coming to my 3rd-floor window. I filled some half walnut shells with peanut butter and put them on the sill. The squirrels (who apparently love peanut butter above practically anything else, or so I had read) would take the shells and eagerly wolf down the peanut butter, spinning the shells around in their paws to get the last drop. Later these animals developed a full-fledged addiction and would clamor at my window at their breakfast time, which was long before mine. If you want little bushy-tailed friends for life, feed them peanut butter!

    • Dominic
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 2:33 am | Permalink

      “I was visited by gray squirrels coming to my 3rd-floor window” – sure they were not angels? or if they were Grays – isn’t that a type of alien?!

      • Sarah
        Posted March 1, 2013 at 4:25 am | Permalink

        Is there any place a determined squirrel can”t reach? If angels eat peanut butter, have fluffy tails, and scamper about at dawn, you might have a point. They came to “grays” on my peanut butter.

  9. Bill Cain
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Hi, Since you are so interested in squirrels I thought you might like to read my local letter to the editor regarding a religion column which makes Satan to seem as innocent as squirrels. http://tribstar.com/opinion/x36428998/READERS-FORUM-Feb-25-2013. There is a lot of interesting follow up commentary from Muslims and non-Muslims. Bill Cain

    • Posted February 28, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      Wow. Reading that, I’ve never been happier to live in New York City. I can’t imagine seeing that in our local paper(s). Well, maybe the Post, but the Post is a joke.

  10. Posted February 28, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Squirrels will risk life and limb for sunflowers seeds. As you have noted they are not the tidiest housekeepers, and it’s a good thing your building is stone. They are not good companions in wood structures.

  11. Posted February 28, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I’ve just done some reading on nesting materials, besides twigs, and people say that fleece is the best… keeps the babies warm even when wet and there is none of the stringy threads in which the babies can get entangled. It’s wonderful that you’ll be able to keep an eye on the family, Dr. C. What a treat!

    You may have to have s steady supply of tea and cookies for the influx of visitors to your office. πŸ™‚

  12. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile, there is not much going on yet at the Cornell hawk cam. Ezra (the male) has visited the site 3 times this month, but the spring nest building & egg laying season has not begun in earnest.

  13. Posted February 28, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    A pair of fox squirrels are now finishing a nest outside my office window. They are more advanced in construction than the nest further north in Chicago. After weaving small limbs (which they cut off from the tree with their teeth) as a ‘frame’ they are now putting dead leaves in the nest. They take a mouthful of leaves and run up to the nest.

    I have now ‘trained’ several squirrels on campus to come when I call them. They come dashing down the trees when called (phishing sound). Several have learned to climb my leg (only with thick trousers on!) and take a shelled pecan, offered in a way that they will not bite fingers. They love pecans more than sunflower seeds and will often throw down an acorn when offered pecans. When given shelled pecans they usually rush off to bury them.

    These behaviors attract a lot of attention from students, many who stop to photograph them. Feeding them is one of my favorite daily diversions! Thus my moniker as ‘squirrel man.’

    • ewertz
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      “Several have learned to climb my leg…”

      DON’T DO THIS. I also used to do this until I realized that there’s nothing stopping them from thinking that they can do this to everyone. If you want to get your squirrels maimed by those who don’t want to get climbed on (some people are terrified when they even get close), you should stop doing this *now*.

      But I’ll be the first to admit that it’s nearly impossible to stop feeding them.

  14. Posted March 1, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I don’t get why they (she only actually) would build a nest there, with trees nearby. Nuts..

    • Sarah
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      Even trees have their drawbacks. Although like Barclay’s Bank, there are branches everywhere, a tree would be susceptible to high winds and a windowsill might feel safer. I would think a windowsill could be vulnerable to hawks and kestrels and the like, or owls.

    • ewertz
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

      Squirrels time-share nests, in general — they don’t stick to just one.

      They generally choose to nest as high up as possible. During warm weather the airflow is how they keep cool. Check out the habitable trees during the autumn after the leaves fall — most of the nests will be along the “outside” of the trees, and favor the tops.

      • Diane G.
        Posted March 2, 2013 at 12:42 am | Permalink

        Gray squirrel nests, that is. Red & Fox squirrel dreys tend to be closer to tree trunks, sometimes in tree cavities.

        • ewertz
          Posted March 2, 2013 at 1:29 am | Permalink

          Where I live, red fox squirrels outnumber greys by about 4:1. So, while I can’t guarantee which dreys are which, ours may not be as particular.

          Of course there is a chance that I can’t see the interior ones as easily as the outer ones (against the sky), so you may in fact be correct, and there may be just as many nests that I can’t see as the ones that I can.

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