Who said that you have to do an eight hour stint to be busy? Everyone
is busy in their own way and if you at any time, step in to my garden,
you’ll see who the real busy ‘bodies’ are. They do not have time to
spare even to find food for their survival! Even if they do have the
time they are not bothered to move around in search of food as they seem
to believe that it is the ‘utmost responsibility’ of the two- legged to
serve them with food four times a day!
Every morning no sooner they get up, the ‘squirrel army’ would rush
to their favourite food ‘haunts’, each would grab a lump of rice and
then disperse either to a branch or to the top of the roof or a wall to
have their breakfast peacefully!
There are six such ‘feeding tables ‘ in the garden, two in the front
compound and four in the backyard where my father had used either
discarded margarine containers or coconut shells hung on wires, the end
of which is tied to a branch.
In addition, we are ‘supposed’ to scatter bread crumbs or rice along
the wall to entertain the ‘passers-by’, in case if they feel hungry in
the midst of a sun bath!
The squirrels have got so used to it, particularly to their morning
meal, and if they find that their needs have not been attended to, the
reaction would be even worse than that of a set of trade union leaders!
Then they would start chattering at the top of their voices till any of
us come out from the kitchen with eatables.
Some would even descend to the meadow in search of leftovers and that
leaves room for them to become easy prey for the two visiting cats! So
our mornings normally begin with feeding those squirrels. They would
just nibble a guava or dig into a mango as they pass by, but it seems
that they no longer rely on fruits or nuts as their staple food, but
would rather treat them as a mere dessert!
On some days even parrots and cuckoo birds too would come to share
the meals with them. But squirrels do not entertain any intruders.
To chase birds away they use their own unsuccessful tricks. A ‘smart’
squirrel would start eating seated on the feeding table itself spreading
its bushy tail right across the ‘table’ in order to prevent birds
Parrots are anyway smarter than squirrels; they would try to prod
squirrel’s bushy tail away by their beaks and in the end the smart
squirrel has to retreat! Squirrels are busy the whole day -
mothers-to-be could be seen busy with finding material to make nests.
An ideal location for them is the roof of our house where they choose
the space in between the beam and roofing tiles, a safe haven to make
their nest. Earlier most of the squirrels used to make their nests on
In time they realised that such locations are not safe any longer
because of the exposure of their young ones to the ‘Kurulu Goya’ (Sri
Lanka Shikra), and even crows.
Now that mother squirrel is quite sure of the safety of her
newly-born, she would leave them alone in the nest for hours, taking it
for granted that it is our ‘responsibility’ to look after her ‘babies’
although we cannot even see the nest unless we climb on to the ceiling!
If the mother gets quite late to return, the restless ‘babies’ would
fall on to the ceiling in their vain attempt to find their mother. Their
cries for help are most of the time unheard by the mother who is
probably busy with her dessert or sun bath etc ..etc....So the two
legged surrogate mothers and fathers have to rise to the occasion.
If the cries continue we normally climb up to the ceiling and bring
the little ones down, put them into a cardboard box and hang the box
from rafter. If not she will take hours to jump on to the ceiling to
take the baby squirrel back to the nest!
Rat snake is another deadly intruder who always disrupt the harmony
of the ‘squirrel kingdom’. The mere sight of a rat snake changes their
entire behavioral pattern. They all would start a penetrating shrill
with a pause wagging their bushy tails in a strange way, an indication
of impending danger.
We too have got so used to the warning signal we would rush out to
the garden to see whether we can be of any help! In fact now they too
expect us to come out and help them chase the rat snake away as we have
been doing so continuously.
Now it is obvious that they make the noise not only to make the
fellow squirrels and birds aware of the impending danger, but also to
tell us that they are in danger! When we come out and spot where the rat
snake is, they will stop these strange noises, and leave the job
entirely in our hands! The trust they have kept in us is tremendous and
we simply can’t turn our backs when they are faced with any
If you are a nature lover, the sight of a mother squirrel teaching
her ‘son’ to try its first steps would be pleasing to your eyes. You can
see them walking on walls or on the roof. Occasionally a baby squirrel
would get lost if it disobeys ‘its mum.
We often find such helpless ones running on the concrete pavement
around the house making squeaky noises. Just like children they too are
new to the world and have no idea of its complexities- of enemies and
friends! Since their ‘ignorance’ is always welcome by the two visiting
cats, we have to keep an eye on their movements till their mother comes
and chaperons them!
Once, while a would-be-mum walking briskly on the roof, the nest
material she was carrying slipped off from her mouth. It rolled down the
roof and fell on the ground which made the squirrel shriek as if she
lost all her ‘valuables’!
Then she peeped down only to see it lying on the meadow. Sensing that
we would help her she waited patiently till we threw it back to the roof
and then grabbed it eagerly and disappeared under the roof.
It is not only once that we had to take the extra trouble as ‘baby’(squirrel)
sitters. About a year ago we came across a baby squirrel in our
compound. Apparently it had fallen off the mango tree, but we could not
locate where the nest was.
So we were forced to look after. To ensure his safety we kept the
baby squirrel in a cardboard box covering the top with a thick board
leaving only a little space for ventilation. We were both amazed and
happy to see the mother squirrel slowly approaching the box. She quietly
squeezed into the box, rushed out carrying the baby in her mouth and
jumped on to the window and disappeared.
Anyway on an earlier occasion we had to be the guardian angels
of two squirrels for nearly six years as their mother went missing,
perhaps fallen prey to a ‘Kurulu Goya’ most probably! Since every
attempt we made to send back them to the wild failed, we had to be their
guardian angels full time!