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Friday, December 8, 2023





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Squirrel ‘dominance’!

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 reaching it.

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 coconut trees.

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 inconvenience!

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!


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas
Mount View Residencies
LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
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