One shelter for two squirrels

The red squirrel that recently visited my balcony decided to build himself a shelter on the ledge of a nearby window.

Made of moss, hay and pillow filling material laid on a bed of dead Boston-ivy leaves, the round-shaped construction looks cozy but too tight to fit more than one. It was put together in just a few hours—sometimes between the moment I sighted the critter, around lunch time, and the next morning.

What is the exact purpose and nature of this hastily erected retreat: winter shelter, den, nest, drey? I was unable to match it with anything I found online. It would be too small to welcome a brood and the location is definitely hazardous―the store from the neighbor’s window could be fatal if shut down and it is not well protected against the wind.

Since he “moved in”, the rodent has made regular appearances. He goes out during the day to forage in the area around my block and returns “home” before sunset. He is sometimes absent so I suspect he may have another shelter. He often rests inside his retreat with his little nose out to keep careful watch on his surroundings.

To my surprise, another squirrel came to my balcony this morning.

This one’s coat is a beautiful dark brown with mixed shades of silver grey, black and red hair, and a large white patch covering belly and throat. He is remarkably inquisitive and so little fearful of humans that twice he walked on the balcony rail while I was sitting outside. We stared at each other in silence, long enough for me to take a few photographs before he crawled up to the next balcony.

The rest of the time, he eagerly explored the area, jumping from building walls and gutters to neighbors’ balconies, windows, trees and bushes, giving the impression to be everywhere at once… However, his strongest interest appears to be the shelter built by his congener which he examined several times from every possible angle.

Where was the red squirrel at this time? I wondered. Surely they could have smelled each other’s presence if he had been inside his den.

When I later returned to the balcony, I found the red squirrel chasing blackie down the apartment building wall, across the pedestrian lane and further in nearby gardens, up, down and around trees. They ran fast, erratically and often far from one another making it hard to capture them together, but here they are.

Mates or rivals? It is currently mating season for European red squirrels, so mates is probable. What is clear is that the black squirrel is stalking (courting?) the red one and conspicuously establishing his presence within a small perimeter around the shelter.

I found what I believe to be squirrel droppings along my balcony rail which could support the idea of a territorial interaction between the two animals.

The red squirrel rushed back to his shelter after the chase. Before disappearing inside, it stopped on the ledge for a minute and looked down as if to ensure he was alone.

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7 thoughts on “One shelter for two squirrels

  1. OOOMMMGGG this is AMAZING!!! I love everything about this story. The colour, the details you’ve put into the description, I could really feel the squirrels’ personalities!

    I’ve heard in the news couple of years ago that the British red squirrels were beginning to mate with invasive grey squirrels and the result was a “mutant” black squirrel, I wonder whether that could be the origin of this little creature here.

    Anyway, I want to see the sequels!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Aaaah hi Le, thanks for your kind comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the story. The squirrels are hilarious, especially the black one. He’s just amazingly inquisitive and came twice to my bird feeder on the other side of the building. It was a great moment of… cuteness 🙂 He’s hardly scared at all. I see him every 2-3 days around the block.

    Interesting, so these British black squirrels would be some kind of hybrids? I don’t think we have grey squirrels down here, only red ones. I think the black color here is just a case of polymorphism. Gorgeous color in any case!

    Sadly, not many sequels to come, I think the red red squirrel is gone now! 🙂

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  3. I hope the red squirrel does come back, he’s built himself such a cosy little hideout, should definitely make use of it, at least bring back a date or two! 😛

    They were thought to be hybrids yes, not sure whether that was just a completely new species though. The red squirrels are being out competed by the grey ones, so there was a movement to exterminate the grey squirrels as invasive pests, think they’ve given up half way through, there were simply too many of them!

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  4. Ahah well I don’t think the red squirrel is coming back, I haven’t seen him in many days and the shelter has been damaged by the store but not fixed. I thinks he’s moved on… plus it’s breeding time now, so if it was a female (which I suspect), she must be building a nest right now.

    I just read about grey squirrels, how odd: I didn’t know they were introduced in the UK. Accidental or deliberate introduction of non-native species are nasty… the article I read said they have taken over significant parts of red squirrel habitat and displaced them as a result… creating some hybrids on the way like you said! Damn invasive species…

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  5. People seem to have different views about the origin of the black squirrels, some say that they are hybrids, others reckon that they are a variant within the grey squirrels, some sources say that black squirrels were introduced by farmers and they originate from North America? But in any case, the cute tufty-eared red squirrels have been displaced and now a very rare sighting indeed

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  6. Pingback: Svínafellsjökull in monochrome | seeingthrough35mm

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