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Flying Squirrels!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Nature karma around Indigo Hill lately has been off the charts, especially with mammals. I grew up with southern flying squirrels in Richmond, Virginia. My dad put bird houses way up in our sweetgums for the nuthatches and chickadees. And one year we got one all filled up with baby flying squirrels. My dad got his extension ladder out and brought the box down to us and there were a bunch of pairs of glittering onyx eyes looking back at us. 
I knew their birdlike chirps and twitters in the night, knew the handkerchief shape of them zooming through the dimming sky overhead.

And then I grew up moved away and I had them no more. 

I saw one--once--eating sunflower hearts on our deck feeder here in SE Ohio about five years ago. 
Until this year. 

We started with one. Now there are at least three. 
I found the first one when I heard it barking. Phoebe had a friend over (yes, that's YOU, Dalton! you adorable thing)



 and I heard one barking out in the backyard. I grabbed a flashlight and gathered the kids and Bill, saying, "I'm going to show you a flying squirrel." It was a bold and reckless statement, but we went out under Liam's enormous willow tree and the first thing my flashlight beam hit was the flying squirrel, squeaking like a baby bird.

Squeet! Squeet! Squeet! over and over. They're not hard to find. Needless to say everyone loved that.


I first photographed one the night of May 23. It's tricky. You've got to ease the sliding glass door open, flip on the porch light, and simultaneously have someone train a powerful flashlight on the animal. All without scaring it. These photos are not beautiful, but they tell the story.


Was there ever a more beautiful mammal? The tail, so like a feather, made for ruddering. The plush soft fur. The fold of the flying membrane, and that chocolate racing stripe along its edge. Please.


The little birdlike feet. The precious underbite, and the way the membrane comes up to the hands like Stevie Nicks' scarves. I want to pet them. Maybe I will get my wish someday. 

Once I went over to some friends' house. They had ordered a flying squirrel off the Internet as a pet. Something that amazes me. It was a charming if somewhat messy and reckless pet. It lived in a parakeet cage hanging in their kitchen, and they'd let it out to fly around the living room in the evening. It landed on my shoulder and immediately crawled down inside my shirt. YIPES. You do not want a flying squirrel's claws on your belly. Trust me on this. It went down my sleeve and we got it out. whewwww.
They had it for a year or so and I used to keep them in mealworms, which it loooved. Then they released it. 


We  have noticed that one of our squirrels is pretty slow-moving and bombproof, while the other two are skittery as longtailed cats in a roomful of fiddlers. 


They like peanuts and sunflower hearts. They adore mealworms. But those are hard to administer.

When we press them a bit hard they run to the corner of the old raised deck and hide.


They've gotten used to our nosiness and consider it a fair trade for the great eats.


Yes, she has a seed in her mouth and she is adorable.



Startled! Look at her tiny pianist's fingers. No. I don't know the sex. Sorry. Just assigning randomly.


We have a terrible time now with the raccoons, two adults and four youngun's who came and crashed the party we were having each night at 10:30 pm when the flying squirrels would come in. Before coon season, we could strew seed all along the deck railing and know the fliers would get it all. Then the coons started patrolling and now it's difficult to get anything past them. I don't have much use for coons. They're using our deck as a disgusting latrine and vacuuming up everything we put out for the birds, day and night. I recently came up with a flying saucer feeder which I suspend from a slick aluminum pole that seems to be doing the trick. The squirrels just fly to it from the deck railing. Ha. They also very much appreciate the peanut feeder, which the coons can't really access. 

There is a sameness to these photos. They're kind of ugly; the background is blah, and they look like flash photos, though my "flash" is a flashlight. Yes, I'm picky about what I post here. I want this blog to be an aesthetic experience and my standards are high. But the miracle is that I'm able to get photos at all. Or flying squirrels on my deck. Much less three of them. THREE FLYING SQUIRRELS!!

 When they're done eating they leap off the deck while spreading all four limbs. They look like playing cards thrown in the air. We always laugh our heads off when they fly. What miracles hurtle through the night, unbeknownst!


As fat as these are getting, we will probably have more next year. Huzzah to that!!

I do have a bone to pick with these little animals. The hours they keep! They never appear before 10:25 pm, and they're really revving up around 11. What's with that? And how does an exhausted Science Chimp stay up for that? ( I had to turn in at 9:30 last night).  Luckily, my teens are in the nightowl stage, so they keep the deck railings stocked with sunflower hearts and report to me in the morning. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't even know we had flying squirrels.


So listen for that SQUEET SQUEET SQUEET in the night. Leave some goodies on your deck railing. You, too, may have nocturnal visitors.

15 comments:

Luv 'em - in an urban area outside Z-ville and have had them for several years. Built a feeder that uses a plastic electrical box (6"x6") with a 2" pvc elbowed pipe for entrance. Keeps the regular squirrels and 'coons out.

Stevie Nicks...sigh.
I hear them but see them not.
Thanks gor the look-see!

Pianist fingers.....LOVE it! Squirtels already drive Bella crazy. I can't imagine what she would do if one took off and FLEW! Maybe give up chasing them. Who knows?

Great post.

You made my day with this post !! And -- I am so glad you went against your inclination and posted the pix. I like them. I am sooo joying them. We have had a nest of flying squirrels at the far end of our yard in a woodpecker box a couple years now. However all I have seen are ig adorable eyes peering out of the box at us. Now I know why. I don't stay up late enough for these little cutties. LOL Thank you so much for sharing Julie !!
Darlene

Posted by Anonymous July 8, 2014 at 7:19 AM

Two words: Game camera.
I think they were waiting for the trees around the house to get a bit bigger.

Motivation for a late night excursion to nearby woods. I know there are flying squirrels there, but have never seen them. And I also like the photos and appreciate your efforts in getting those shots.

Posted by Gail Spratley July 8, 2014 at 8:05 AM

So wonderful to see these flying squirrels. What a treat. I never stay up late, so I have no idea what's out and about after dark.

Once as teenager, I was having a picnic with my family. It was past supper and we were just sitting around the picnic table, when we realized that there was a family of Flying Squirrels, playing around a nearby snag. They would glide to tree. Climb up and glide back to the nest snag.

One of my fondest memories of growing up.

Alas, the park is now closed and fenced off. I am not sure whether it is concerns about drinking water or something post 9/11.

Phoebe's friend looks just like Justin Beiber.. LOL...

Posted by Anonymous July 8, 2014 at 9:52 AM

Just our regular ole' squirrels have me grinning and laughing at their antics. With the flying variety, I might not be able to survive the extreme cuteness!

This was an amazing read! I loved all your descriptions of the flying squirrels, I could picture them so well. :) I'm from the UK so will never see them in the wild unless I travel one day.

I worried when I read about the pet that was released though, would it have been able to survive in the wild after being looked after for such a long time?

Phoebe's dating Justin Bieber?

Have you considered using a motion detection sprinkler to deter the raccoons (assuming the squirrels are gliding in)?

The flying squirrels are adorable!

I was called in some years ago to clear out a colony of flying squirrels that had taken up residence in an attic. The lady who lived there was fine as long as they stayed up there, but one night one came down to watch TV with her and she drew the line at that.

I used a Havahart trap to remove four of them and the lady's cat accounted for two more. It was winter, so relocating them to the wild wasn't feasible. I ended up with flying squirrels living in a big flight cage in my kitchen. It wasn't the best arrangement. As you note, they are very dirty and couldn't be house broken at all.

I released them to the wild in the spring, providing them with bird houses filled with pecans. They were all gone within two weeks. One house was attacked by a very large bird of prey and gray squirrels chewed open both houses.

I don't recall how hamster fur compares, but a flying squirrel's fur is so soft, it is like petting silk. Or air.

Great post. I've never seen flying squirrels either, but they're nocturnal(?). Would they have any r-ship to bats? Thanks as usual (but always sincerely) for sharing your wildlife with us. And good comments about Justin Beiber visiting Phoebe!

We have had flyers for a few years. One winter we had at least 5 at one time on the peanut feeder.

Now we have a feeder near our patio door just door the flying squirrels. We get 2 perhaps three at a time but there could be more racing around on the roof.
The cats love to sit at the door and stare up at them.
They can look but they can't go out and play.

We look forward to hearing and seeing them nightly.

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