I was afraid my best friend, who has a penchant for squirrels, had lost her mind.
We have a squirrel feeder – her version of a good internet connection – on a tree in our backyard. It’s the kind where you stick an ear of dried corn on a spike and the squirrels devour the corn, usually in a few minutes. But for some reason, perhaps because my friend was sitting right below it half the day, the squirrels weren’t eating it all in one day.
So she would sit out there at night, staring intently at the tree for hours. I’ve been told patience is a virtue, but you can even take patience too far and I knew no gray squirrels were going to eat any corn until morning, so I worried about my friend. I tried to explain to her that squirrels go to bed early, but she paid no attention to me and kept staring at the tree, night after night.
About two years ago, to prove to her that there were no squirrels in the neighborhood at midnight – all having long gone home to bed – I pointed my flashlight at the tree and caught something moving out of the corner of my eye. I walked down to the tree to see if I had in fact seen something, and that’s when I discovered we had flying squirrels in our yard.
She wasn’t staring at the tree but watching the flying squirrels swoop down, land on the tree, scurry over, get one grain of corn and hang upside down on the backside of the tree to eat it.
Now my friend and I sit out there together and stare at the tree at night.
Flying squirrels are fascinating creatures. They don’t really fly, they glide, but they glide just like Rocky in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, which was where all of my knowledge of flying squirrels came from before I became a big fan of the real thing.
They swoop down to pick up speed and, right before they land, they loop back up to reduce speed and then gently land on a tree trunk. I’ve seen them pull off some pretty nifty aerial acrobats; they have good maneuverability.
They are surprisingly small, weigh in at about 2 ounces, and they look like about half that weight is in their eyes.
Along with huge eyes, they have brownish gray backs, and their tummies and the underside of their wings – which stretch from their wrists to their ankles – are white.
I enjoy my bird feeders, but I’ll have to say I enjoy my flying squirrel feeder more. I feed them every night and have found that they like sunflower seeds more than corn, and prefer loose corn to corn on the cob, but so far they haven’t complained about the food I provide.
I didn’t realize they made any noise until the Muse told me she could hear them. They are right at the top of my hearing range, but sometimes, if I listen carefully, I can hear them too.
If you have mature hardwoods or a mix of hardwoods and pine trees in your neighborhood, you may have flying squirrels. If you’d like to find out, one way is to put a squirrel feeder like we have on a tree about six feet off the ground. You can put it higher but then it’s harder to refill it. I no longer use the spike but put sunflower seeds on the little shelf. I put out a little less than a cup of seeds a night and have had as many as six flying squirrels on the tree at one time.
I know that some people hate flying squirrels because they get in attics. They are so small they don’t need much of a hole to get in and are evidently impossible to get out. So before you put out a feeder, you might be wise to check and see if there is any way a tiny creature that glides down from the tops of trees could get in. I’m told if there is a way in, they’ll find it.
We don’t have an attic so we don’t have that worry, and we do have lots of old trees. If they don’t live in your attic, they usually live in holes high up in old trees and like abandoned woodpecker nests.
I feed them every night, but when we went on vacation last year for two weeks we had someone to take care of my best friend and feed our cats but we didn’t have anyone to feed our flying squirrels or birds. The birds came back to the feeders within days; the flying squirrels punished me for a couple of months, refusing all the treats I put out for them and giving the gray squirrels a good breakfast every morning.
Then one night I noticed my companion was staring at the tree again and this time I knew without a flashlight that our flying friends were back.