Anthropomorphic Meanderings on Gray Squirrels

April 18, 2013

Last Saturday I headed out to Shaw Nature Reserve a little before daylight and walked out to the bluff over the Meramec River in search of some early-rising warblers on their northward journey. The warblers didn’t cooperate but I enjoyed the gorgeous view and saw several other birds, including a couple of red-bellied woodpeckers preparing a nest. I stuck around for a few hours, most of which I spent chasing brown creepers as they ascended in their usual spiral fashion up the trunks of white oak trees. I have a few images of a brown creeper but I’m looking for the perfect shot of that species, or at least as close to perfect as I can get. I finally gave up on both warblers and the perfect shot of a brown creeper and started hiking back toward the Maritz House. I was feeling slightly dejected about the photographic part of my morning but deep down I knew that based on past experience, I’d never make it out of Shaw Nature Reserve without a nice shot.

When I arrived at the Maritz House I met a friendly couple from St. Louis and we talked about some of the finer things in life, such as prothonotary warblers and cedar waxwings. I wished them well on the rest of their hike and began to look around in the adjacent woods for anything that moved. It wasn’t long before a little gray squirrel poked its head out of a cavity and began watching me with what appeared to be curiosity. Curiosity is mostly a human characteristic, I suppose, but I’m pretty sure that some animals possess it as well. I found the best vantage point between the sun and the squirrel and started capturing images of furry little people-watcher.

As I observed the squirrel observing me through the lens, I thought to myself, “I wish something more interesting would happen here because I already posted a squirrel poking its head out of a hole a few months ago.” Right about that time, another gray squirrel pushed its head out of the hole and rested its chin on the first! “Well how about that!” I said to myself, and redoubled my efforts to get a nice shot by increasing my f/stop for depth of field and concentrating more on long lens technique, e.g. smashing my face against the viewfinder to dampen vibration.

BR8I6800Click on image to enlarge; back arrow to return

If it were not enough that I had two gray squirrels posing for the camera from the same hole, things even got better a few minutes later when one of the squirrels emerged with a piece of turtle shell, obviously showing off its new treasure. Okay, I’m not quite that anthropomorphic but I almost laughed out loud when the little guy stuck its head out of the hole with that turtle shell. I don’t know what squirrels would use a turtle shell for; it certainly wouldn’t enhance a nest, but this one appeared pretty proud of its find. Later at lunch I wondered out loud what the squirrel might be doing with the shell and Joyce said, “Oh, its just a toy he found.” I told her she was worse than me! I suppose the ancient Greeks would have been proud of both of us.

Thanks for looking,



Two Squirrels in a Hole:  Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 Lens with 1.4 TC; 1/250 sec @ f/8.0; ISO 400; RAW Capture; Converted and processed in Canon DPP

Squirrel with a Turtle Shell:  Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 Lens with 1.4 TC; 1/200 sec @ f/7.1; ISO 400; RAW Capture; Converted and processed in Canon DPP

10 comments on “Anthropomorphic Meanderings on Gray Squirrels”

  1. What! Don’t you know that Tortoiseshell (or, failing that, Turtleshell) is THE way to go in today’s Squirrel Nest Decor? Haven’t you been getting your Squirrel Inside Outside magazines? Thank you for a most delightful image….

  2. Here’s a video I took of three squirrels, frisking in the most anthropomorphic way, at the base of a Cottonwood:

  3. You’re right about that.- there’s so much we don’t know about animal behavior. If they are young squirrels, maybe they were using the piece of shell in their game-playing.

  4. Baby squirrels have been poking their little heads out of a hole in a tree by my front door for the past couple days. I posted a few pics of them also. As I photographed I kept thinking, “squirrels are mostly just annoying/boring, why can’t I stop taking these pictures???” I think the little squirrel showed off its turtle shell “toy” to prove to you (a great photographer) he was a worthy subject! Maybe they are more than just rats with cuter outfits. haha. Your photos are excellent!

  5. Danny, This is just too cute!!! Thanks for providing a new and fresh screensaver every week. Keep doing what you do!!!! Carol Bean

  6. Hey Danny, I am just getting a chance to read all of my E-Mails, and I came across your blog. Thanks for sending those to cute pictures of those baby squirrels. I will have to change my mined about those pesky tree rats, from now on. Regarding the piece of turtle shell in the mouth of the one squirrel, don’t they get their calcium from shells, and shed antlers, like mice and ground squirrels?


    • Hi Art — I doubt these little cuties will change your mind but I’m glad you enjoyed them and you are right about the nutritional benefits of eating shell. Take care.

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