Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Squirrel activity can be 'quite enjoyable to watch'

STACEY COLE May 03. 2013 11:42PM

Entertaining gray squirrel behavior was described by an Andover reader who wrote: "I hang a couple of suet blocks and lay a board on the snow for sunflower seeds under the kitchen sink window. I have many birds and, also at times, have had as many as seven adult gray squirrels. A couple of half-grown grays also appeared. Apparently the pair who built their nest of dry leaves last fall in the blue spruce were successful. Each morning I put a single pile of seeds on the board. While doing the breakfast dishes I noticed a lone gray sitting on the fresh pile. Four or five adults were staying back. If one tried to approach the little gray would make a threatening move. Finally one reached in to grab a seed. The little one chased the adult in a large circle, then returned to the pile. When I left the window he was still on the pile. I saw an 'alpha' in the making.

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In early March a Derry reader wrote in part. "In a recent visit to Hillsboro, I happened to notice a ring-necked pheasant pecking its way along a dirt driveway on the East Washington Road. Upon making a remark, I was informed by a passenger that it had probably come from a pay-to-hunt game club. That prompted me to remember my military service in Korea after the Korean War. Their government had invested a vast program of reforestation which had resulted in millions of pine trees being planted to hide the devastation the war had brought to the 'Land of the Morning Calm.' At the time of my duty, the young trees had reached a height of about 6 to 8 feet and were mostly found along hillsides and other areas that were not being planted as rice paddies.

"A fellow serviceman had become friends with a Korean landlord who invited the two of us to accompany him on a pheasant hunt, something I had become familiar with back home in Windham, NH. I learned that the ring-necks that had been stocked by NH Fish & Game, were the Mongolian pheasants that were native in Korea.

"However, my story is not about pheasants, it has more to do with the hunt as we walked along the narrow mud dams that separated the rice paddies and hoped to startle a bird into taking flight, where, once above the young pines in an open sky shot, should have been easy. As my friend and I chose to travel on opposite sides of the small valley containing many rice paddies, I became aware of a rather loud and distinct voice calling 'Cuckoo, Cuckoo'! It was so distinct and in such good voice that I immediately thought that someone was hiding and mocking me, probably a Korean that had been deliberately taught incorrect words by an American GI who had decided to have some fun at the expense of an unsuspecting native. (Such pranks were known to exist.) I looked in vain for the suspect, wishing only to inform him of the trick that had been played and to teach the meaning of such mockery. While engaged in such thoughts, I was somewhat startled to see a rather large black and white bird fly across the paddy directly in front of me all the while calling out with a loud and distinct 'Cuckoo, Cuckoo'!

"I laughed so hard at myself that I could not continue to hunt. I now know that the joke was on me. I felt embarrassed at my ignorance at the same time I was so happy to have had one of God's 'special effects' creatures revealed to me. Instead of (as I had thought) a GI playing a prank on an unsuspecting (and trusting) Korean, I was the unsuspecting and distrusting American serviceman that had been pranked by Mother Nature!"

We have two species of cuckoo that nest in New Hampshire, the black-billed and the yellow-billed. Only the black-billed sings its name, "cuckoo," in rapid repetition.

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Our columns still contain answers to readers' questions. However, since they are written three weeks in advance, for a more timely reply, please enclose a phone number and a good time for me to call at no charge. Thanks.

Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey 03446.

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