Most people think a squirrel's tail is used for balance, but it can also come in handy as an umbrella. We've been seeing this Fox Squirrel in the yard -- usually at a birdfeeder -- for the past week or so. The vast majority of our squirrels are Eastern Grays. We only see a Fox Squirrel every two or three years. Fox or Gray, squirrels are pests, but cute pests.
Rain -- possibly becoming snow on Christmas Eve -- is in our forecast for the next several days.
Thanks to Dave at Via Negativa for pointing out that the squirrel I photographed is probably a Fox Squirrel and definately not a Red Squirrel as I had originally described it. The Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) is the largest species of tree squirrel native to North America. Its natural range extends throughout the eastern United States, excluding New England, north into the southern prairie provinces of Canada, and west to the Dakotas, Colorado, and Texas.
The Fox Squirrel's common name is based on its fox-like, rufous color. Red Squirrel is sometimes listed as another common name for Fox Squirrels, though it is really incorrect and causes confusion. That's the problem with common names.
The American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is much smaller, has a white belly and is usually found in conifer forests.
Our more common squirrels are Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis). The Eastern Gray Squirrel has predominantly gray fur but it can have a reddish color. It has a white underside and a large bushy tail. It is slightly smaller than the Fox Squirrel. Gray and Fox Squirrel ranges overlap.
More deer than normal have visited our garden this fall and winter. Most are females. I've counted as many as nine does browsing in our garden area at the same time. Bucks are usually more shy and careful. They seldom emerge from the woods' edge and come into the open garden. This buck was more bold -- or foolish. Keeping deer out of the garden is something we try very hard to accomplish in spring and summer, but enjoy seeing them close to the house in late fall and winter.
What the buck really wants is a chance to sample our strawberry plants.