One of my favorite easily-observed creatures in British Columbia is the Douglas squirrel, sometimes called the chickaree.
Much smaller than New York City’s hefty Eastern gray squirrels, the Douglas is a tree squirrel found from California to the southern British Columbia coast.
Like most squirrels, it uses its front paws quite charmingly to hold nuts and other food. There’s just something about its small size, big eyes, and overall demeanor that give it the look of a storybook character.
Douglas squirrels eat primarily the seeds of the coniferous trees that abound in this area: Douglas firs, of course, but also Sitka spruce and pines. Like the Eastern gray and many other squirrels, they are scatter hoarders, burying seeds or entire pine cones in various spots. But unlike the Eastern gray, Douglas squirrels have no cheek pouches for holding food.
They have high-pitched voices that pierce the forest, and sound remarkably like a bird. On several occasions, I scanned tree limbs, trying to determine what bird was so persistently peeping, only to discover that I was being yelled at by a squirrel.
Below is a fascinating two-minute sound clip from NPR’s “Bird Notes” on the Douglas squirrel. Just click the arrow to play:
The little fellow In these photographs hung out near the pedestrian bridge that connects the harbor to Garden Bay Road. Below you may be able to make out the squirrel perched on the fence rail to the right of the tree.
It was often seen in the company of a golden-crowned sparrow.
The two seemed to be masters of their own bathing and drinking pool.
We humans, however, need more sustenance than pine cones and water, or even wildlife sightings. Tearing myself away from the little animals, I crossed the bridge.
Soon I was happily drinking coffee and eating breakfast at Laverne’s Grill.
Back outside, bald eagles soared overhead (more on them soon).
And the little squirrel went about its squirrely business.