Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'm So Excited!

This only looks like the third post in a row about black squirrels, but it isn't at all! This is really about something I found while I was watching this black squirrel. Black squirrels are become routine for me right now, but what I have for you today is anything but routine. I'm so excited that I'll have to tell you the whole story!

The black squirrel here is just part of the story. There's so much more to tell you!

It all started in a place where I don't usually see any squirrels, but I hear them there all the time. It was in the back of a park, at the edge of a meadow where I usually watch for birds. Right after I gave up on seeing the birds that were making so much noise on this sunny winter day, I spotted a very dark shadow in a tree up ahead.

As I got closer, it turned out to be a black squirrel, who I'll name Opie(Opal). I was very surprised to see him back here because while I had seen squirrels in this part of the forest, I had never had a very good look at any of them. This time I was getting a very good look, and I was soon to discover that it was going to be even better still.

When I got closer I saw what appeared to be another squirrel peek out from behind the same tree. It was obviously after this black squirrel. But there was something odd about this second squirrel. Could it be? I had often thought I saw them back here through the trees and branches, but I had never gotten a very good look! This new squirrel was unlike any I had ever seen before!

As soon as the new squirrel saw me, it leaped away through the trees. I saw the tail, and it looked very different from any others I've seen. I thought it was striped at first, but I quickly realized I was mistaken. This squirrel was moving very quickly, but it popped up on a high branch just long enough for me to get a very good look at it. It was an Eastern Gray Squirrel!

It had light gray fur and an almost white belly. It was very close to the same size and shape of the black squirrel, which is logical because the grays and the blacks are brothers. Black squirrels are really black furred eastern gray squirrels. I failed to get any pictures of this gray squirrel, but I got a very good look at it. I'm sure I'll see one again because I've been getting small glimpses of them all along, not good enough for a positive identification though.

Now a few of you may have some questions by now. Why is this so exciting? Eastern gray squirrels are very common. In fact, they're the most common tree squirrel in North America. Here's my answer: They're not as common where I live. Here, fox squirrels are the most common squirrel. This is the first eastern gray squirrel I have ever seen! That's why I'm so excited.

But this opens a completely new question involving squirrels that I've seen!

This picture shows a squirrel that I saw last April. It is definitely a gray squirrel. Up until now, it is the only gray squirrel I've ever seen. But I said earlier in this post that I haven't ever seen an eastern gray squirrel before. The answer to that is that I don't think this is an eastern gray. I have always believed that this squirrel is a western gray squirrel. I urge you to read about my theory on this. There is a huge problem with my theory though!

There are no western grays where I live, only eastern grays! I live too far east of them. The old gray squirrel I saw and the new one both looked very different from each other. The new one looked exactly as I thought it should, but the old one was much too big to be an eastern gray squirrel. Western grays are much bigger than eastern grays, almost as big as fox squirrels.

The fur color on the new one was also much lighter than the old one. I still maintain that the old squirrel was not an eastern gray squirrel. They do look very similar, but there is a difference. My pictures of the older squirrel look a lot like the western grays I've seen on the internet, but not as much like the eastern grays. But this all leads me to some final questions!

How did western gray squirrel get here? Is it really a western gray squirrel? Is it a mutant? Is it just a really huge eastern gray squirrel? I wish I knew!

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  1. Here in the UK there are plenty of grey squirrels, in fact I live in a busy town and there's plenty of them only a mile or so from my house. Fairly human friendly too, not so much with dogs though.

    Your photo of the black squirrel is quite fascinating as I've never seen one this colour before, it looks a bit of a loner almost a sqirrel with 'no name.'

    I must say how nice it is to read a blog which concentrates or focuses might be a better word on the simpler things of life. Nature is a wonderful thing as long as it doesn't sneak up and bite you. I remember your snake and frog photo from a while back. Still gives me the shivers now. Best wishes from a UK town where every squirrel will now be white. AAAAhhhh, it's snowing, ain't that kind of cute. It's that cold it could freeze the nuts off a grey squirrel.

  2. I believe the western squirrel took the train to visit its relatives eastern squirrel :) Great catch Ratty!

  3. Oh Ratty, you're good with identifying the squirrels. I can only tell gray, black, and tan color..

  4. Isn't this time of the year great for viewing our little furry friends, it is harder for them to hide when the leaves are gone. I am excited that you saw a Eastern Gray maybe next time he will pose for your camera.

    While you are becoming the consummate squirrel expert Ratty the chances of that being a western gray are pretty low. I wish it was because that might mean their numbers are increasing. The western grays are considered a threatened species here in Washington state. They are in trouble in other areas on the West coast as well.

  5. I think the fox squirrels push the grays out. I really doubt that you saw a western gray, but anything is possible.

  6. I am going squirrely trying to tell all of these apart.
    Maybe you need to contact your local DNR to ask it they are indeed now in your area???

  7. Go back to Alice, she has the answer. If Alice fail to answer, nobody will have the answer.

    We will give you only a sciencific answer.

  8. i really do enjoy your photos and information on your adventures ratty. you give me things that i don't get a chance to see and i appreciate you so much for that.

    have a wonderful day...hugz!

  9. lovely pics...and not a flake of snow in sight!!!! When were these pics. taken??? Still longing for the sun!!!!!!

  10. I'm glad you can tell them all apart because I never could. It look like you've come up with a subject for research now to find out how those squirrels got to your neck of the woods.

  11. When it comes to squirrels Ratty, it seems you have them all. As you mentioned the black squirrel is a color phase of the gray squirrel, so technically you've see lots of gray squirrels.

    If you do somehow have western gray squirrels it would likely be the furthest west they have been identified. You might want to keep a real good eye out for this fellow, it could be a new species for Michigan.

    By the way, I liked the squirrel's name-Opie. Now if Andy, Barney, and Aunt Bea would just show up we'd have the compolete cast of Mayberry RFD. I always knew those guys were squirrely.

    I am not officially addicted to your blog.

  12. Ratty you have me spinning with all your different squirrel id's!! I hope you see more EASTERN grey squirrels and not the WESTERN grey squirrels for your sake! :)

    I've never seen a black squirrel in person but like to see your photos.

  13. Your blog is rapidly becoming the CONSUMMATE authority on squirrels. I guess someone is a little nutz.

  14. You sound so excited to have seen that Gray squirrel. Ha! I guess I'd be just as excited to see a black one. That picture of the gray one is cute and he's just like all mine here. Some of mine are real pretty, with lots of white and some are ugly with darker faces. But they all are fascinating to watch!! I'm so glad you saw that one Ratty.

  15. This is all pretty fascinating, Ratty. I suppose a Western gray squirrel would have a pretty hard time making it to your area but is it impossible? Maybe he and his family caught a ride with someone? How far east have they been seen?

  16. Here in Montreal, we have tons of grey squirrels, especially in the urban core, since there are a lot of green spaces.

    I don't know how that one got to your area, but we'd like our squirrel back ;)

  17. Hello again to you all! I think I like the way I'm doing the comments a little better now. This way I'm getting to acknowledge you, while still having time enough to write my posts. I have another game today for all of you who read the comments. Just mention the word "Chromatic" in your comment on my next post to win the game, and I'll see about continuing my little prizes. I hope you've liked them so far. Now on to the questions.

    I know it's not likely at all, but that older squirrel sure was big. I think it was the biggest squirrel I've ever seen. I guess it's just a fun fantasy for me.

    @The Retired One
    I think the DNR might just laugh at me.

    All of the black squirrel pictures were taken a couple of days ago. There is plenty of snow on the ground, you just can't see it in the pictures. I think our winter here is about the same as yours right now. That means it's a light one for us, but a heavy one for you. We have enough snow on the ground to cover my shoes.

    Western grays are only thought to be on the west coast. I think it's highly improbable that this one is really a western gray. But if it is, it's because somebody brought it here.

  18. Wow I have never seen a black squirrel. I see a lot of brown ones but never a black one. Loved the pictures.

  19. @SundCarrie
    Black Squirrels are very territorial. They stay in their own little areas. You can live only a few miles away and never know they exist.