Catherine and I undertook a short expedition out to Trinity Bellwoods Park to see if we could spot the famous white squirrels which live in the area. These are not a different species, but rather a colour morph of the native Eastern Gray Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis. We did see a white squirrel on the coffee shop outside, along with some white squirrel bling on the inside. Unfortunately, I found the coffee was sour in that particularly obnoxious way that clueless hipsters are so fond of. “Yeah man, I liked coffee before it was good. You wouldn’t understand.”
(BTW, this type of crappy coffee is not limited to Toronto. We found more than our fair share in Vancouver as well. )
We did of course see some black squirrels, another morph that folks further south find quite interesting. These are actually quite common all over Toronto.
The park itself is a bit of an overrun mudpit in the winter, which the dogs seem to enjoy, but makes for treacherous walking.
The squirrels did squirrely things, such as hand face first down treetrunks, and sit in high branches making clucking sounds. These are scatter-hoarding rodents, caching food through the summer in order to survive the winter, but in urban areas make a good living on handouts and raiding gardens.
We saw several wasp nests, free of waspy occupants in the frigid air. Luckily there are lots of tree cavities around for the new queens to overwinter.
The more typically-coloured gray variant of the gray squirrel was in evidence as well, doing some major clucking from perches, as well as seeing of we had any nuts to fork over.
They are quite handsome animals, and one can’t help but marvel at their strength and speed as they navigate the trees. A squirrel must also have a tough heart to endure all the rapid climbs and descents.
The black morph probably gains some thermal advantages that offset the increased predation risk of having such an obvious coat colour.
The most exciting part of this trip was watching the squirrels chase each other, something that will probably happen more frequently in springtime. It did however, lead to my best shot of the day:
Voilà! The flying squirrel! A bit out of focus on the head, but still pretty good for a speeding squirrel!
Nice blog post — but you will soon learn that most Torontonian homeowners are about a fond of squirrels as you are of crappy coffee. But the shot of the “flying” non-flying squirrel was very nice! I hope your next blog post isn’t on pigeons! I know winter is dreary in Toronto but there is more out there than vermin!
I have been considering a pigeon post for a while, but will probably wait until more of them are nesting! There are some amazing shots to be had of urban pigeons, if you have the patience to get them!
I have had good success with jungle doves: http://ibc.lynxeds.com/video/grey-fronted-dove-leptotila-rufaxilla/grey-fronted-dove-feeds-two-nestlings
Grear ‘flying squirrel’ shot, Sean!! It doesn’t seem to matter whether one’s in Toronto or on the west coast, people love to hate squirrels. I don’t even if they’re not among my top ten favourite animals. Most people seem to hate any animal that’s as resilient and adaptable as Man.
I think black squirrels might have an edge on surviving in our dark coniferous forested areas out here. With little sun and wet dark vegetation and tree bark, I find the black morphs are almost invisible till they move. Back east with mostly deciduous trees where you are now, I could see them stick out like a sore thumb, except for that first shot in wet leaf litter and mud!
I love how squirrels will shake their tails when they chatter. They sound so upset and I can imagine their bp steadily rising though I know it likely doesn’t. Nothing funnier than watching a squirrel and Stellar Jay arguing together.
Their blood pressure definitely rises if you corner them in a small tree!
They are impressive animals to be sure, with very strong musculature and impressive coordination. I love watching them chase each other.