Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sun today and red squirrels on the move

We are entering our third winter of this winter after passing through the second spring break-up. I wonder if that is what global warming will be, just random weather, no set season lengths. The snow continued to melt off the roof overnight, but by 9am this morning it was 27°. I’ll expect the roads and walkways to become ice again. The skies are blue in Glacier Valley today, should be a nice view from the top of Alyeska for those planning on riding chair 6. 

The forecast looks like we have a couple of clear days in south central, maybe a little snow tomorrow, but for the most part very cold. Most of us are just observers, not experts, however I can’t help but think with so many making the same observation, there must be some accuracy to the comments. I spoke to another Girdwood resident a few days ago who has lived here over 20 years. They made the same comment that this has been a strange weather year. The late snow, the deep cold spells cycling with warm spells, and the low amount of snow. Cars have been getting stuck in the slush in parking lots and driveways. Conditions I would expect at a lower latitude. 

This little fellow brightened the day, I am so glad most of the utility poles and lines are insulated. He was circling the top of this power pole making me quite nervous. It is a little red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). The red squirrel is a small tree squirrel, smaller than the plump grey squirrel that inhabits most of north America. The red variety lives mostly in the northern areas where it tends to be cooler although they are found in the Appalachians (my guess is higher up the mountian!) They like the higher elevations and cooler climates because their favorite food is the seed of cones from conifers. When you are hiking in the woods in summer and come upon a conifer with a pile of shredded cone pieces at the bottom, that is an indication a red squirrel has been there dining. The piles are called middens. The squirrel does have other tastes, fungi, berries and unfortunately it likes to poach bird eggs. Squirrels do serve a purpose in the environment, spreading seeds, breaking down wood matter and eating some insects. And they are just plain entertaining. Unless you have outdoor potted plants. How can you protect your outdoor plantings from squirrels? They love to dig in soft soil and are usually on the lookout for tasty roots or grubs. If you do not want them digging in your pots or garden, cover the open spaces with hardware cloth or chicken wire. I did this successfully with large outdoor containers and it stopped the squirrels from destroying my arrangements. Save your hardware cloth each winter to re-use the next planting season. By the way, this also works to keep cats out of your garden. 

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