Squirrel up close

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I never know what kind of birds I might see and photograph — if any — when I head out on one of my photo hikes. Some days I get lucky and there are an abundance of birds. Other days there’s little to photograph.

But there is one constant: Regardless of the season or the weather conditions, I always see squirrels — the subject of my photo of the week. These forest rodents are plentiful in any area with trees. They are constantly climbing, chasing, digging and eating. And I’ll stop to get a photo when I find one in a nice setting.

I found this squirrel hanging off the side of a tree in a park north of Columbus, Ohio, on a late September morning in 2017. The squirrel seemed transfixed, staring at something and ignoring me taking photos nearby. A beam of sunlight streaming through the forest canopy illuminated the squirrel, separating it from the darker background. So I grabbed a couple of shots.

Squirrels are interesting to watch when I’m in a forest. But it’s a different story when that setting is our yard, where every winter becomes a battle of wits as we attempt to protect our bird feeders from squirrels. Spring brings another issue, as squirrels dig up large patches of grass from our lawn to use in their nests. Then comes summer, when those nests come tumbling out of the trees and cover our yard with dead leaves, dead grass and branches.

We’ve yet to find a solution to the spring and summer squirrel issues, but we’ve tried to address the winter issue with bird feeders. We’ve learned that if the feeders are left unprotected, our neighborhood squirrels will eat all the food. That’s not good for the birds or for my wallet. So we take steps to deter the squirrels.

We’ve tried the variety of devices available in stores — domes, platforms and other obstacles designed to keep squirrels from reaching feeders. These work for a short time, but we watch through the window as the squirrels study the obstacles and, through trial and error (and occasionally a bit of teamwork), eventually defeat them.

We now use combinations of obstacles, both store-bought and improvised, that we rearrange whenever it looks like the squirrels are about to solve the puzzle. It’s become a game — Are We Smarter than a Squirrel? — and provides winter entertainment as we watch the squirrels’ repeated efforts to reach the feeders.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION

Date/time: Sept. 30, 2017, 10:42 a.m.  
Location: 40°6'39.071” N, 82°57'36.954” W (Show in Google Maps)  
Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II  
Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 
Aperture: f/5.6  
Shutter: 1/1000th second  
ISO: 400