Tag Archives: grey squirrel

Sparky the Squirrel Crosses Over to the Dark Side


Sparky – Grey

You’ve heard of grey squirrels and the more elusive red squirrel, but have you ever heard of a black squirrel?

Sparky the squirrel is out in force again, scurrying up and down trees and dashing hell-for-leather across the road right in front of cars. (Definitely chancing his luck, as most drivers are busy rushing to their next appointment, driving far too fast, not stopping at stop signs, and certainly not noticing a small dark thing playing chicken with their tyres!)

A few weeks ago I saw a new little Sparky in my garden. He was a youngster; smaller and thinner than his elders, with a thin scratty tail.

However, his most arresting feature was none of the above, but his colour! He was the darkest squirrel I’ve ever seen. Such a dark grey that he was almost black.

I thought perhaps he was just a bit of a freak, or maybe he was so young that this was a sort of ‘baby’ coat and he would change to a paler grey when he grew up. But I have since seen squirrels all over the place and several of these have also had very dark grey coats.

As you can imagine, all this Sparky activity on our walks is very exciting for Little Monkey and Mr Spaghetti Legs. Maybe you’d think that a darker squirrel might have some kind of camouflage advantage? Not so, since it is the movement that the dogs pick up on and surprisingly, they see the dark squirrel scampering around just as easily as the paler grey ones: especially, I have to say, LM, who is a supreme hunter with the best eyesight of any dog I’ve ever met.

So why has Sparky developed a dark coat? What advantage is it to him?

My first thought was along the lines of those moths (no idea where) that were whitish in colour. Entomologists thought they’d discovered a new species when they found similar moths, but black in colour. Further study revealed that they were the same species! The trees in the area that the moths habitually ‘sat’ on used have pale bark, and the pale moths blended in perfectly. With heavy pollution the tree trunks had turned black. A white moth was now easily visible and picked off the bark by birds etc. Any moth slightly darker had better survival odds. They made more dark moths and in no time you had a ‘new species’ of black moth.

However, I doubt that the squirrels have changed their coats in a season so that they can blend in on dark tree trunks! Perhaps there was one unusually dark-coated individual, who just happened to be successful and prolific and made lots of dark little kits? I have no idea.

I just know that Sparky crossing over to the Dark Side makes for a very pretty squirrel.

post script: At the time of going to press I have no available pictures of the elusive Dark Sparky! I very rarely take my camera on our dog walks, as I need both hands for managing LM! But I will try to take a photo of him one of these days.

post post script: A male squirrel is called a buck, a female is a doe, babies are kits or pups and their nest is a drey.


The Triumphant Adventures of Sparky the Squirrel: Part Three

Sparky Triumphant

Sparky Triumphant

This adventure happened a while back when I had three dogs; Madam, TJ and Little Monkey. My daughters and I were out in the back garden, when suddenly there was a commotion at the corner of the house. The three dogs were excitedly going for something on the grass there.

When we got to them we found they had pinned down a little grey squirrel against the wall. The poor thing was small and thin, with long arms and legs in comparison to its body size, and a sparse tail. It was a teenager, that had foolishly wandered down from the safety of the trees, to the domain of the wolves!

I pulled the nearest dog off and handed it to a daughter, then grabbed the next dog. The dogs were so excited, that they kept getting away from my girls’ grasp and launching back into the attack again.

Throughout all this, little Sparky kept fighting for his life. He was on his back, shrieking loudly and striking out at the wolves with his tiny paws. (Sparky strikes back!) But it was enough to keep the wolves mostly at bay, and prevent them from grabbing him in their teeth.

Eventually we managed to get all the dogs under control and frog-march them to the house and shut them in. None of us was bitten by our dogs, nor ever expected to be; it was just instinct on their part to attack prey.

Poor Sparky was a bit soggy round the middle from a few dog mouths, and obviously very shaken, but he had survived to fight another day. He scampered to the corner by the stoep and just froze there.

We put a shelter round him, and gave him water and raw nuts and just left him alone to recover. The next time we checked, he had gone. Hopefully a little wiser for the encounter!

Sparky is invincible!


The Further Adventures of Sparky the Squirrel: Part Two

Sparky the Squirrel

As I said yesterday, training your dog to listen to you could save its life one day. It certainly saved the life of Sparky the squirrel.

One afternoon I was in the drive way by the garage, when I suddenly saw my old dog Lady racing across the front lawn. Now this old rescued dog had arthritis and never ran; she just plodded. So I knew something was going on. I stepped forward and saw Lady had her nose right on a squirrel’s tail as they hared across the lawn together.

I bellowed, “STOP THAT!” And lady locked her front legs and skidded to a halt on the grass. The squirrel just kept right on full speed towards the small white wall, and straight over it through the railings, without a pause – to safety.

Lady, still standing there frozen, watched the squirrel disappear, then looked at me and her expression said, “What did you do that for? Now it’s got away!”

Naturally, Lady got lots of praise and attention and a biscuit.

So, having routine and discipline, along with, obviously, love, makes a well balanced dog – and saves Sparky the squirrel.

post script: This will never work with Little Monkey, as she is too much the hunter. With her, if I am quick enough, I have to intervene in person, or with the garden rake, if it is to hand, for extra reach. Even so, the squirrels have wisely learnt to stay out of the garden when the dogs are around!


The Adventures of Sparky the Squirrel: Part One

Sparky the Squirrel

Sparky the Squirrel

Grey squirrels abound in my area; and they are all called Sparky! Some days they all come out to play at once; which makes walking the dogs very exciting!

One warm day, I was waiting to cross the road at a T-junction. My dogs were sitting at the kerb as usual, and we watched as a car approached the stop sign. Suddenly, to our amazement and out of nowhere, a little grey thing dropped out of the sky, flashed right in front of our eyes and landed with a thump and a “squeak” on the road at our feet. Even the dogs were too astounded to move.

The little squirrel prised itself off the tarmac, shook its head and scampered off across the road to the safety of some bushes. I’ve no idea what happened. There was only one very tall forty foot tree next to us and nowhere for it to jump to. I can only assume it somehow lost its footing.

The driver rolled down his window as he drove past, and called out to me, “Did you see that?”

Me: “Yes! I can’t believe it survived.”

We were both laughing at the surprise of it all.

Never a dull moment with Sparky. But until this incident, I didn’t know they could bounce!


Summer in a Cape Winter. Part Three

Pretty Flower

African Daisy

Growing up in England, it never ceases to amaze me how mild a Cape Winter is. Yes I know, we have had storms and gales, but through it all, even when it has hailed, the temperatures have not dropped below freezing; or even approached it.

There is always something bright and cheery blooming away in the middle of winter; such as the poinsettia:-



the camellia:-



And not forgetting the little plant that could, then would, and still is! The debut of the azalea:-



These blooms lead right into true Spring. Today, September 1st, is actually the first day of Spring here in the Cape; and with the temperature at 28C, it looks like Summer is on the way. Already there are buds on the oak and apple trees, and the hydrangea. The hibiscus and camellia are still in flower, the frangipani has new shoots, and the bougainvillea is about to burst forth.

Pretty soon, the loquat tree will be covered in ripe fruit; the squirrels’ favourite. This makes for exciting times for my dogs; as, early in the mornings, little grey squirrels run along the top of the wall, jumping in and out of the trees, and finally make it to the loquat tree for their breakfast. They then traverse the same route back, with a loquat in their mouth. All the while, my dogs are hoping a squirrel will come their way; but the little wild things are far too clever.


I am Not a Fitness Fanatic!

grey squirrel - little friend

grey squirrel – little friend

So there I am, peddling away on the exercise bike, in an attempt simply to maintain my weight – Double Apple Gene – remember?

No amount of happy, upbeat music can detract from the sheer boredom of the exercise – (pun intended!)

But Lo! What light through yonder window breaks? It is a little Cape Robin! It flits around the dogs’ water bowls on the stoep, then perches up on the grape vine, where it fluffs out its feathers, for a moment providing me with a welcome respite.

The robin has no sooner flown away, than a little grey squirrel appears, fidgeting around the lawn, looking for buried treasures, twitching its tail like it is dancing to its own music.

And before you know it, exercise time is up! Cappuccino – here I come!

I’d like to thank my little friends for helping me through my ordeal.

How to – with Little Monkey. No 2. Chase Squirrels

There are two methods, depending on whether you are at home, or running around the forest.

Method One: At home. Lie in absolute stillness on the stoep. Watch the happy little squirrel as it checks the coast is clear, before cautiously descending face first from the Eugenia tree. Hold your breath as you watch it dart from place to place on the lawn, scratching here and there.

When a person walks past you, suddenly leap into the air barking (great for giving them a heart attack!) and hare at top speed after the squirrel. Dance along the wall yipping as the squirrel disappears next door for a little more peace and quiet.

Method Two: In the forest. Race madly from side to side, dashing full speed straight at any perceived “little grey animal” movement. Scramble up the tree trunk as far as you can, then springboard off it with a double back spin and land on all fours.

Stay under the 40 foot pine tree, dancing and prancing about in the hope that the little grey animal will run back down the trunk and into your open mouth. All the time make the most annoying, high pitched yipping sound, most unlike your usual low bark. Eventually give up, and pronking like a springbok through the undergrowth, look for more easily accessible furry fluff balls to chase.

At some point, realise that Mum and Mr Spaghetti Legs are far away on their more sedate walk, and that, reluctantly, you’d better catch up. Hey wait! There’s another moving grey thing. Tally Ho!