Hizzoner the Mayor
Last Friday, I was at West Beach in Deception Pass State Park. I had a number of wildlife encounters that included several Bald Eagles featured in the previous post. I also ran into an old friend, whose territory includes a small grove of Shore Pines next to the parking lot. He is a Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii), the native squirrel of Pacific Northwest coniferous forests.
The first time we met in this spot, it was early morning. He was obviously cold and trying to warm himself in the morning sun. He was remarkably tolerant of my close proximity. This is probably a characteristic of park critters where there are often lots of people around.
On our second encounter, I dubbed him The Mayor of West Beach because of his pugnacious, take charge behavior. Another creature had trespassed in his pine grove and he was having none of it. He paused his eviction just long enough to come out of the grove to say hello.
The next meeting was more peaceable, and even a bit comical. He showed his vain side, acting like a red-carpet celebrity posing for photographs.
This time he was all business. The task at hand was stripping the scales off of the Shore Pine's cones and gobbling up the seeds. It was chewing sounds that helped me locate him in the shadows. He remained at ease with his duties as I moved in close to take pictures. The piles of cone scales left by Douglas Squirrels are called middens. Some can be quite large where the squirrels have returned to the same spot again and again. Look for these along forest trails. Archaeologists use the same term for evidence of dwelling sites of ancient peoples.
I was pleased to find this old friend still in his usual spot. I hadn't seen him here for a while and wondered if he would ever be back. These are the experiences that make exploring nature such a pleasure.