A Squirrel’s World

CSIMG_0483FBThey just keep coming in and surprisingly, without being tossed and blown by a hurricane or tropical storm this year. Infant squirrel admits are status quo after heavy rain and big wind activity, but the number of displaced and orphaned squirrels has been unusually high for the past few months and can only be chalked up to our wet summer, possibly weakening nest structures or causing trees to fall. At the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in Newport, infant squirrels in every developmental stage, from pinky to fully furred, can be found in containers or chew proof enclosures in every room and also in the personal care and homes of staffers or volunteers. Squirrels are familiar to almost everyone and are the second-most fed and watched wild animals, after birds. Most of us enjoy their antics and find them entertaining and if I may go so far, lovable. There are more than 200 squirrel species living all over the world, except Australia. In Eastern North Carolina, we are blessed with Eastern Grays, Fox and Flying Squirrels. Most wildlife rehabilitators have great fondness for raising young squirrels to release, because, although messy and capable of fast and furious squirrely behaviors in adolescence, they are the easiest and usually, the hardiest of all babies to rear. You don’t have to coax a baby squirrel to drink its formula from a syringe. The problem is getting the syringe full and the nipple in front of their face fast enough! Sep2013Squirrel1EWhen we keep their tummies full and give them comfy, warm places to sleep, they are content and we’d like to think, happy, although their facial expressions never change much. Most of the squirrels coming in during this second breeding season of the year are Eastern Grays. They can start breeding at five and a half months, but usually breed for the first time at age one. The first litter of naked, toothless and blind babies is born in February to March, the second in June to July. Normally, two to six young are born in each litter. Aug2013EEThe gestation period is about 44 days; the young are weaned at seven weeks and leave the nest after 10 weeks. However, second breeding season youngsters will spend the winter with their mother. Eastern gray squirrels build a nest known as a “drey” in the forks of trees, consisting mainly of dry leaves and twigs. Males and females may share the same nest for short times during the breeding season and during cold winter spells squirrels may share a drey to keep warm. Unfortunately, they have been known to also nest in attics or exterior walls of a house, where they are deemed pests by home owners. In addition, squirrels may inhabit a permanent tree den hollowed out in the trunk or a large branch of a tree, which, of course, is more preferred by humans. Eastern Gray Squirrels are members of the Rodent family and spend most of their lives in trees. They grow 17 to 20 inches long and have grayish-brown fur, except for their bellies which appear white or very pale. The bushy tail, used for thermal regulation and to sign an alarm by vigorously tail flicking, often has silvery-tipped hairs at the end. The squirrel’s greatest tool may be its tail, which it also uses for balance, shade from the sun as an umbrella, a blanket and as a rudder when swimming. They have incredible balance and rarely fall from trees. FB_MG_7201XThey also run headfirst down a tree trunk, which happens rarely, if ever, with other animals. Communication among Eastern Gray Squirrels involves both posturing and vocalizations which include a squeak similar to that of a mouse, a low-pitched rumbling noise, a chatter and a raspy “mehr mehr” sound. The Eastern Gray sports four fingers on the front feet and five on the hind feet. Their bounding stride can measure two to three feet when at full speed. Their diet includes: acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts, beechnuts, maple (buds, bark, and samaras), Yellow Poplar blossoms, American Hornbeam seeds, apples, fungi, Black Cherry, Flowering Dogwood, grapes, sedges, grasses, American Holly, mushrooms, insects (adults and larvae), bird eggs, amphibians and if hungry enough, might snatch a baby bird or frog. Squirrels have four front teeth that never stop growing but stay short due to constant wear and daily grinding they receive by constant gnawing.They gnaw on bones, antlers and turtle shells, likely as a source of minerals sparse in their normal diet as well as the need to grind. Don’t forget all the bird feeders they raid that are not squirrel proof (and even the squirrel proof ones, usually aren’t). Squirrels are problem solvers and can figure those challenges out! The Eastern Gray Squirrel is a scatter-hoarder that hides or buries food in numerous small caches for later recovery. Each squirrel is estimated to make several thousand caches each season. The squirrels have accurate spatial memory for the locations of these caches, and use distant and nearby landmarks to retrieve them. Smell is used only when the squirrel is within a few inches of the cache. Eastern gray squirrels are more active during the early and late hours of the day and tend to avoid the heat in the middle of a summer day and do not hibernate as some folks think. Predators include humans, hawks, weasels, raccoons, domestic and feral cats, snakes, owls and dogs, so they have reason to employ defensive tactics such as freezing in place and zigzag running at warp speed! Eastern grays can live to be 20 years old in captivity, but in the wild may live up to 5 -12 years if they stay healthy, rely on their good senses of vision, smell and hearing and can outmaneuver the many predators trying to take them out! Although some people have a love-hate relationship with the squirrel, we can’t ignore their great value to our ecosystem. Squirrels help control plant populations by eating many seeds, fruits and insect populations. They are a good means of seed and nut dispersal, and therefore help reforest trees and other plants. They are highly intelligent and fascinating to watch. Of course, they can get into a little mischief, but because they are so cute and lively, most of us just deal with it and have fun trying to outsmart them, which is not easy!

Happy Holiday Season Everyone!!

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of “Save Them All

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Hangin’ Out!

Book Lovers’ Fairs or Expos are great opportunities for networking in ‘author world,’ showcasing your  writing talents and generally, having a lot of fun.  Meeting fellow authors is a marvelous trip.  Most writers are unique in so many ways I truly appreciate.  Although I look forward to meeting and hanging out with a crazy, diverse bunch of writers, some of the moments I anticipate the most at a multiple-author, book event are spying the adorable, animated characters milling around and rushing to hang out with them.  They’re there to bolster the childrens’ books or advertise something out in town.  Either way, I’m thrilled to see them.  I’ve grown very respectful of mascots over the years.  They don’t talk, have pleasant demeanors,  delighted, if not goofy, looks on their faces, transmit infectious energy and throw out happy waves to everyone.  They’re big and have even bigger heads, with shoes to match.  I get so excited to see them, I want to be them.  Yes, my mind has gone there.  The thought of becoming a big head with big shoes bounces in my brain quite often, but the dilemma is what head would I choose?  I’ve envisioned a Bluebird because they’re happy, have wings and are uncommon as a mascot.  Bees are disappearing, so maybe I should be a honeybee to bring attention to their plight.  I’d still have wings, but I’d also be adorned with antennae and yellow is a good color for me.  I’ll think on that a while.  I guess my message to everyone with this little bloggie blurb is stay positive, have fun in whatever you do and respect the ‘clean’ fun others are having even if it’s not your cup of tea.   Book signings,  Literary Symposiums and Writers’ Workshops are on the schedule for me over the next six months, and I plan to have a huge amount of fun teaching or learning at all of them.  I just hope some big-headed mascots will be close by to hang out with.  Bye, Bye, now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of “Save Them All

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THIS YEAR’S AUTHOR’S HOLIDAY GIVE-AWAY BASKET AND GET ENTERED BY DECEMBER 10TH!

AUTHOR’S HOLIDAY GIVE-AWAY IS BACK!

It was so much fun last year, I have to do it again this year!

“AUTHOR’S HOLIDAY GIVE-AWAY”

Date: From 22 September to 10 December 2008

Time: Ends midnight, December 10, 2008

Location: USA

Everyone who purchases a copy of my novel “Save Them All,” directly from author (address below) or through PayPal will be entered in my “Author’s Holiday Give-Away” drawing for the goodie basket below.

“>The winner will receive a green and gold harvest basket filled with a blue plaid fleece throw, a crazy cute pink poodle, an over-sized mug with Sen-Cha tea, a happy snowman, festive reindeer hand towel, a spiral “fat book” for note taking, a wildlife print pen, an aquamarine cushion grip pen, some sweet treats and a signed copy of my novel, “Save Them All” with wildlife bookmark to gift one of your favorite people.

The contest begins on Monday, September 22, 2008 and will end midnight on December 10, 2008 when the winning name will be drawn.   The winner will be notified by email on December 11, 2008 to let her or him know their prize basket is in the mail.

For your copy of “Save Them All” and an automatic entry into the “2008 Author’s Holiday Giveway” drawing, please send check or money order in the amount of $21.95, which includes shipping, to:

Novel / Save Them All
130 Aldersgate Road
Jacksonville, North Carolina
28546

I encourage you to ENTER!! It’s definitely a lot of fun for me, you receive a GREAT read and I still believe your ODDS of snagging that basket and it’s goodies are much better than powerball, our state’s lottery or even a scratch off card!!

Just ask Bea B., last years winner.

Good Luck and have Happy & Safe Holidays!!
Linda Bergman-Althouse

Chimney Swift Tower, New to Sneads Ferry, NC

When Jim asked his wife, Virginia, what she wanted for Christmas last year, she said a Chimney Swift Tower. The requested gift was not the type of thing a woman can wear on her finger or dangle from her earlobes and definitely not easily shown to friends at lunch, but she had read in the Jacksonville Daily News that Chimney Swift habitat was declining in our area due to the capping of chimneys, loss of tree cavities and new construction methods. Virginia has always been impressed with the benefits Chimney Swifts, who are insectivores, offer our environment and mulled over the information contained in the Letter to the Editor (Linda Bergman-Althouse) wrote long enough to feel compelled to do something about it. Jim and Virginia share a waterway enjoyed by an array of wildlife. For many years, the nature loving couple has continued to supplement wild birds’ diets and provide condos or gourds for Purple Martins when nesting time rolls around each spring. After going on the Internet and downloading schematics for a tower and an acceptable materials list from http://www.chimneyswifts.org, Jim recruited another builder to help him construct the tower. “It took a few weeks or more to complete the twelve-foot tower, due to waiting out wet weather conditions and allotting time for the concrete to thoroughly set up,” Jim told me when he called. Although I hoped when putting out the word that chimney swifts were in need of alternate habitat to encourage them to return to our area, many months ago, I had no idea anyone had taken the “verbal” yellow flag and thrown it down. Jim invited me to Sneads Ferry to take a look at the tower he built for Virginia (and the Chimney Swifts, of course). My husband and I jumped in the car that day and within twenty five minutes I was absolutely thrilled to be standing next to a swift tower I had only dreamed someone would care enough to ask about, let alone build on their own. Jim sounded confident and proud when he said he “reinforced everything to ensure it will withstand hurricane force winds.” He dug a foundation platform so deep; he needed twenty bags of cement to fill it. Angled, iron girders (wider than the schematic called for) were set in place to form an extremely sturdy base.

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Finished this past week, the twelve-foot tall swift tower, which Chimney Swifts like better than the eight-foot according to something Jim read, stands in waiting along Swan Point off Stump Sound in Sneads Ferry. So “yes, Virginia, we can honestly say there is a Santa Claus, well . . . a Santa’s helper, also known as your husband,” who made this special and most unique Christmas present, a Chimney Swift Tower, happen. Virginia can’t wait for the first migratory Chimney Swift couple to show up from South America’s Amazon Basin and check out their new digs. Although, the tower is large enough to house quite a number of roosting pairs of swifts, Virginia says she will be thrilled to see just one couple this year.

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Most stories have a moral–this one has a few, but the one I like most is:  The little things we do can make a very big and positive difference. When your words mean so much to someone else, they take on power. You may or may not find out what effect or influence they’ve had, but just keep doing your part to make the world a better place and know others, like Jim and Virginia, will too.

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of, “Save Them All

Eat, Pray, Love

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From Linda’s opinion page: She is definitely in the news. I’ve watched Elizabeth Gilbert on Oprah twice now and found myself stirred by Gilbert’s eager and more than passionate delivery when asked a question about or to elaborate on the experience of writing her book, “Eat, Pray, Love.” The excited state of the audience during both shows was off the charts, spinning my head to a place that wanted to know and understand what I could be missing. At this point I had not read the book, but found it interesting to realize there are so many people (especially women in this case) who experience their lives as lacking and unfulfilled; ready to drop everything and fly to Italy, India or Indonesia to find themselves or just a small perfect piece that would make the puzzle of who they are whole. Listening to the women who shared their similar stories, I realized they were waiting for some kind of permission “to be.” I don’t live in a well, so I’ve always known there are types of personalities, male or female, who have a little trouble being assertive and can be quite passive or submissive in nature much to their detriment, but the number, after following the aftermath of this author, I’ve found to be overwhelming. I guess we haven’t progressed as far as I thought we had. Elizabeth Gilbert, an excellent writer and story teller, has surely become an effective pied piper for an eager trail of confused, fractured or wanting women. After I read the book, I appreciated the raw emotion she chewed through to free herself and can understand how others in a similar knot will follow her lead. I also, more importantly, found that I’m not confused, fractured or wanting, BUT if I were, I’m sure I could gain twenty to thirty pounds enjoying great forkfulls of food right here in the USA, my spiritual essence could be nourished in my own back yard, and I’ve always believed love comes to those who love. Of course that’s all based on “Bergman-Althouse” experience and philosophy. So, I’m flexible enough to understand the need to do whatever it takes to reach our own contented and fulfilled place. I just hope that while reaching for the greener grass, women, who’ve been influenced by the hype and their own romantic fantasies, won’t leave behind budding and fertile relationships, careers and environments they could come to regret. Yes, Virgina, in truth, life has it’s regrets. I extend my New Year’s wish of creativity and courage for all those who need to release what is no longer meaningful in their lives. I’m not done. How about a little patience and tenacity that will enable you to hang on to what’s most important in your life and make it work for you? “Eat, Pray, Love” is an inspirationally well written book with a great title that can be practiced and lived whether you are confused, fractured or not. Those of you who are (and I pray the numbers are less than it seems), GO FOR IT! with any motivation that sticks.

HAPPY 2008 TO EVERYONE!!!!!

Linda Bergman-Althouse

Author of “Save Them All

Writers’ Characters Build Character

From Linda’s Opinion & Pondering Page:

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There was a time when the notion of offering Character Education in our schools was opposed because so many people believed core ethical values, forming the foundation of an individual’s character, were developed in the home. I think we’re all leaning the same way on that now. We’ve realized the full responsibility and importance of developing good character can not be left to question. The school system has taken on a huge role in grooming the pillars of character; trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship, but I’ve learned through personal experience that a single library book, filled with life lessons, has the opportunity to influence and live closer to an individual, no matter the age, locale, ethnicity, or economic status, than a structured learning environment. Of course, that’s assuming “Johnny or Bonnie can read,” which is another issue to be discussed at a later date. Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed school; secondary, college, as well as, post grad work, but I can honestly say I learned more about life and how to continually groom who I wanted to be and became through the independent books I’ve toted around and read than any class I ever attended. Although I never ran away to join the circus like Toby did, situations characters found themselves in, be it a fictional or a nonfiction write, were puzzles to solve. How the characters involved handled precarious situations were lessons learned whether I chose to adopt or dismiss their methods. Not all lessons are the “do’s” in life. Ralph Waldo Emerson had lots to say about character, but the statement that sticks with me and probably the one most remembered by others is “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matter compared to what lies within us.” And what character lies within us is grown and developed by those we come to know in reality or fiction while experiencing our gift of life. I feel a huge responsibility toward my readership when developing characters because I recognize people change when they read. Although I have authored numerous articles, short stories and a novel, I have this need to ping back and forth, between writer and educator. I’ve often wondered if abandoning educator would make me a better writer, but I’m not sure it’s possible to stifle the teacher in me. The call to educate might be too great. Someone once wrote “Character is what you are in the dark.” I believe that too. Honesty should happen whether anyone is watching or not. Values that denote individuals of good character have been roughed up over the years, some even abandoned, so it seems people have to be encouraged to differentiate between what’s good and what’s bad. But writing has definitely changed; evolved in many ways and not always in the best direction in my opinion. On occasion, I read a book where the lead character champions less than honest, less than kind, less than respectful, less than good all around and can still be perceived as coming out on top, based on new and lacking standards. I find that troublesome because those who are teetering or easily influenced, especially a young mind whose character is still developing, may adopt the darker dispositions of life because they have been glorified or celebrated in a published work. When I build my characters, it becomes a requisite for me to leave the light on for everyone who picks up a Bergman-Althouse story. Is that wrong? Is it limiting? Or, is it responsible writing? Or does it even matter?

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of “Save Them All

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT MY READER EVENT TO ENSURE YOUR ENTRY IN THE

“HOLIDAY GIVE-AWAY BASKET” DRAWING!!!

Chimney Swift Tower Grant Proposal Passed!

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Hello NORTH CAROLINA! Three cheers for the tiny housekeepers of the sky! My HUGE PUSH for our environmental partners, the CHIMNEY SWIFTS, has been REWARDED!! The proposal I forwarded to our state wildlife organization, WRNC, recommending an award of a monetary grant to assist organizations and individuals concerned with the conservation of Chimney Swifts in the State of North Carolina was approved by unanimous board vote on September 16, 2007. The following letter and application information is provided for North Carolina Residents and can also be used as a guide by other states who are concerned, as well, for benefits we all enjoy due to the migratory activities of the Chimney Swift.

Chimney Swift Tower Grant
Approved September 16, 2007 & Offered by the
Wildlife Rehabilitators of North Carolina, Inc.
www.ncwildliferehab.org

Why?
Chimney Swifts, migratory birds that help decrease our dangerously high insect pest population, are in decline due to loss of habitat. Fortunately, Chimney Swifts are well adapted to man-made structures, so it is possible to create nesting habitat specifically for Swifts. If you are a member of an environmentally active group, an individual environment enthusiast, a WRNC member or nonmember, you may want to construct and maintain a Chimney Swift tower in your area to encourage Chimney Swifts, acrobatic insectivores who vacuum the sky at dawn and dusk, to return to your community each year. Wildlife Rehabilitators of North Carolina, Inc. (WRNC) would like to help. Our organization is offering a $300.00 grant to assist you or your group to undertake this valuable conservation project.

Requirements:

A. The Chimney Swift Tower grant application (Addendum) must be completed and submitted to WRNC no later than January 15.

B. Two references, with contact information, must be provided.

C. Selected tower location must be approved by Parks and Recreation of the town before construction begins (if tower is to be erected in a public park or access area) or approved by the landowner, if tower will be erected on private land other than your own.

D. A tower must be constructed and maintained in accordance with the guidelines contained in the book “Chimney Swift Towers, New Habitat for America’s Mysterious Birds,” by Paul D. and Georgean Z. Kyle, which will be provided to you if your grant request is approved. For further research and personal procurement of the Kyle Chimney Swift Tower booklet, guidance is provided online at http://www.chimneyswifts.org. http://www.concentric.net/%7edwa/page51.html http://www.concentric.net/%7edwa/page55.html http://www.chimneyswifts.org/page16.html http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/chimswtower.html

Note: A selected tower site must be a minimum 10’ by 10’ cleared area to
accommodate Chimney Swift flight and dive patterns.

E. Tower construction must be completed within three months after receiving WRNC
grant monies.

F. A completed tower must be branded with the erecting organization’s name (i.e. Boy Scouts of America, Onslow County, Troop 507 and as stated, “funding assisted by Wildlife Rehabilitators of North Carolina, Inc.” on erecting organization’s personal choice of wall or display panel.

G. A picture of the completed tower and copies of receipts for materials purchased in an amount not less than 90% of total grant money awarded must be sent to the address provided below.

Submit full application for the WRNC Chimney Swift Tower Grant in accordance with instructions provided at WRNC website: www.ncwildliferehab.org

Just a note to all future North Carolina mosquito residents, “Be afraid . . . . be very afraid!”

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of “Save Them All” (except mosquitoes and other disease spreading insects)

UPDATE:   Since the above posting,  announcing the opportunity to apply for a Chimney Swift Tower Grant, I have received inquiries from a Scout Troop Leader, The Army Corps of Engineers and an organic farm owner situated close to the Virginia State line — all interested in applying for the grant and making a positive environmental difference.

My heart swells.

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT MY READER EVENT TO ENSURE YOUR ENTRY IN THE

“HOLIDAY GIVE-AWAY BASKET” DRAWING!!!