Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A forgotten picture reclaimed

with 51 comments

Squirrel Eating Yaupon Fruit 0636A

I’ve been using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III for the last few months, but after I briefly switched back to the 7D one day about a week ago to increase my telephoto range, I discovered that there was a never-downloaded picture from December 28th on the card in the older camera. It’s fun to find things that I’ve left for myself to discover, and now you get to discover it, too.

In taking this picture I had to shoot through window glass and foliage, and the light was poor, but I managed to get off a single shot with a clear view of this squirrel’s mouth as it bit off one drupe of a yaupon tree, Ilex vomitoria (the same species you saw laden with fruit in yesterday’s photo). Then the squirrel scampered off before I could take any more pictures; you know how quickly squirrels can move.

I generally prefer photographing possumhaws, Ilex decidua, which by shedding their leaves in the winter make a great display of their densely clustered drupes, but this yaupon, which for some reason has never produced a lot of fruit, had two advantages: [1] it was (and still is) right outside the window next to my computer  [2] squirrels were visiting it (and they still do).

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 25, 2013 at 6:16 AM

51 Responses

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  1. I’ve never seen a squirrel eat like that. Great capture!


    February 25, 2013 at 6:20 AM

    • In the days leading up to this photograph I’d begun noticing squirrels (or possibly the same squirrel) reaching out its head and chewing something on the possumhaw tree, but I wasn’t sure it was a drupe. This picture removed any doubt.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2013 at 7:33 AM

  2. There’s no better way to start the day than to have your heart melt…


    February 25, 2013 at 6:23 AM

  3. Was für ein niedliches Foto!!


    February 25, 2013 at 6:30 AM

  4. That is a very nice picture! 🙂


    February 25, 2013 at 7:10 AM

  5. wonderful!


    February 25, 2013 at 7:23 AM

  6. Yes, this capture makes these small creatures adorable, but come into my gardens where they multiply and try their best to get to the bird feeders. I’ve resorted to tossing apple and avocado peels to them to divert their tiny brains.


    February 25, 2013 at 8:03 AM

    • That sounds like a good plan to sidetrack them. It reminds me of people at a picnic who put a little food on the ground some distance away to divert ants from their blanket.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2013 at 9:56 AM

  7. That is a VERY nice shot, especially under the circumstances!

    Alex Autin

    February 25, 2013 at 9:39 AM

  8. really cute.


    February 25, 2013 at 10:30 AM

  9. Loving your capture – Happy Monday!


    February 25, 2013 at 10:33 AM

  10. It looks like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.


    February 25, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    • A few minutes ago I thought about eating a biscotto, but I’d already had enough for lunch so I refrained. No getting caught for this kid.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2013 at 1:28 PM

  11. Wonderful shot Steven – how fun that you’d forgotten it was there!

    Tina Schell

    February 25, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    • It was fun, and an unusually recent find. More commonly I make a discovery of this sort when I’m going through my archives from years past and come across a good photograph I’d never processed (I take far too many to process them all). Who knows what else is sitting there waiting to be rediscovered?

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2013 at 1:59 PM

  12. Adorable!


    February 25, 2013 at 2:05 PM

  13. I like that shot very much. It is a fine capture of the squirrel about to grab some berries for a meal.


    February 25, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    • The several times that I’ve observed a squirrel eating from this tree, it always took one and only one drupe, which it chewed on for some time. Why it didn’t take more than one, I don’t know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2013 at 8:19 PM

  14. I had no idea that squirrels ate those berries. Great shot!


    February 25, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    • And not just squirrels. A few days ago I watched what I think was a female cardinal eat one. With the closely related possumhaw, I’ve seen a flock of cedar waxwings strip a tree bare of all its fruit in a single day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2013 at 8:22 PM

      • OK, not to be a bummer, but I heard a lecture recently about native wildlife eating the berries of non-native plants and getting sick. The possumhaw is native, so that’s good that your birds are eating it’s berries. I don’t know about the other. Anyway, just something to think about. Made me want to plant a bunch of possumhaws, that’s for sure!


        February 25, 2013 at 8:29 PM

        • Possumhaws are among my favorite Texas trees. Yaupon, likewise in the genus Ilex, is also native. In fact I show only native species in this blog (unless I mess up).

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 25, 2013 at 8:38 PM

  15. Oh! I didn’t realize. I just read your bio here on WordPress. You know all about native plants! You might like some of the paintings of this artist: http://www.donnapagefineart.com/donnapage/gallery.html


    February 25, 2013 at 9:10 PM

    • Thanks for the link. I wish I knew how to paint, but the camera serves me in lieu of a brush. (I had the impression that some of her works were painted from photographs.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2013 at 10:31 PM

  16. There’s been something nagging at me about this photo, and I finally figured it out. It has the look of some of those early 1960s film photos I have, where the color is just a little faded and “off”. When I saw the title, I expected something much older than last December, but couldn’t figure out why. Now, I think I know!


    February 26, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    • You’re right that this is reminiscent of color photos from decades ago whose colors have shifted and/or faded. In this case, though, the deciding factors were recent: the window glass I was shooting through wasn’t the cleanest on the outside, and the sky was overcast. As a result, the squirrel came out underexposed, so I had to play with the photograph in Photoshop to make it presentable. Put all that together, and you end up with a picture that has a subdued tonality to it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 26, 2013 at 12:31 PM

  17. Love this!! What a great image….


    February 26, 2013 at 7:57 PM

  18. Pris sur le fait. Superbe.


    February 28, 2013 at 8:10 AM

  19. Nice treasure to find. I like the intensive eating.


    March 1, 2013 at 11:41 PM

    • I treated it as a treasure. I’ve been surprised by how long a squirrel can spend chewing on one of these little fruits. But then a squirrel would probably be surprised at how long I can take with a meal.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 1, 2013 at 11:46 PM

  20. Vomitoria; I guess the squirrel eats slowly so it doesn’t…vomit! Its mother,like all good mothers said “Chew your food slowly, dear,or you will choke, or……” Lovely photo.


    February 22, 2014 at 5:19 AM

    • I don’t think these fruits have that effect on squirrels, and the Wikipedia article on this species even casts doubt—though I don’t know the truth of the matter—on whether humans suffer that way, at least from small amounts of the fruit: “Native Americans used the leaves and stems to brew a tea, commonly thought to be called asi or black drink for male-only purification and unity rituals. The ceremony included vomiting, and Europeans incorrectly believed that it was Ilex vomitoria that caused it (hence the Latin name). The active ingredients, like those of the related yerba mate and guayusa, are actually caffeine and theobromine, and the vomiting either was learned or resulted from the great quantities in which they drank the beverage coupled with fasting.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 22, 2014 at 7:35 AM

      • I wonder if the ilex vomitoria may have some medicinal potential. An excellent article here on theobromine (theobroma; food of the gods) http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/podcast/CIIEcompounds/transcripts/theobromine.asp Does this mean you are surrounded by little gods of squirrels and cedar waxwings ? Rather a charming thought.


        February 22, 2014 at 6:07 PM

        • I read the article at the link your provided. One interesting connection is that while many people mistakenly think chocolate contains caffeine, Ilex vomitoria actually does.

          As for “little gods of squirrels and cedar waxwings,” I’m hard pressed for reply other than to agree with you that it’s a charming thought.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 23, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      • And are more female squirrels eating the fruit than males? 😀


        February 22, 2014 at 6:09 PM

        • I have no idea if there’s a male/female difference in squirrels’ consumption of yaupon and possumhaw fruit. We could ask the same question about a male/female difference in the human consumption of various fruits. It sounds like there are many projects available along these lines for graduate students in need of one.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 23, 2014 at 10:40 AM

          • Indeed! One such project is http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/boys-and-girls-may-get-different-breast-milk/ I quake a little over these findings. I have visions of our supermarket having gender and age specific aisles as the food companies use every ounce of research to gain competitive advantage on the ‘food chain”.


            February 23, 2014 at 6:48 PM

            • That’s a good article. I’d never heard of the Trivers-Willard hypothesis, which “states that natural selection favors parental investment in daughters when times are hard and in sons when times are easy,” nor knew that boys and girls may get different breast milk. I also like you comment on the commercial “food chain.”

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 24, 2014 at 9:35 AM

              • It’s all new information to me too and I find it fascinating.


                February 25, 2014 at 6:20 PM

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