Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Strangely somnolent squirrel

with 40 comments

During a walk in the already large and still expanding Sunfield subdivision in Buda on December 12th, the Lady Eve caught sight of a squirrel on a tree branch just a few feet above us and called my attention to it. Despite the barking of a nearby dog and my taking a bunch of pictures over a span of 11 minutes, said squirrel never budged from its perch. In fact its eyes closed for a few seconds at a time before reopening, as if sleep were calling in the middle of the day. If only all my live subjects were so docile or so in need of a nap.

I take this to have been a fox squirrel, Sciurus niger, which is common in central Texas (including right outside my window at home). The tree seems to have been a sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua, which grows abundantly in east Texas and can occasionally be found in the wild as close as one county to the east of mine, but which some people plant in the Austin area.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 26, 2020 at 4:36 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

40 Responses

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  1. we are all overfed and sleepy after the holiday )


    December 26, 2020 at 4:42 AM

  2. For such sometimes pesty pests, rodents are kind of cute. Must have been partying pretty hard the night before.

    Steve Gingold

    December 26, 2020 at 5:34 AM

    • The ones I often see outside my window scamper about a lot, sometimes running so fast I can hardly see them, which is why the behavior of the one in Buda seemed odd.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 26, 2020 at 7:28 AM

  3. a survival technique…might have been a hawk nearby


    December 26, 2020 at 6:31 AM

  4. I like the second image, mostly for the “peek-a-boo” pose and the lovely yellows in the background. I noted the notched ear too. Squirrels generally do nap in the afternoons, and if it was a cold day, they love to sun themselves.


    December 26, 2020 at 7:26 AM

    • I never knew that squirrels nap in the afternoon. That would account for the sleepiness that we saw and that made taking pictures easier.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 26, 2020 at 7:31 AM

  5. Cats and dogs aren’t the only critters who enjoy a warm, sunny spot in winter. This fox squirrel probably was just lazing away a little time, soaking up the rays. Now that the bald cypress outside my place have mostly lost their leaves, I often see fox squirrels stretched out on their limbs in the afternoon. I’ve never seen one of the eastern grays do it, though. I don’t know if it’s an actual difference in behavior; perhaps I’ve just never caught them at it.


    December 26, 2020 at 7:33 AM

    • Thanks to Lori and you, I now know about squirrel nap time, at least for the fox squirrels. I did a little searching to see what I could find about the eastern grey taking naps. I didn’t locate an answer, but did learn that eastern greys now inhabit Seattle and Vancouver, way west of their natural range. Someone must have set some loose in those cities.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 26, 2020 at 7:51 AM

      • I should have mentioned that ‘domestication’ doesn’t change behavior patterns much. My pet squirrel loved napping atop the front door when it was open and the afternoon sun was streaming in. He’d jump to the top, then lay there with his legs on either side, for all the world as though he were laying on a limb.

        One afternoon, a couple of young missionaries came up the sidewalk to offer counsel and brochures. When I went to the door, they spotted the squirrel laying there. One said, “Ma’am, is that a real squirrel on top of your door?” When I said, “Uh-huh…” they turned tail and headed back down the sidewalk.


        December 26, 2020 at 7:57 AM

        • The way you put ‘domestication’ in quotes accords with an article I read some months ago that distinguished between taming and domesticating. I guess most front doors are thick enough to provide a squirrel-wide platform at the top—as opposed to the aluminum storm door in the house I grew up in, which probably was too thin for its top to have been comfortable. I wonder what the missionaries who came to your door had against squirrels. One plus from the pandemic is that people no longer come to your door trying to sell you things (or faith) or solicit money.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 26, 2020 at 8:18 AM

  6. That is a handsome squirrel, Steve. I don’t see many in my immediate area.

    Lavinia Ross

    December 26, 2020 at 10:36 AM

  7. Beautiful photos of a little scamp. A charming scamp and cute scamp, but scamp nonetheless.


    December 26, 2020 at 4:22 PM

    • Now that’s a word, scamp, that I don’t recall anyone ever using in a comment here. You’ve made up for that lapse by invoking it four times.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 26, 2020 at 5:07 PM

      • So the 2020 quota for ‘scamp’ is filled. 2021 is just around the corner, plenty more time to have ‘scamp’ grace your blog comment section.


        December 26, 2020 at 5:30 PM

        • You seem to have read my mind. I’d toyed with using the abbreviation S.Q., meaning scamp quotient, in my reply to your first comment. Whether “scamp” will grace any comments in 2021 depends on whether I post a photograph next year that someone finds scampy. One thing for sure, I won’t be showing any pictures of shrimp scampi.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 26, 2020 at 5:38 PM

  8. I like those cute and funny guys even if they steal our bird seed.


    December 26, 2020 at 5:34 PM

    • Yeah, most people rate them high on the cute scale.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 26, 2020 at 5:39 PM

      • I wonder how the birds here would rate them, when they steal the birds’ food. 😉


        December 27, 2020 at 9:36 AM

  9. Great second photo. I love it.


    December 27, 2020 at 11:21 AM

  10. He’s lovely! And obviously enjoyed posing for the camera ..


    December 30, 2020 at 5:55 PM

  11. Sweet! They’re so much more appealing than gray squirrels. My friend Almuth has blogged about red squirrels doing interesting things in her neighborhood, in northern Germany. A different species obviously but maybe not so different in behaviors.


    January 2, 2021 at 8:09 PM

  12. Great captures … he is very cute and I like his reddish color.


    January 3, 2021 at 2:57 PM

    • The coloration is common in the ones around here. I guess that accounts for the “fox” in the name. This species makes it into the northeastern quadrant of Colorado but apparently not to where you are.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 3, 2021 at 3:11 PM

  13. I’ve really missed squirrels this past year! We don’t have the fox variety that far north, but the big grays are common and we love the little reds, as you know. Sweet, sleepy fellow.


    January 3, 2021 at 10:17 PM

  14. […] at around the same time we visited the expanding Sunfield subdivision there, where we watched a strangely somnolent squirrel. This year along an edge of the still-expanding subdivision on the conveniently named Eve’s […]

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