The winter has really set in. We got a lot of snow and the temperatures are deep below the freezing point. I go on my regular strolls through the woods regardless of weather, though when it’s this cold, I don’t usually come across as much wildlife as when the weather is more favorable.
On this recent trip, I saw a Red Squirrel (Sciurus Vulgaris) frolic in a tree. I have a few squirrels in the woods, but they are all very shy creatures who don’t care for the presence of humans very much and hide away when they see one approaching. As such, only a keen observer spots squirrels in these woods, for they either sit quietly in the tree canopy until the human threat passes, or run across the canopy to a safe distance out of sight.
But this time it was different. The temperatures were really low and snow was coming down heavily. I noticed the furball up in the tree and expected him to make his dash for it like they usually do, but he didn’t. Whether out of curiosity, or because he was as cold as I was… or because he already remembers me from the previous encounters and/or senses that I’m a friend and protector of the woods and all who dwell within it, he stayed where he was and locked his cute gaze with me.
We stood there in this cold, hammered by the heavy snowfall, staying wholly calm and content with each other, essentially having a stare-down contest. It was magical. The squirrel felt very comfortable with me and started to act in ways which showed his comfort – he groomed the fur on his cute little front paws, stretched in the most adorable way, nibbled on the things about him…. It was profoundly intimate.
I only have a small palm camera to record with and it’s equipped with a small screen. I don’t see the details well on the tiny screen. When I thought he may be munching on something, once viewed on the larger laptop screen, it became clear he was just warming his paws up, seemingly feeling the cold as much as I did.
Another thing that kept me slightly uncomfortable was the fact that the squirrel was high up on the tree so I had to keep my camera pointed upward to film him. But with the snow pummeling the area, my camera’s lens was getting snowed on which caused a two fold concern – for one it’s could be potentially damaging to the fine optics if the snowflake froze on the glass, and secondly, the flakes on the lens caused blur in the image. But the squirrel was simply too cute to heed these concerns and stop recording.
At one point, a fox strolled by, and for a moment I though the squirrel was smart and used me as a shield against the predator. He may have seen the fox from high above and knew it would not become a threat to him so long as I was under the tree. The fox dashed the second he saw me. I did not get a chance to capture him on video.
Needless to say, the squirrel was still better equipped to handle the cold, especially with my hands exposed to the cold as I held the camera, so he won the stare-down contest. As far as cuteness contest is involved – I stood no chance.