The squirrel family isn't limited to the gray squirrel so common in backyards. This rodent family also includes red, flying and fox squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, as well as antelope squirrels, ground squirrels and prairie dogs, which are not found in New York State. With the exception of woodchucks and chipmunks, squirrels are very active year round.
Squirrels are disinguished from all other rodents by their thickly furred, bushy tails. They come in a variety of colors - gray squirrels can be black, albino, reddish-brown - and yes - even gray. All squirrels have chisel-like front teeth, sharp claws and strong legs. They navigate climbing trees or tunneling in the earth using clusters of sensitive whiskers on their face. While squirrels usually live three to five years, some can live eight to ten years in the wild.
Squirrels are omnivores and eat a wide variety of plants including nuts, seeds, pine cones and fruits, as well as insects. They take whatever food is available, since they bury surplus food for the long winter. Once the snow flies and vegetation is gone, squirrels use their keen sense of smell to locate their cache of buried nuts and pine cones.
In New York State, squirrels have a hard time finding food in the early spring, as buried nuts begin to sprout and new food sources are not yet available. During this time, squirrels rely on the buds of trees as their main diet.
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Squirrels love to search your backyard for food for the winter, but what do they do with it once they've found it? Here's a way to find out. Take 30 nuts in the shell and bury them in a pile of leaves, small mounds of soil or underneath some trees. After one week, put on some gloves and try to find the buried nuts. Did the squirrels find your hiding place before you came back to it?
Sharing a Treat
Usually, wild animals don't like the same kinds of food that we eat. Squirrels, however, love nuts and corn kernels. Share a treat with our furry friends and buy some dried corn cobs from your local farm or gardening store. Hang the corn cobs from the lower branches of a tree or on a platform and sit back and watch as the squirrels perform acrobatics to get their treat. Remember that is illegal in New York State to feed deer, so if you start attracting these uninvited guests, remove the corn cobs.
Take that to the Bank
Late summer and early fall is a perfect time to start your own seed bank. Remove the seeds from flowers or fruits in your garden. Look around the ground for maple seeds or acorns from oak trees. Go on a search through the woods for some pine cones, pull out the scales and look for the seeds. Dry out all the seeds indoors, making sure to keep them separate from one another. Put each type of seed in a different container, such as an envelope or clear film canister. Mark each container with the name of the seed, and put them aside to plant next year.
Check out Conservationist for Kids for more information and activities!
Great South Bay Shorescape
Saturday, September 20 from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Cedar Beach Marina, Babylon
This event features a fishing derby for children. Participants will also learn basic fishing techniques, fish biology, marine ecology and more. Age: Children under 14. Cost: Free. For more information, please visit the I Fish NY website (www.ifishnewyork.org.) To pre-register, please call Malynda Nichol at 631-444-0283.
Muller Pond Walk
Saturday, September 13 at 2:00 PM
Join a Stony Kill naturalist for an interpretive tour of our best birding trail, meandering around a forest pond and crossing an open meadow which provides habitat for bobolinks, meadowlarks, and goldfinches.
Saturday, September 20 at 2:00 PM
Join us for a leisurely stroll on our half-mile, wheelchair-accessible Woodland Trail, as we watch for fall migrant birds, late summer fruits and seeds, fungi and wildlife signs. All ages and abilities are welcome!
Vines that Twine
Saturday, September 13 at 2:00 PM
Vines are beautiful, and they have fruits that are great for wildlife, but they can also strangle, choke, and smother their competition. Join us for a walk to enjoy fall vines and other plants.
Annual Fall Festival
Saturday, September 20 from Noon to 4:00 PM
Come join us for our annual Fall Festival! There will be nature-oriented explorations and hands-on activities for all ages, refreshments, exhibitors and much more. Admission and parking are free! Rain or shine.
Pharsalia - 10 Years Later
Saturday, September 13 from 9:00 AM to Noon
Ten years after a tornado ripped through this site in 1998, there are still signs left behind by its passing. See how the forest is healing the scar and compare it to past years. Wear sturdy pants for protection against brushy/prickly undergrowth. Meet in the main parking lot.
Mushrooms with Sally Reymers
Saturday, September 20 from 10:00 AM to Noon
Venture among the trees in search of something that has spines, gills, tubes and teeth. No, you're not tracking a bizarre kind of animal … you're looking for fungi! Meet in the main parking lot.
Advance registration is required. Call 716-683-5959.
Full Harvest Moon Walk
Tuesday, September 16 at 7:00 PM
Join our evening walk and learn fun facts about this month's full moon. Bring binoculars to look at the moon at the end of the tour.
8th Annual Fall Festival
Saturday, September 20 from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Kick off the fall season by spending a day in the woods! Enjoy crafts for kids, live animals, guided nature walks, hands-on activities, food for sale and more.
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