On a quiet, cold winter morning, I catch a flash of red outside my window. Looking up, I squint against the bright sun and spot a red squirrel perched on the branch of our crabapple tree nibbling the small red fruit she holds in her tiny paws. Her tail is folded up along the length of her back, like a furry boa. Her white belly and eyes ringed in bright white fur are in stunning contrast to her mostly reddish-gray coat.
She basks in the sun, balancing on the thin branch. The tail fur glows with sunlight and flutters in the breeze. In winter, red squirrels have tufted ears and their rusty red tail, back and paws become more vibrant. These feisty critters are half the size of the gray squirrels I often see them chasing along the top of our fence.
This squirrel sits still after eating the tiny crabapple and I know if I open my door, she would bolt. Probably chatter noisily in my direction and scamper away. Instead, I too sit quietly. She plucks more fruit to munch. Her paws and claws grasp and turn the frozen treat. Scraps of crabapple peels, leaves and stems are strewn across the ground below and on our balcony. I’ll sweep it off later.
Two ornamental crabapple trees in our yard blossom pink in spring and provide these ruby red morsels that feed the birds and squirrels all winter. Crisp cold fruit just hangs around, a tree buffet for the wildlife. (This week I spotted wild turkeys dining on the berries in the branches of crabapple trees along Mitchell Road.)
When I glance out my window again, I don’t see the red squirrel. Then I spot her higher in the tree. She clings beneath a branch, stretching long, reaching for a bundle of crabapples.
Nature nearby is a monthly column by Eden Prairie resident Amber D. Stoner.
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