adventures in nature

Squirrel uses man’s neck for launching pad / Fruitvale falcons ready to fledge

Today finds me returned to the Bay Area after a fun weekend in Nevada County in the foothills of the Sierras. I was fortunate to get to spend some time by the Yuba River, scrambling on the smoothed granite rocks and boulders that adorn its banks near Rt 49. We became instant friends, and as it turns out blood brothers, after I took a bit of a spill on the rocks and washed off my torn up knees in its cool waters. My thoughts just before I took my tumble were “wow, I could do this all day, every day,” then BAM! Down I went. Luckily the camera survived and my body will heal. I find few things as fun as scrambling and climbing and bouncing around on river rocks by flowing water.

Butterfly on banks of Yuba River

Butterfly on the banks of the Yuba

Upon my return to the Bay Area I decided to check out the falcons’ nest on the Fruitvale Bridge, as the nestlings should be fledging any day now. It was not long before sunset that I arrived, and the cloudy haze had given way to some magnificent golden and red light and a backdrop of blue skies. The scene was pretty quiet, but as I arrived one of the parents seemed to come to greet me with a quick fly-over from its post on the East side of the tower. As I sat patiently waiting for some falcon action, I was treated to several egrets perusing the waterway for a last meal of the day.

Fruitvale Bridge egret on coppertop post

It seems pretty brave to be working the waters right under the noses (er, beaks) of the falcons and their nest, but the two I saw today survived to fish another day. Especially given that I have now seen the falcons attack (unsuccessfully) two large seagulls that were half-again as big as the falcons.

Fruitvale Bridge egret in flight

Fruitvale Bridge egret in flight

To liven up my wait I thank my friend who sent me a report that he was apparently wrastling squirrels (yes I wrote “wrastling” – I’ve been dying to use the term). As I was enjoying the setting sun, I received a text from him that read:

“Dude a squirrel just fell out of a tree, landed on my head, and scratched my neck! Do you think I have to go to the doctor?”

I wish I could say that I wish I was surprised by this – but I LOVE the fact that weird things happen to me and my friends and would expect no less from them. I’m happy to report that at the time of this post he is still alive and shows no signs of infection, nor weresquirrelism. The timing of this event ironically coincides with the rumors I’ve been hearing about Benicio Del Toro’s newest film that’s in the works, The SquirrelMan. I thought he would have learned after The Wolfman.

Details of the encounter:

“I was on the sidewalk … I think it was battling another squirrel, and fell. I think it grabbed a low branch, when the branch dangled down and hit my head. Once the squirrel hit my head it freaked out, and skeetered off me, using my neck to propel itself, which left toe scratches on my neck.”

Yes, just to verify, he used the word “skeetered.”

Just as my shorts and I were ready to succumb to the chilly wind and dying light, I saw some movement by the falcon nest and saw one of the youngsters doing the distinctive “falcon swagger” along the I-beam by the nest. It is an awkwardly endearing sight to see these creatures, who’s body’s are so perfectly fit to fly in the air, bow their heads down and rock side-to-side as they do their hopping rolling walk. The one that I could partially see had what seemed to be full plumage, so the time is soon for first flight. So said the other one too with actions of its own, in the form of wing flapping exercises in the nest. But for tonight they still awaited mom and dad to bring their last course of the day.

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