Christmas day, and we sang, “We wish you a merry christmas and a happy new year!” on our way back home, yesterday, at Chaitraban. We had gone out for dinner, our family of four, and we were in a gay mood. Waggy, our dog was at the front gate, waiting for us. Shadow, the puppy was nowhere to be seen. Assuming that she must have gone on one of her many excursions in the village, we walked to the house. She was there, on the verandah, shaking her head with something in her mouth. ‘She must have found my gardening glove’, yet again, I thought with dismay, and I would never get it back. But then, I saw a tiny movement and realised to my horror that it was something alive!! At one shout she knew she had done something bad and dropped the tiny life at my feet. It was a baby squirrel! It was chirping very loudly, like a bird, from what I assumed, was sheer fright and panic. I quickly wore my glove and picked it up. It had not opened it’s eyes still and was really tiny. It was a perfect miniature though, with it’s fur nicely developed and glossy. We decided to do all we could to find it’s mommy.
Baby squirrels falling off a tree was not new at Chaitraban! In the beginning, five years ago, when we started building our permaculture landscape, there were no animals to be seen at all, simply because there was nothing for them to eat! With no trees and a severely eroded landscape, it was hardly a habitat for any animal, small or large. Slowly, in a couple of years, we started seeing the squirrels, coming to visit us, in the beginning, because the young trees provided protection from the kites, but later, because there was ample food supply of fruits and saplings we planted in the nursery. Once, they also devoured the precious seed stash to leave us nothing for the season! But it started raining squirrels after a while and they were everywhere! Slowly, we just got used to them and, in fact, loved them for their little antics that entertained us early morning while we had tea and in the quiet afternoons. Sometimes, we found a baby and we would keep a look-out for predators till the mom found the little tyke.
Once, we found a baby late in the night and we had to keep it indoors till morning. To our delight, early next morning when we brought the baby out on the verandah, the mommy was waiting for it. As soon as we stepped back, she ran down, first kissed the baby!! as if reassuring her that she was alright. Then she gathered the baby in her mouth, glanced at us as if to say ‘thank you’ and ran up a tree!! We were too much in shock to take photos that time. How brave the mother must have been to wait for a moment, even when she knew that we were watching!
There were many such occasions of baby squirrels and baby birds getting lost and going back to their mommies at Chaitraban. However, this time, the baby we found didn’t seem to be lucky. In spite of waiting for almost an hour, the mother was only looking and making a noise to let the baby know she was there. The baby answered her back in a surprisingly high pitch voice, almost shrill, so loud that it could be heard at quite a distance. Then, after a few more minutes, we saw the mother climbing down gingerly and coming towards the baby. We were really excited and watched with wonder. Just then! Before anyone could react, the mother squirrel jumped back and raised an alarm so loud that we were startled out of our wits, first, because of the shrill and loud tone, and then, more because we spotted a pair of eyes watching all this drama, from behind a planter in the front yard. The obvious point of interest was the baby squirrel. It was a mongoose! In a fraction of a second, as soon as the mongoose saw us looking at him, it made a dash towards the bushes. Such a relief! The mongoose was beautiful but this was no time to admire it’s beauty and grace. We had more trouble coming in…
We waited for another hour till the mother had the courage again, to come near the baby. Our hopes renewed and we eagerly waited for her to come and gather the shivering and squealing infant to take it back to safety.
But…again…another being made a serious attempt towards the baby. This time, it was a crow. It must have been watching us all this while from up a tree. We had not spotted it but it swooped down so fast that we didn’t have time to think. It was Shadow who saved it this time. Shadow hates the pesky crows because they are not afraid of her and go about their business, always, totally ignoring her barking. She had been sulking in a corner of the verandah all this time because we had tied her up after rescuing the baby from her mouth. Now, when she saw the crow, she barked so loudly that the crow was taken by surprise and flew a little distance away. But he still waited to make another attempt. Sadly, with all this action, the mother was scared away again and then, we didn’t see her till it was almost dark.
We were waiting patiently, losing hope, when we spotted a movement, again, between the planters and saw another baby squirrel slowly making it’s way towards the verandah! We could hardly believe our eyes! It was trying to follow the voice of the mother and the first baby. How did the mongoose or the crow not see this little one? It was real lucky or then, this one was God’s favourite and He had a special plan in mind.
We picked it up and kept it in the same basket, waiting for the mother to come to fetch them. We could only hear her cries occasionally and we kept a watch-out for crows and mongooses waiting for their prey. When it was really dark, and it was time for us to pack and leave for our home in the city, we couldn’t wait any longer. If we left the babies there, in the verandah, in a moment, they would fall prey to these opportunists and that would be the end.
Realising this, with a heavy heart, we picked up the babies and packed them for the journey home. We didn’t know a thing about how to take care of baby squirrels but if God had saved their lives, He must have planned for this too.
Feeling really sad for the grieving mother, but with an optimistic mind, we left from Chaitraban…
How did the babies do at home?…in the next blog…’Baby squirrels at home‘