Day 440: Random Observations

Another day, another post, another title that I CANNOT BELIEVE I am using for the very first time, especially since “Random Observations” could easily be the name of this blog.

Shall we begin, observing randomly?

I’ve been hearing and seeing a lot about red squirrels lately, including this lovely blog post (with several wonderful red squirrel photos) by Nick’s Nature Pics. Also, I just stumbled across 20 fascinating facts about the red squirrel, thanks to

  1. The estimated population of Reds in the UK is thought to be 120,000 with 75% of these living in
  2. Red Squirrels have four fingers and two toes on each paw.
  3. Red Squirrels can locate their buried food supplies in over 1 foot of snow!
  4. It is thought that the Red Squirrel made their way to the British Isles from mainland Europe at
    the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 10,000 years ago!
  5. Red Squirrels shed their coats twice a year, switching between a thinner coat in summer and a
    darker, thicker winter coat.
  6. Males may live in an area of up to 17 hectares of woodland… that’s about the same size as 34
    football pitches!
  7. Squirrels do not hibernate, but bury plentiful supplies of seeds and nuts in the ground to eat in
    the winter.
  8. Red and Grey Squirrels cannot breed together.
  9. Grey Squirrels transmit the deadly squirrel pox virus to the Reds. Greys are immune and are
    only carriers.
  10. Young squirrels are called kittens. They are blind for the first 3 to 4 weeks of life and are born
    without hair and teeth!
  11. Females can have 2 litters of 3-4 kittens per year
  12. Only 1 in 6 Red Squirrels sees its first birthday due to premature death after birth, disease,
    starvation in winter or through being eaten by large carnivores or birds of prey.
  13. Adult Reds weigh 250-300gms. They put on about 12 per cent of their body weight in the
    autumn (in fat) in readiness for the cold winter ahead.
  14. The body length of a fully grown male is 20-22cm and its tail length is 17-18cm.
  15. The life span of a Red Squirrel is on average 3 years although in captivity they have been known
    to live for up to 10 years!
  16. Squirrels live in twiggy nests called dreys, situated mainly in the trees. This prevents attacks
    from ground predators like foxes.
  17. Red Squirrels are good swimmers!
  18. Red Squirrels often build more than one drey per year, they move out when fleas become
  19. The Latin name is Sciurus Vulgaris.
  20. Red Squirrels and their dreys are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

So why am I starting out, in such great detail, with red squirrels, today?

  1. For some reason, Michael has been giving me updates about red squirrels lately.
  2. I’ve never seen a red squirrel, in person (or “in squirrel”), so they are inherently more fascinating to me than grey squirrels, which I see all the time.
  3. I have readers in the UK, so I am shamelessly pandering to them, this morning.
  4. Look at the title of the post, people!
  5. I spotted a white squirrel, yesterday.


That’s not a great photo of the rare white squirrel, so you might not be able to observe its habits, including food choices. This is what I noticed yesterday:  The white squirrel likes cupcakes, especially with green trimmings.

Here’s the next thing I randomly observed:


Bunnies are starting to pop up, which is a sure sign of spring.

I am now going to show you photos I took yesterday in a pet supply store, which Michael and I stumbled upon in our Saturday ramblings. But here’s a warning: Beware the ideas of Ann, which can take flight AND get stuck on very odd things, including …

Cat Toys.

Yesterday, I was wondering: What ARE the manufacturers of cat toys thinking, when they choose the items they assume cats are going to want to play with? (Notice how convoluted and confusing that last sentence is, probably due to the cognitive distortion of mind reading, involving both human AND feline brains.)

Let me explain, with photos:


This makes some sense, because it’s a mouse. But is a cat likely to play with a blue mouse, which does not occur in nature?  Again, it’s difficult to know what a cat is thinking, but if I were a feline, I would avoid a mouse that (1) has turned blue and (2) has cheerleading pompoms instead of paws. Who knows? Maybe cats would love to chase that. Perhaps I’m projecting, because of some unresolved feelings about (1) death and (2) high school.

Nevertheless, I still suggest you beware the ideas of cat toy manufacturers, because — compared to other cat toys I saw yesterday — that pom-pom-yielding blue mouse was particularly non-random:


A pig?  Do cats ever chase pigs?  And is “glittering” a market advantage, for this cat toy?


Okay. I know that cats chase other cats. I observe that myself, almost every day.  But is a cat likely to chase this toy, especially when it looks so …. sad? And look at this offering from the same cat toy company:


Dogs?  Do cats chase dogs? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?  Although, I’ve never owned a dog, so maybe this occurs more often than I’ve observed.

I don’t think anybody is going to argue with me, though, about these dubious subjects for the following cat toys. That is, I’m pretty sure that domestic cats NEVER chase these animals:





I don’t even know what that last creature is, but I think cats might resist that toy, too. Somehow, I think cats aren’t interested in anything trying so hard, to play with them.

It was around this point in my cat-toy exploration, that Michael interrupted me, saying, “Did you see that enormous bird, in the back?” Again, this was a pet supply store, so — not expecting  real animals — I immediately envisioned another cat toy, but of unusual size.

But, no.


And there was Baby, in person (or “in macaw”):





As I did with the parrots I met in Panama (see here and here), I had some complicated reactions to seeing Baby encaged. And, by the way, Baby was definitely larger than those Panamanian Parrots; like Michael said, this bird was enormous.  But, we spoke with the woman who was working at the pet supply shop, that day, who told us reassuring things about Baby’s birth, history, and freedom to roam around the store on many days.

It’s still tough, for me, to see a magnificent creature encaged. And for Michael, too.

Maybe that’s why we turned, later, to the topic of red squirrels.

I see that this post has come full circle. And I’ve run out of photos from yesterday, too.

So what feels left unsaid for me, now?

Yesterday was the Ides of March.  And I am happy to report a Personal Record.  That is, on 3/15 of this year of 2014, ANN KOPLOW FINISHED HER INCOME TAXES, a full month ahead of the deadline!



Is it appropriate for me to be celebrating this, right now, when:

  1. Many other people complete their taxes way ahead of time, every year?
  2. Yesterday, I failed, again, in finding a cat toy my cats might be interested in pursuing?
  3. I don’t know if Baby — or the red squirrels, for that matter — are really doing okay, out there?

Should I be joyful?

Well, considering:

  1. That my questions included cognitive distortions (including comparisons to others),
  2. I used the very unhelpful word “failed,”
  3. There are no “shoulds” regarding feelings and emotions, and
  4. The very helpful Serenity Prayer


(image found here)

… I choose to be joyful, today.

Thanks to Nick Hunter, Robin Hill,  creatures of all colors and sizes, manufacturers of cat toys, people who get things done in March (and any other month of the year), and to you — of course! — for observing today.

Regular readers may notice the lack of footnotes in this blog, lately. For anybody who misses those, here’s a different kind of footnote:

photo (85)

As you can see, one sock keeps coming off at night (as I’ve written about before: here AND here, believe it or not). Maybe, in two weeks, I’ll ask professional observers about that, during my sleep study at the hospital.

Is that too random?

Categories: humor, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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28 thoughts on “Day 440: Random Observations

  1. Your posts inspire me. That parrot is super awesome too.

  2. In random order, I think:

    I have noticed way more black squirrels in Syracuse of late. They seem to peacefully co-exist with their gray brethren.

    I do believe that pet accessory companies worry more about enticing the dollar-holding human than the toy-playing animal.

    I now wonder if you have two matching socks of any color, Ann.

    My dear wife Karen and I had our taxes completed yesterday, too. Yikes!

    • I don’t think I’ve met black squirrels up until now, Mark.

      I agree with your assessment of pet accessory company marketing strategies.

      Don’t worry about my socks; they’re fine.

      Congratulations, to you and your dear wife, on the tax completion. And sorry to hear about the Yikes factor.

    • Black squirrels are (in species) grey squirrels; it’s just a color change in their fur that makes them look different. And apparently popular, too; the black kind has taken over in mid-Michigan to the point that there’s really no finding grey-colored grey squirrels. (There are grey-colored fox squirrels, but that’s a different species.)

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  4. Ann Novek posts regularly with images of two red squirrels who frequent her yard. I like these little fellas a lot and have gotten used to expecting to see an image or two of them every few nights.

  5. A pair of black squirrels has moved into our attic, so I can now verify that black squirrels also like to dig stuff up ((like paper-backed attic insulation) and bury things, only they seem to like to do it in the middle of the night. I am often awake in the middle of the night, so I worry a little bit about our new wiring. (We paid a lot to have the ancient knob and tube stuff removed when our house was condemned, so wiring is something I don’t take for granted anymore and I wouldn’t want to see it chewed up by teething baby squirrels.

    But mostly, I think how awesome it is to have squirrels in the attic (and it’s really the attic and not a euphemism for my state of mind).

    And I think that you are awesome for wanting to buy your cats a toy. I wonder what they would think about a blue mouse? But, have you ever tried one of those plastic rings that go around the necks of 4 litre jugs of milk? Those things that come off as soon as you open the lid? One of my friends mailed me some from Detroit for my cats, and they were a big hit. She used to send me some every few months until we stopped buying our milk in glass bottles and started buying milk that came with the free cat toys.

    I would love to see a red squirrel again. We used to have them in Montreal when I was a kid, as I recall, but in BC we seem to have grey squirrels and black squirrels, with the black ones often looking fairly ratty and unkempt and the grey ones being quite fat.

    • This comment inspired me to check out what black squirrels look like and they … are … so …. cute! Now I want to have some as pets and get plastic milk rings for them to play with.

      And I think the cats would think about the blue mouse the same way they think about all the other cat toys here. They would show polite interest at first and then chase other things around our place (including my feet and each other).

      • Guess what? Not joking at all here — I just looked out my kitchen window and there was a big, beautiful, chubby RED squirrel sitting in the middle of the yard, looking at me.

        I have not seen a red squirrel since leaving Eastern Canada many years ago. Is it a coincidence that you posted about red squirrels and then one showed up in my yard? No. A red squirrel could not have run from Boston to the west coast of Canada in the time since you wrote that post. Not even along power wires.

        This is a magic blog red squirrel. I am going to feed it pecans and filberts and take what it says very, very seriously.

      • Thanks to you and this magical, lucky squirrel. Keep us posted.

  6. I love red squirrels.

    One got in our house one day many years ago. My husband grabbed our dog, a huge German shepherd who had a keen desire to taste squirrel. I opened the back door and grabbed the broom to shoo Red out. In the midst of total pandemonium with Goliath’s legs and mouth looking like Scooby Doo’s, the squirrel stopped panicking. He stood on his back legs and just looked at me with big sad eyes.

    I did manage to shoo him out the door, but I will never remember that beautiful face, resigned to a fate he, luckily, did not meet!

    • Great story, Elyse. Thank you for saving that beautiful red squirrel with the big sad eyes. And for commenting on this post today, too.

  7. A great post Ann.
    I have seen several red squirrels here in Spain and few gray. In the area in Denmark, where I did live at last, we had mostly black squirrels. They are wonderful animals.
    I remember to have a picnic some years ago and while I looked around in the nature, a squirrel close to me looked at the food. I took some fruit and hold my hand against the squirrel and it came down and took the pieces of fruit from my hand. A beautiful experience as I never forget, even it is about 14 years ago now.

  8. love photos cute animal toys love it!

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