by Suzanne Humphries
Did you know that grey squirrels eat hawthorn berries? No, neither did I.
I and my dog, walking in Sleepers, spotted a squirrel balanced way up in the top of a hawthorn tree, obviously some distance from its home tree. The squirrel saw us and froze.
“What are you doing up there?” I asked it but as we got closer I could see that the only possible reason for the squirrel to be where it was, perched so precariously among the hawthorn’s topmost branches, was the bright red hawthorn berries. I asked Google if grey squirrels eat hawthorn berries and Google said red squirrels do but grey squirrels don’t. I was not convinced.
The next day, I took binoculars with me and watched the grey squirrel eating the berries in the top of the tree. The slender fruiting branches bent beneath its weight but the reward was manifestly worth the risk.
The squirrel saw us while we were still some distance away and made a bolt for its home tree, skittering through the grass with its tail held erect and my dog in pursuit. The dog, unsuccessful but happy, came panting back along a clearly visible path worn between the squirrel’s home oak tree and the hawthorn: the squirrel had been a regular visitor for quite some time.
North American grey squirrels also like hawthorn berries.
The next time I walked through Sleepers with my dog, there was no squirrel in the hawthorn but there were many fewer berries on its top branches.
There’s always something new to see in the reserve if you look closely enough.