Ken Terzian spotted a mysterious creature in his yard and captured it – with a camera, that is. Marjorie Rachlin fills us in on what he found.
Ken says: Lounging on the deck in a quasi-slumber at twilight, sounds from the forest change and sights are uncertain in the failing light. What creature was that, viewed from the corner of my eye, appearing and disappearing as an apparition in the night? As agile on the large trunk of the mature oak tree as a scampering squirrel, yet much smaller, white stripe, very large eyes… most definitely nocturnal.
Running a quick search online for animals in Rock Creek Park, I find no match. Another night, a repeat visit and continued mystery. Alas, caught on camera in a leap to the ground far below, yet landing unharmed, and back again. No longer an unidentified flying object.
Marjorie says: There are probably more flying squirrels in Forest Hills than we think. I learned from Wikipedia that they like a habitat like ours, with big old trees where they can find nest holes.
I have never seen one here, but that may be because I’m not out much at night. That’s when they forage, finding food using their excellent sense of smell. They aren’t picky – according to Wiki they will eat seeds, insects, snails, birds’ eggs, shrubs, flowers, fungi and tree sap.
These squirrels aren’t flying – they are gliding. There is a furry flap of skin on each side of their body that goes from the wrist of the front foot to the ankle of the back foot, and their body becomes a sort of parachute. The tail is used as a rudder and a brake. They launch from a tree branch and glide down to another.
The advantage of gliding is that it saves energy by shortening distances (you don’t have to run down and up trees). Maybe more important, it keeps the squirrel off the ground, where it could encounter a number of predators, including cats.
This video shows flying squirrels in action.
We would love to hear from our readers: Do you see flying squirrels – or have a nest?