Full confession: this probably won’t be the longest post I have ever written nor will you read anything too profound. You will not learn anything new about squirrels (at least scientifically that is) but hopefully you will leave – as I did after these sightings – with a smile on your face.
Today I would like to celebrate the sunbathing squirrels of Londolozi.
It has gotten really cold here recently (bear in mind that that’s a relative term for us here in this region of South Africa who encounter temperatures upwards of 35°C (95°F) for most parts of the year). With the winter chill that’s currently in the air combined with being on an open land rover, moving along before sunrise we can be forgiven for thinking sometimes that we’re in the middle of an Alaskan winter, but in reality if some of us were just a little less stubborn and added a few more layers then we would be a lot warmer.
Nevertheless, there comes a time on most mornings when the sun has had a bit of time to warm the ladscape. It’s usually around this time that we find an excuse to stop, stretch the legs and cradle a hot cup of coffee with both hands. The big jacket layer usually comes off at this stage and a sunny spot is sought to thaw out. This is one of my favourite times in the bush. The feeling of the winter sun on your back and face provides the most contented feeling, which I believe to be a crucial ingredient to a perfect winter’s day out here. On the mornings that we don’t get an opportunity to stop I almost feel cheated and that’s when I get jealous of squirrels.
It’s not only us humans that require this dose of sunshine on these mornings, and as much as I love it I do believe squirrels love it more as is evidenced in these photos. On a few different mornings now as I have been driving around I have come across many a scurry of squirrels splayed out on the trunks of big trees. They look almost as if they are in a hypnotic state as they bask in the glorious morning rays. Some of them take turns to groom one another and others just grip onto the bark and stretch themselves out taking a moment to have a big yawn every now and then.
I can’t help but imagine how it must feel for them after a night of huddling close together for warmth in their respective tree holes to come out and feel that winter sun on their little bodies. It’s also very useful to us having them lying up in the trees in the morning acting as lookouts because of their distinctive alarm calls that they make when spotting a predator. It’s not always a leopard though as being the size that they are they have lots of different predators so it’s always interesting to go and investigate these alarm calls to see what’s raising the ruckus.
All of this is a great reminder to stop and take in the subtle gifts that nature has for us, like the joy and stillness that winter sunshine brings to so many. Time and time again out in the bush I am reminded that when you slow down to the pace of what’s happening around you that is when things start to work in your favour. If the squirrels are sunbathing then stop and enjoy it with them and you too will also become more aware of your surroundings and if you add a hot cup of coffee into the mix I can guarantee you will feel content.