The excitement never ends here at the edge of the woods. Yesterday it was freaked out squirrels and chubby doves. Overnight? The racoons have learned how to move the feeders back towards the deck. This brings an end to suet for a while because those clever devil raccoons have figured out how to get what they want even though we have striven mightily to make it difficult.

What can you do about a smart creature who also has thumbs? Take away the expensive food. And only put out enough food for one day at a time. I think the flying squirrels are emptying out the hanging feeders, the raccoons are eating anything the flying squirrels don’t eat including the suet. All told, by morning, everything is empty. Not a seed or a crumble of suet remain, though there are always seeds on the ground near the deck because I drop about a quart — sometimes two quarts when I think we can manage it — on the ground for the squirrels, chipmunks, doves and this morning — my first ever sighting — two Ruffed Grouse. I threw them some extra seed, so of course they went back into hiding. But now that I’ve seen them, I’m sure they will be back.

Ruffed grouse are well-established in New England, especially in Massachusetts. We’ve had conservation laws pertaining specifically to grouse since 1708, probably one of the first-ever conservation laws.

Grouse can be difficult to see since they are the very bottom of the food chain and spend their lives hiding. Their dappled feathers make them almost invisible along the edges of the woods where they nest. They seem to be the tastiest feathered treat for foxes, hawks, and bobcats. Also people. We have two or three local grouse shooting clubs close enough to hear their guns.

I do not have pictures of the grouse. I was out there to feed the birds, so I wasn’t loaded for photography. I did spend a few minutes carefully memorizing the feathers and size so I could identify them later. Although I’d never seen them live, I was sure they were grouse. Grouse and grouse hunting are a “thing.” One form or another type of grouse live (there are about a dozen variations on this continent) in 38 U.S. states (minus Hawaii and apparently Florida) as well as in every Canadian province. There are grouse all over England, Scotland, and Ireland plus Europe and Asia. It’s probably the most easily recognized bird you’ve never seen.

Nutty Squirrel is my first attempt at a character. He may be the same character as the squirrel in his tree. Or not.

The antics and changes in bird and animal life around here are getting more interesting every day. Now that I’m working at drawing them, I got an idea this morning. A project. To create a “children’s” book — illustrated — with a story, though really aimed at adults, but using words simple enough that a thoughtful child could also read and understand it.

I don’t have the kind of software I used to have which was intended for book design, but I think maybe Adobe Illustrator might work. I’ll have to see if it can handle text as well as page headings and numbering. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to look elsewhere. There has to be something other than Framemaker, a great product I can’t afford.

It’s will also take a while to come up with characters, not just illustrations. I need a squirrel or two — maybe a red one and a gray one. A chipmunk. Various birds. The Duke. I haven’t yet even tried to draw a chipmunk. They are next on my list.

If I can do this, it will take up a lot of my time. Just drawing the pictures, creating a story, and figuring out how to make this all fit on a page will take time. I’m still in the thinking stage. I may decide it’s more work — and more expense — than I can handle.

First, I’ll do the research. After that, I’ll see how it develops.

Categories: #animals, #Sketchbook, #Squirrel, Anecdote, Arts, Drawings

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4 replies

  1. I was thinking yesterday that you might create a children’s book with your birds and squirrels! The squirrels today are great!


    • Thank you very much. I’m also good at taking advice. I really appreciate your suggestions. I’ve thought for a while that I was “over-drawing.” Part of it was just using too much color and part of it was trying to make pencil drawings look like paintings. I think if I want them to look painted, I’ll have to really paint 🖼️

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  2. I Googled ruffled grouse and watched a video of a grouse ‘drumming.’ Wow. That is something to see–and hear. Very pretty bird, too.


    • You hardly ever see them unless you’re hunting and have a dog who “springs” them (Springer Spaniels!). Otherwise, they rarely come out into the open. But I put seed down on the ground and it’s right at the edge of the woods where they usually nest, so I guess it was irresistible. They are very pretty, but mostly, it was a big surprise to have them suddenly walk out of the woods and start eating. For all I know, they’ve been coming and going for a while and I’ve missed them.

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