05 January 2006

The Squirrels in St. James's Park

One of the tourist attractions here in London is the changing of guards at Buckingham Palace. A million billion people will turn up to watch the show, that is rather uneventful and boring.
Less than a hundred meters away you find St. James's Park. No changing of guards here, but hundreds of squirrels.

We live walking distance from St. James's Park and come through it when we walk into the town centre on week ends. We always bring a pocket-full of peanuts to feed to the squirrels. They are very tame and will feed directly from your hand. Sometimes they will even crawl up your legs to get to your nuts.... eh... that didn't come out right. What I meant to say was, they are so eager to nibble on your nuts that they will... oh dear... what am I trying to say here? I should make it clear that I'm talking about the peanuts that we brought along to feed to the squirrels. Ah well... I'll write some more and then come back to re-write this later, sure hope I will remember.

They know that they are cute, even though they are probably just rats with a good image and nice tail.
If you give a squirrel a shelled peanut it will sit down and eat it on the spot in a posture that will make every woman in a hundred meter radius go: "Oh! how cute!"
If you give it a whole peanut it will run off and bury it somewhere and then come back for more. I have read somewhere that Squirrels only ever find 10% again of the food they store this way. I can imagine this as they seem to have very short attention spans. If you spot a squirrel at a distance and hold up a peanut for it to see, it will start running towards you and halfway there it will forget what it was doing and suddenly shoot of in a different direction. If the squirrel then spots the peanut again, it will move in your direction again. It might get distracted three or four times this way on its way over to you.
Crows have been known to sit in trees and watch squirrels bury their food and then steal the treasure when the squirrel have moved on. In St. James park they are sometimes a bit more progressive. I have seen a crow watching a squirrel collecting nuts and as soon as it turned its back on the crow to bury the food, the crow would jump over and nip at the squirrel's tail, causing the squirrel to jump a meter into the air and then run away. The crow then have free access to the nut.

When you buy whole unshelled peanuts here they are called monkey nuts. I always thought they grew on bushes?

You can tell they are British by the polite way they queue up.

Want to know more?
St. James's Park
Monkey Nuts

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