Backyard Olympics: Lessons Learned from “Rocky”
As the Olympics drama unfolds in Tokyo, a lesser known, but still dramatic event is taking place closer to home. Yes, it is the Backyard Squirrel Olympics. I know, you will not find it in your cable guide. Nevertheless, it’s here!
Let me give you some context. When I put up my Covid-19 backyard bird feeder system, I did extensive research about how to deter unwanted critters. What else did I have to do? I read articles. I watched squirrel videos on YouTube where people attempted to deter the acrobatic critters. Based on my research, I measured out distances squirrels can leap with my yellow, Stanley 25’ Lever Lock tape measure. Feeling confident, I installed my feeder system based on expert research.
You can probably see where this is going.
All was great for 15 months. Fifteen months of peaceful, squirrel free existence for my feathered friends and the other visiting wildlife like deer, wild turkeys, and the occasional bob cat.
Then, as the song goes, along comes Mary. Or maybe Rocky – as in – Rocky the Flying Squirrel. She/he/they aren’t saying and I’m too polite to ask.
Fun fact – the voice of Rocky was June Foray, a talented actor who was born in 1917 and lived to be 99. Her career encompassed radio, theatrical shorts, feature films, television, records, video games, talking toys, and other media. Explains a lot; I think I’ll go with Rocky.
My first hint that something was amiss was when the bird seed started to disappear faster than normal. I also put out a small dish of peanuts attached to the pole for the Blue Jays. Now they do take quite a few to feed their babies, some days it’s a peanut caravan for the pair as they back and forth from feeder to nest. The evidence was there in discarded peanut shells. Not what Blue Jays do.
Anyway, back to the Olympic trials.
Based on those clues, I started to watch closely. Sure enough, I see Rocky taking off from the top of my pool screen. It is at least 10 feet, according to Stanley. I do not know how many attempts Rocky made before a successful landing was made. I did see a couple of dramatic misses and some successes.
You must watch this video. Although it left me Not Amused, I concede that it is a stellar performance. My scoring gives Rocky a 9 out of 10. The dismount needs work, so one point deducted.
I can think of a lesson here. The squirrels are smarter than the “experts.” Or at least they do not read the same instruction manual and just get on with it. Obviously, they did not sit around during Covid watching YouTube. If they did, they would not even attempt this death-defying flight.
Also, there is plenty of real, nutritious, regular squirrel food around. On average there are 1.5 oak trees for every house in my neighborhood. Granted bird food is nutritious, for birds, but something inside this little backyard would-be Olympian would rather take a risk – to throw themselves off the roof, literally fly down and catch a small, narrow rod then twirl around a few times before becoming upright.
Maybe they, like our Olympic athletes, yearn to be the “best” at being, well, a squirrel. If I get the opportunity, I’ll do an interview.
What’s next? Is this a one off, highly motivated, slightly weird squirrel? Will Rocky be training more to make up a team? Go back to YouTube for more research? With Delta variant around, there’s time.
I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, we have our USA Summer Olympics team to cheer on. I give them all a 10!
P.S. No squirrels were harmed when writing this story. At the time of this story, Rocky is alive and well, taking a Great Course in Advanced Trigonometry and waiting for the next Amazon truck, hopeful for more peanuts.
Diane White, MA, PMP, earned advanced degrees in information technologies from George Washington University and education from USF. She has been managing projects for over 25 years in the information technology and telecommunications industries. She joined OLLI-USF in 2008 and has taken OLLI courses in art, art appreciation, architecture, music, great books, science, nature, literature, and leadership. She is a member of OLI’s Tech Squad, teaches a variety of technology courses, (She is an OLLI Roll of Honor Instructor) and is OLLI Connects’ technology contributor and consultant.