A Squirrel Obstacle Course 2.0: now with socialization!

Last year I wrote about Mark Rober’s pandemic-inspired foray into backyard squirrel watching as seen in his YouTube video on creating a squirrel obstacle course. He’s now revisited this topic a year later to improve on the course, creating a 9-part challenge for the squirrels in his Walnut Heist video.

As I explained in my post, the original video explored squirrel behavior using two perspectives: ethology, the study of animals’ behavior under natural conditions, and behaviorism, measuring behavioral responses to stimuli. In his new video, he also explores a third dimension, studying interactions between the squirrels as they navigate the course.

Returning are our four experimental subjects, this time cast in heist movie-style roles based on how they approach the course: Rick (the acrobat), Marty (the hacker), Frank (logistics), and Phat Gus (the mastermind).

Phat Gus, who last time turned out to be a pregnant female, is still my spirit animal.

So the obstacle course is even more elaborate this time and even incorporates the heist theme with some Mission Impossible stations. It is of course fun to see how the squirrels tackle and eventually overcome all of the challenges, but I especially enjoyed seeing how the squirrels interacted when more than one of them was on the course at the same time. They exhibited plenty of social behaviors, such as:

  • Stealing bedding from each other’s nesting boxes
  • Copying a jump/strategy that they watched another squirrel attempt first
  • Shadowing another squirrel in the air duct maze from the outside
  • Getting in a small spat when two squirrels were in a small enclosed space together
  • Mating behavior (we’ll keep it G rated here)
  • Social grooming (one squirrel grooming another)

This made me realize that despite seeing squirrels nearly every day of my life, I didn’t know all that much about squirrel social behavior. So it was fun to learn more about that while enjoying such an entertaining video. But I definitely wasn’t surprised this time at how quickly the squirrels completed their mission, making this obstacle course look easy!

Good job, Phat Gus!

Review: Other People’s Butterflies by Cora Ruskin

One of my favorite things about blogging has been meeting other writers and discovering some really great indie authors. I’ve been a reader of Cora Ruskin’s blog Cora Still Writes for a while, so I was happy to receive an ARC of her debut novel, Other People’s Butterflies. It’s contemporary YA with a fabulous protagonist and healthy dose of drama. Plus look at this gorgeous cover!!

Gwen Foster is a typical high school girl, dealing with school and friend drama…except for the part where she’s secretly collecting personal information on all her classmates, not to mention trying to figure out why, unlike her classmates, she has no real interest in kissing anyone. As Gwen is coming to terms with her asexual/aromantic nature, an unknown person starts dishing out all the dirt Gwen’s collected on social media. Can Gwen’s favorite character, a 1940s femme fatale super spy, show her the way to fix everything?

Although I read a lot of YA, contemporary YA is not my usual genre. However, from the first pages I was hooked on Gwen as a character. I loved her narrative voice (and her very British sense of humor), and her growth over the story felt very real. The suspense and mystery parts of the story were really intriguing, and I liked how the scenes with Gwen’s fictional idol are interspersed to create tension and further the themes of the story. Parts of the ending felt a little abrupt, but I think that was because I wanted to read more of Gwen!

I especially appreciated reading the perspective of an asexual character, which is not something very common in any genre of fiction. I liked the organic way in which Gwen came to identify herself by that label, and the difference it made to her to know that she wasn’t the only person who felt that way. I hope anyone reading this story and seeing themselves in Gwen will feel the same!

So if you like high school drama, spy stuff, childhood friends, Briticisms, and diverse characters, I highly recommend checking this one out! It’s especially great that it is releasing during Pride month. I look forward to reading more by Cora in the future!

Get Other People’s Butterflies on Amazon

Check it out on Goodreads

Lens-Artists Challenge #152 – Shades and Shadows

When I was in Spain, I had the opportunity to attend a bullfight. While I am not a proponent of bullfighting, I was able to appreciate it as a cultural experience. Tickets to the corrida are sold as “sol” or “sombra” meaning sun or shade, shade being the more expensive since you will be more comfortable!

We learned all about the steps and stages of the fight, from the initial parade of the toreros (above) to the capote or cloak (below), and on through the famous red muleta and the death of the bull.

You can find more shades and shadows at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #151: From Large to Small

What a unique challenge we have this week. Patti asks us to pick a color, then “start with a photo of a big subject in that color….and move all the way down to a small subject in that same color.” I’m going with my favorite color, blue!

Large

St. Augustine, FL

Water meeting sky gives a sense that the whole world is blue! It is such a calming color, is there any surprise that the people in these pictures are all gazing to the horizon? It’s just natural.

Washington Oaks State Park, FL

Medium

Sometimes a pop of blue can come up in unexpected places.

Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, OH
Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort, Orlando, FL

Small

There are not that many blue flowers around here, so I have to appreciate them when I find them!

You can find more colors from large to small at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

Fan Art Friday: Sunny Days in the Empire

Welcome back to our Star Wars coloring book club, where every now and then Kiri from Star Wars Anonymous and I color the same image to compare and contrast.  We’re kicking off summer with the next picture in the coloring book, this Imperial mandala.

Once again I had no plan for this one, just picking colors as I went. It came out fine! The colors are bright and summery. Check out Kiri’s version here, which is also bright and summery!

All the circles here, including the Imperial crest and the Death Star, reminded me of a kind of sun/moon/eclipse theme. This, in turn, got me thinking about the most famous moon in Star Wars…not the Death Star, but the Forest Moon of Endor. This moon has always been a bit confusing: is the moon named Endor, or is the planet it’s orbiting named Endor? The answer: both! Endor the gas giant planet has nine moons, the largest of which is also called Endor. The others are totally unpronounceable, like many things in the Star Wars galaxy. (Another moon is Kef Bir, which is featured in The Rise of Skywalker as containing some of the wreckage of the second Death Star.)

I don’t really have a point to this tangent, except that it’s weird for a planet and its moon to have the same name. But it’s definitely not the weirdest thing in Star Wars!

Happy summer everyone! Hope you have plans to spend some time in the sun with your loved ones.