Just after noon today, there was a strange noise outside my mother’s bedroom. It sounded like someone was trying to get into the house, though the noise stopped suddenly.
I looked out the sliding door to the screened porch, and saw a classic love triangle being played out, animal-style. Clinging to the screen, upside down, was a large female Sciurus carolinensis, an Eastern Gray Squirrel, and a significantly smaller male, who was obviously attempting to seduce his lady-love.
At the same time, he was fending off the advances of another male, who was perched on the curve of the aluminum downspout and was trying to stare down male #1. Both males were switching their tails threateningly and chattering at one another, though #1 was far more aggressive with it. Periodically he’d leave the female’s side to rush toward male #2, shouting threats and whatnot, then he’d dash back to his woman, who seemed frozen to the screen, tense and unyielding.
Now, it was clear that all three of them saw me. I went out onto the porch so that we wouldn’t lose any more precious air conditioning to the Florida swelter, and they all stared openly at me. But hormones make us bold, and when we are in the grips of something so primal, we care little for convention or circumspection.
After a while, male #2 ran the length of the screened porch—amazing how solid their footing is on such flimsy material as nylon screening!—and ended up directly opposite the couple, likewise upside down. He soon tired of making his challenge from afar, and watched them from the bougainvillea bush, neatly avoiding its thorns.
Male #1 began his seduction in earnest. He sidled up next to the female, then nibbled at her ear, then put a gentle paw around her shoulder. She was unmoved.
He snuggled into her, nuzzled her neck, stroked her back. She pulled back and—I kid you not—slapped away his paw with hers.
Undeterred, he nibbled at her ear again (successfully removing a mite or other bug, apparently), and began a soft “chip-chip—wheeeeze, chip-chip—wheeeeze” that seemed to soothe and entice her. She unfroze, and moved closer to him, but kept her tail tightly down, denying him further access.
Immediately male #2 left the bougainvillea and ran across the roof of the screened porch, then jumped into the fragrant jasmine bush at the end of the house. At first I thought this was the beginning of another confrontation, but it was actually his exit strategy.
The song of love continued, and the female melted, slowly descending the screen; the male was glued to her side. They gently hopped to a chair on the stoop, then quietly slid to the ground. At last, the long-awaited sign: her tail flipped up. And together they crawled under the platform of my gas grill, a very narrow (but considerably more private) space.
I heard a few last chip-chips, and a little rustling, but they were otherwise most discreet in their lovemaking.
Gonna find my baby, gonna hold her tight;
Gonna grab some afternoon delight. . . .
Sky rockets in flight. Afternoon delight.