Season 1: Three Squirrels Assault a Hampton Birdfeeder

"The Squirrel Show" outside Dan's house, Photo: Dan Rattiner

My wife, Chris, and I have been binge-watching a show for the last three months. It’s called The Squirrel Show, it’s high drama, and every day there is a new episode. I highly recommend it, but unfortunately you can’t enjoy it. It takes place entirely on our front deck. But I can write summaries of some of the best episodes.

Season 1, Episode 1. Buster is a brown, furry squirrel who has lived for many years in and around the front deck of a house on Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton. In this episode, he watches as the couple who own this house—they look strikingly like me and my wife—erect a bird feeder hanging on a wire from a pole that sticks five feet above and slightly off that deck. In the past, Buster has only made cameo appearances once a week or so on the deck or its railing or scampering around. Now, as birds in increasing numbers discover the sunflower seed feeder, he’s there every day. Buster mumbles “Why can’t I get some of this?” (There are English subtitles.)

Season 1, Episode 2. From the deck, Buster sizes up the bird feeder. The seed is inside a clear, plastic tube encased in metal screening. Buster jumps on the railing for a closer look. The birds fly off as Buster arrives, but as he stays still to watch, they soon come back. Buster sees how the birds eat by landing on four short metal perches that stick out from the feeder and poking their beaks through the holes in the tube. They chirp happily. When they leave, the holes close but then reopen when the feeder feels the weight of the birds on the perches again.

Season 1, Episode 5. For the first time, Buster jumps from the railing to one of the feeder perches. The birds flutter off to give him room. Each perch is spring-loaded so when anything over two pounds steps on it, it collapses like a trap door. So it does that. Buster falls into the bushes.

Season 1, Episode 8. In Episodes 6 and 7, Buster keeps jumping and falling. But now he has a plan. Standing on the railing, he gets up on his hind legs, leans forward with his front claws out and grasps the bottom of the metal screening. He’s now a bridge between railing and feeder, but as the feeder sways away from the railing, he becomes confused, then terrified, then loses his grip and falls into the bushes.

Season 1, Episode 12. Buster makes a flying leap from the railing to the feeder with all four claws out to grab the feeder’s screening by its midsection. He then pulls himself flush with the screening, his tail swishing. He stays that way, swaying back and forth until strength gives out and he falls into the bushes.

Season 1, Episode 13. Buster leaps across to the feeder, and then quickly, before he gets tired, shimmies up the feeder screening, avoiding the perches and the closed holes until he gets to the shiny green metal top. He stands on the top briefly, congratulates himself, but then slips and falls into the bushes.

Season 1, Episode 19. Buster again shimmies to the top. There, using his hind legs to grasp the metal screening just below the top, he twitches his body repeatedly, hoping to gain enough power with his forepaws to get the cap to lift. For a moment, he succeeds, but then, as the top is also on a spring, it slips out of his forepaws and slams shut. After several tries, Buster loses his grip and falls into the bushes.

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Season 1, Episode 25. Buster jumps up on the railing. With him is a second, smaller squirrel, named Clarence. This squirrel, Clarence, is grey and has short hair. It’s easy to tell who’s who. Buster chatters “I can’t get the frickin’ top off. I keep falling into the bushes.” Buster hops over to the metal screening to demonstrate, shimmies up to try to lift the top cap off. Clarence sits on the railing, watching. Buster falls into the bushes. Clarence runs away.

Season 1, Episode 30. Buster and Clarence sit on the railing whispering, plotting and scheming. The subtitle says “(Inaudible).” At one point, Clarence eats some leftover seed that’s fallen on the railing because birds are sometimes sloppy eaters. “This is pathetic,” Buster says.

Season 1, Episode 38. Perhaps the best episode. Buster sits on the railing, watching Clarence, who, after staring at Buster briefly, shimmies up to the top, pries the top up with a forepaw, puts his head inside…and then the spring-loaded top slams shut. Clarence shrieks, pulls his head out just in time, but is so startled, he flies backwards over the bushes and into a potted azalia plant on the deck. Buster runs away.

Season 1, Episode 44. This is the last episode so far. It’s a warm, sunny day. Clarence sits on the railing alone, again watching the birds. He scratches his ears. There’s a woodpecker, a crow, several golden finches and a bright red cardinal. Buster hasn’t been around for the past six episodes. After a while, Clarence lays down flat on his stomach with his legs splayed out to warm his undersides on the railing. After a few minutes of this, this reporter emerges from the living room to engage in a staring match with Clarence. It lasts for 20 seconds, after which Clarence breaks it off, leaps off the railing and runs across the lawn to stand on the trellis.

As the episode ends, Buster appears at the other end of the lawn, bounding along with a third squirrel named Mick. “I’ve brought in an expert,” he shouts up to Clarence. Trotting with them is a tiny but very sleek chipmunk named Scout—he has two dark, furry stripes down his back, sort of like a miniature MINI Cooper.

The plot thickens.

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