It's coming to the end of my time here in Buttonwood Bay (I leave on Thursday) and I thought I ought to give 15 minutes of fame to the most common critter in the park......well apart from those tiny ones of a flying nature which have not bothered me as much as I feared they would.
In one of my first posts from here last year I mentioned that I had been taking sunset photos down by the lake late one afternoon and once the sun went down, the mozzies came out and found my tender Brit skin to their liking. After only a few minutes of painful snapping, I was left looking like a teenager with rampant acne and I vowed never to give them the opportunity to repeat the meal.
Using a combination of moving pretty much non stop (looking like Patrick Litchfield on E) and running off like a big jessie as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, I've managed to get lots of sunset photos and still remain almost bite free ever since that infamous afternoon.
No the critters I want to highlight here are the squirrels who populate most areas of the park but come out in numbers down by the lake - and mostly at sunset.
I can only assume they have become used to the residents who gather by the waters edge to celebrate the end of each day (or more likely that they've survived another day) by sitting in their golf carts and watching a light show that nature does so well.
It used to be that many residents would feed these squirrels and so they'd actually jump onto the carts and practically take the offerings out of hands.........probably nipping a few arthritic fingers in the process.
This practice was frowned upon and we were told to desist in no uncertain terms. They were becoming pests (the squirrels, not the residents) and it was only a matter of time before we'd lose a resident to their sharp teeth.
But no one thought to tell the many friends, family and guests who came to the park and stayed for a while.....especially over the holidays.
I saw numerous instances of feeding going on and it's hard to chastise a grandson or granddaughter when they look so cute covered from head to foot in squirrels.
The young Davy Crocketts would squeal with delight at being surrounded by these critters and many a doting grandparent had their work cut out chasing them away with the ends of their walking sticks or, as I witnessed on one hilarious occasion, by zooming around after them on their golf carts. It was a scene worthy of a Monty Python sketch and will remain vividly in my mind for years to come.
So the other day I headed down to the lake and had the whole wooded area to myself to start with. I sat down on one of the picnic tables and waited. Like in a scene from a Disney movie, one by one the curious little squirrels came out from wherever they'd been hiding and came towards me. Now remember we're talking Disney here and not Hitchcock or Stephen King so there were no demonic red eyes to be seen anywhere and even less slobbering/drooling going on. There wasn't any creepy shrill violin music either. It was all a very enchanted forest, chocolate box sweet sort of occasion and while most of the squirrels darted about with little aim or purpose, some went on with the things that squirrels do best - scratching themselves, digging up or burying food, scratching themselves and did I mention scratching themselves ? Well they did that a lot.
In fact this particular squirrel (see above) managed to multitask by trying to stare me down while at the same time it's rear leg was going like the proverbial fiddlers elbow.
In this first shot, the stare had been going for about 30 seconds and was becoming quite disturbing to me.
I've seen a few movies where people die and return as animals (the excellent, if somewhat sentimental Fluke being my favourite) and I was starting to believe this squirrel was trying to send me a message.
I was very pleased when it started to have a good scratch as I took this to be a sign that nothing of a human nature was going on as humans would never sit at a picnic table, stare off into the distance and scratch themselves. Well not without a beer and several burps anyway.
I used a slow shutter speed to highlight the speed of movement going on at the back and this only emphasised the rock steady stare going on at the other end.
When one made it all the way along my table and up to my left elbow, I decided it was time to move on. I'd given them 15 minutes of my time and now they've had 15 of yours.
That should be enough for any budding squirrel celeb.