When Squirrels on the Fire Escape Become Family
Photographs by RETO STERCHI
Text by GREG HOWARD
JUNE 8, 2017
The New York Times
Reto Sterchi and his wife, Cortney Buczkowski, live in Astoria, in a second-floor apartment with a large fire escape overlooking an alley. They furnished the escape with rugs and pillows to lounge on. Eventually, wind tumbled the pillows and rugs over one another into a pile on the landing. Last fall, two squirrels burrowed underneath.
Mr. Sterchi first started photographing the squirrels — running along nearby power lines, balancing on the rail — to show their friends. They soon realized that one was male, with a small notch in his ear. They named him Chip. The other had a noticeably short tail. They called her Little Tail.
“They lived with us the whole winter,” Ms. Buczkowski said. The squirrels packed their den with leaves and branches and dug tunnels to come and go. The couple put out food for the squirrels. (Pecans were their favorite; Cheerios less so.) The squirrels were intelligent. Whenever Ms. Buczkowksi lifted the screen, they ran down the power lines to the window, expecting food. The couple began thinking of their wild neighbors and photo subjects as members of the family.
Chip and Little Tail disappeared once winter broke. But in early May, Little Tail returned. She had two babies in tow.
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MY TOP 5 FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT NY HARBOR
1. Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City by Leslie Day
2.Heartbeats in the Muck by John Waldman
3. The Fisheries of Raritan Bay by Clyde L. MacKenzie Jr.
4. Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate
5. The Bottom of the Harbor by Joseph Mitchell