The two red squirrels and a couple of red-backed voles join the picnic. The second red squirrel, a male, is just as quick to assume I am harmless as the little female who has been coming for the last four days.
Burdock wanders off to nap on his step again, and Dangerous Dan wanders up from the south end of the ledges. He takes a meandering route, and then settles down for a snack. Little Fuzzy comes down from the woods, the first time I have seen her away from her den. She is now more curious than alarmed by me, and came along quickly when I said hello and hummed to her.
The sun is setting when I hear the crunch of leaves and another porcupine comes up through the woods from the south, and I finally have a good look at one of the other adult porcupines. This one is brown, but with a helmet of dense white quills, and is the largest. When he arrives at the place where the dozing Burdock blocks the path, he sits up to consider the situation. Burdock raises a big whiny fuss, and to my surprise, the big porcupine circles wide to find another route to come up toward the upper ledges.
I wonder if, rather than adhering to a dominance hierarchy, porcupines in this group claim whatever space they currently occupy, and it takes a great deal of determination on the part of another porcupine to get them to move. This large porcupine is next blocked by Dangerous Dan and then Little Fuzzy, before finding a path that leads to the apples an acorns right next to me. I don't fuss a bit, and soon this porcupine is sitting calmly right next to me eating an apple. He is likely a porcupine I have been making deliveries to for the past several years, but is not a porcupine I have seen clearly before, except for three nights ago. What a trusting beast!
Now, in the dark, I hear the humming sounds of porcupine greeting. The littlest porcupine arrives. I am amazed at how tiny this one is, but maybe not much smaller than the little porcupine Dandelion encountered on her first day of freedom. None of the other porcupines offer friendly greetings when they arrive. I wonder if this porcupine's mother is here? The littlest porcupine climbs up onto the rock where Little Fuzzy is eating an acorn. Little Fuzzy gives a mild rebuff. Dangerous Dan heads over to wear Quirinus and I are sitting.
On his tail is the littlest porcupine, Wee.
This little porcupine explores the area, walks over to me, gives a couple of sniffs, strolls beneath my knees and heads down to check in with Burdock, who squeals a few times. The littlest porcupine sniffs at an apple, but does not take a bite. He nibbles at some peels discarded by a big porcupine. He seems most interested in Little Fuzzy. The two sit right in front of me for a while, with the littlest taking a keen interest in what LF is eating. Wee and LF are nose to nose, both of them whining and squawking, but neither with much aggression.
None of the porcupines here returned Wee's greetings, and the only one missing tonight is the one I think is Big East, who I suspect is a male, so like Burdock and Little Fuzzy, this juvenile must just be here because it is clearly the place for porcupines to be, at least for the winter.