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Squirrel photographers: Grab your cameras and start shooting

Two squirrels in Alexandria, Va.
Two squirrels in Alexandria, Va. (GERALD HERBERT/AP)

Do squirrels get the coronavirus? I sure hope not. My 10th annual Squirrel Week is fast approaching, and I would hate for anything to put a damper on the festivities.

As in years past, I want your photos of the adorable, destructive, clever, maddening, cute, evil critters for my yearly Squirrel Week Squirrel Photography Contest. I’ve been amazed at the quality of entries over the years and I hope you’ll keep it up.

I want Richard Avedon meets Annie Leibovitz. I want Gordon Parks meets Dorothea Lange. I want a squirrel Weegee: Squeegee. I want decisive squirrel moments evoking Henri Cartier-Bresson.

For complete rules and instructions on how to enter, visit, but in a nutshell, each image should be no larger than 5MB and sent as a JPEG attachment to Please put “Squirrel Photo” in the subject line.

Provide whatever caption information you like, as well as your name, email address and phone number. Don’t submit images that have been heavily manipulated with software. Anyone may enter, but only legal U.S. residents over 18 are eligible to win a prize.

That prize is a $100 gift card and publication in my column. The deadline is April 6. Squirrel Week 2020 begins April 12.

Flight line

Squirrels are visible year-round in the Washington area. (Gray squirrels, anyway. Chipmunks are squirrels, too, and they hibernate.)

Hummingbirds are seasonal visitors here, arriving in the spring and leaving in the fall. In my Monday column, I mentioned filling my hummingbird feeder with nectar. Some readers pointed out that it’s probably too soon to hope for a visit.

That’s probably the case. The website hummingbird­ keeps track of where the birds are popping up. The nearest appearance so far was reported by birders in Callao, Va. — about 100 miles south of Washington on Virginia’s Northern Neck — on March 3. “Earliest sighting ever!” they wrote.

It’s easy to make the nectar: one part sugar to four parts water. Some people boil the water first. It’s important to change out the nectar every other day or so. And you don’t need to add red food coloring to the nectar. Flower nectar isn’t red.

In the bag

When it comes to lost luggage, the Kelly family has been pretty lucky. In the past, whenever the great roulette wheel of the airport baggage carousel has stopped spinning without one of our suitcases, the bag has been found and delivered a day or two later.

Not anymore. Last week My Lovely Wife, Ruth, was on one of her frequent business trips, a jaunt that took her to London, Amsterdam, then back to London, then back home. She brought a roll-aboard suitcase that she didn’t intend to let out of her sight. But at Heathrow Airport for her KLM flight to Schiphol, the clerk told her she’d have to check it.

And that was the last Ruth saw of her red Tumi.

Our fingers are crossed for its eventual return but, worryingly, KLM asked Ruth to describe the suitcase’s contents, perhaps the first step toward making monetary restitution for items that will never be recovered.

Ruth went to the airline’s website and used a drop-down menu to list what’s missing. She felt there weren’t nearly enough choices for shoes. (Shoes are to Ruth as orchids are to the rainforest: near limitless in their profusion and variety.)

But the best part? One of the options in the jewelry section — along with ring, earrings, bracelet and the like — was “crown.”

I feel sorry for any European monarch who checked her ermine-bordered, jewel-encrusted diadem only to arrive at her destination without it. It’s hard to be a head of state without the proper headgear.

Spit happens

If the fear of a pandemic leaves us all with a newfound appreciation for washing our hands and covering our mouths when we sneeze, that’s a good thing. Maybe it will persuade more people not to spit in public.

I saw a guy do that the other day as he waited to cross 14th Street NW: just casually expectorate a globule into the gutter.

Maybe that was acceptable in the Old West, but it’s not the sort of behavior we should tolerate today. I feel weird even raising it — don’t spit in public, duh — not least because I know it won’t do any good: No one who reads this column would be so gross.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit