Showing posts with label squirrels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label squirrels. Show all posts

September 13, 2018

What I Found in the Woods on Wednesday

First there was the jawbone. I went to check the cameras at Ringtail Rocks (more coming from them — you saw the sexy skunks, right?) and there on my usual route was this mandible. The size and shape said "fox" to me, and the Internet tells me that is probably from a red fox, not a gray fox. Both live on that the ridge.

"Digested" grass.

At another time, I was coming down with The Dawg, not taking our usual path, when I saw this large clump of partially digested-looking grasses (compare to pine cones). My first thought was "stomach contents of a deer or elk," but there were major problems with that.

No one has been hunting up there during bow season. Second, if there had been any carcass or gut pile, said Dawg would have smelled it and run like an arrow straight to it, because there is nothing he loves more than Dead Things. That close to our usual path, I would have smelled it too.

So where did these tightly clumped grasses come from? They had a look of nesting material too. Had someone — perhaps someone of the ursine persuasion — dug out a wood rat's nest? I looked around but did not see any such disturbance.

Sorry about the backlighting, but the sun was not yet
over the ridge to the east (behind me).
Aha. The grass was part of a disintegrating squirrel nest, probably Abert squirrels, since they are all over these pine woods. Here's a great read on the relationship between squirrels, fungus, and trees.

The only difference is that 98 percent of our Abert squirrels are the black (melanistic) color phase, not the two-tone variety seen in Arizona and New Mexico.

March 10, 2017

Nuts to You, Says Abert's Squirrel

Abert's squirrel in ponderosa pine.
Everyone thinks of squirrels as caching nuts (thus inadvertently planting trees), but not the Abert's squirrel of the Southern Rockies and Colorado Plateau.

They just eat their favorite tree, ponderosa pine, which happens to be my favorite tree too, although I rarely eat any parts. (The pollen is a tonic, though.) Colorado Parks and Wildlife says, "Abert’s squirrel does not hoard food, but eats whatever part of its host tree, ponderosa pine, is available in season: cones and inner bark of twigs."

Many are a sort of salt-and-pepper grey (like these), but in southern Colorado they are mostly black. I think I have seen one grey one near the house in twenty years.

This degenerate squirrel has abandoned its healthy wild lifestyle
to eat sunflower seeds under the bird feeder.
Its name is one of those 19th-century "Westward the course of empire" relics, for it is named after James William Abert—explorer (Corps of Topographical Engineers), artist, and Civil War staff officer.

James William Abert
As Lieutenant Abert roamed the West in the 1840s, his proud father wrote to John James Audubon, "My son, Lieut. A., has some taste for Natural History. He has just returned from Santa Fe, having been on General Kearney's expedition. . . "

Together with collecting specimens, he also discoursed in the 19th-century manner on color theory for artists interested in natural history.

You can see Lt. Abert's reconstructed room and sketchbook at Bent's Old Fort, where he (and Everyone who was Anyone) stayed c. 1846.

December 22, 2011

Blog Stew for Carnivorous Squirrels

A geologist explains the formation of the "teepee buttes" of Pueblo and El Paso counties (Colorado).

• I cannot think of any job more frustrating (assuming that one took it seriously) than to be director general of  Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency. On the other hand, the news about Persian leopards is surprising.

• Myths about carrying concealed weapons. There is one that I tend to be guilty of too.

• From National Geographic, the economic and conservation effects of hunting:
 When you buy a camouflage camisole ($24.99) from the Ducks Unlimited catalog, a portion of the proceeds goes to conservation projects. If you visit Bozeman, Montana, and buy a pair of Schnee’s Pac boots, you will find a tag dangling from the laces, along with a promise that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will receive some of your money for elk conservation projects.

“It’s the hunters who keep most of these species going,” said Jim Clay, a middle school English teacher, hunter, and maker of turkey calls in Winchester, Virginia. “They put in the money, and they put in the hours. Hunters really care about what happens.”
• You probably did not know that sometimes squirrels are carnivorous.

March 04, 2011

Time-lapse Amanita

Time-lapse video showing changes in the cap of an  Amanita muscaria mushroom, found on Raven's Bread, the Amanita blog. Note the Abert's squirrel.

March 03, 2009

An Abert's Squirrel Eating Sunflower Seeds

Abert's squirrel, March 2009, Photo by Chas S. CliftonThis Abert's squirrel is unusual in two respects.

First, it is in the bird feeder, making it only the second Abert's to have gone there. I blogged earlier about the trail-blazer squirrel.

There is a black one hanging around with this gray one (courtship?)--and maybe that is the same black squirrel that I previously photographed.

Which brings me to the second oddity: All that I ever see in southern Colorado are black-phase Abert's squirrels, so this one's coloration is unusual for our area. Obviously the genes for the two-tone coat must be present in the black population.

February 25, 2009

The Learning Curve of Squirrels


M. and I have lived here for 17 years, and we have had bird feeders up all of that time.

During those years, fox squirrels regularly pillaged the feeders for sunflower seeds. Abert's squirrels, although they live all around us, never visited the feeders (that we knew of).

As the Division of Wildlife's squirrel page notes,

Fox squirrels eat fruit, nuts and buds, and bury nuts for winter (and because they are forgetful, they plant a lot of trees). Abert’s squirrel does not hoard food, but eats whatever part of its host tree, ponderosa pine, is available in season: cones and inner bark of twigs.

So it was until this week, when one Abert's squirrel has discovered sunflower seeds. When I took the photo, it had just climbed out of the feeder and descended to the ground to feast on spilled seeds.

Has this one parted with the hallowed traditions of its tribe?

October 20, 2008

A Bulletin from Camera Trap Spring

I planned to start deer hunting close to home this afternoon, but the weather was not cooperating.

Before the season started, M. and I had hiked over the East Ridge and replaced the batteries in the camera that I had placed a few days earlier at a tiny seep that I call Camera Trap Spring (original, eh?). The first two-day placement had produced no images at all, but there is not much water in that little valley -- something had to show up at the spring.

Today was cool and misty. Just when I was ready to head out for an evening sit at the spring, rain and thunder started. I decided to just hunt/hike over, fetch the camera, and come back.

When I reached the spring, I saw that the camera's (rechargeable) batteries were dead. That could be good, I thought.

Back home, I downloaded the pictures...


An Abert's squirrel. Multiply this image times eight or so. It was one active squirrel.

A pine squirrel had also been visiting the spring. There were multiple shots of it as well.

A gray fox showed up about 9 p.m. Thursday night.

But whoa! Look who stopped by for a drink in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Was this thirsty bull elk the reason that the water level in the seep had dropped? Sneaky guy -- he is hanging around in this patch of deep forest all the time, I bet, and coming out to feed by moonlight.

July 21, 2008

Blog Stew with Kenaf and Squirrels

¶ I thought that every rural deputy sheriff could recognize marijuana plants -- but evidently not in Mississippi.

¶ Squirrels: Are you with them or against them?

If suburbanites painted murals on their walls like those on the Lascaux caves, you would see plenty of squirrels.

¶ I wonder how the sleepovers with sheep are going? The reader comments on this one are amusing.

¶ Ken Salazar will push the Brown's Canyon Wilderness Area bill. The Backcountry Hunters & Anglers have been active in support of it.

¶: Die, tamarisk, die. Some good reports from the Grand Junction area. (Via Coyote Gulch.)

¶ The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States spend most of their donations on further fund-raising. You were surprised?