Backyard Wildlife Drama, with Chipmunk (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 27 May 2021

Backyard Wildlife Drama, with Chipmunk

[Least chipmunk] This year, we've been lucky enough to have a chipmunk hanging around our garden. I feed a lot of birdseed on the ground or a platform feeder: most of the birds here seem to prefer ground-scattered seed to hanging seed feeders. Sometimes the ground feeding backfires: this year I'm buying seed at a furious rate because a flock of about 25 mourning doves have discovered our yard. I thought I liked mourning doves, which in recent years have seemed to be losing out to the larger white-winged and Eurasian collared doves ... but 25 is really too much of a good thing.

Where was I? Oh, yes, chipmunks. Usually they prefer the canyon's edge, about a mile away; we get rock squirrels here, but no tree squirrels and seldom chipmunks. So we were very happy when one took up residence here earlier this spring and became a regular visitor to our seed station, as well as running along the brick wall outside my office.

On a recent evening, we heard repeated loud chirps from outside the home office window that I didn't recognize as any of the common local birds. It turned out to be the chipmunk, chipping while flicking its tail up and down. The local version of "chip tunes"! (Vertical tail movements apparently confirm an ID of Least Chipmunk, Neotamias minimus.)

I called Dave over, and we watched for a while, speculating on the meaning of the calls. Was it a territorial display, intended to scare off other chipmunks? Or something like birdsong, an attempt to call a mate?

Then Dave spotted motion on the rocks near the little pond. Aha! The tail of a large bullsnake was just disappearing into the rocks. We hadn't seen the snake at all until it moved. I couldn't see anything but the tail, but the tail looked like it probably belonged to a snake easily big enough to eat a chipmunk.

We never did see the rest of the snake. There doesn't seem to be anywhere it could have gone without being seen, but nevertheless, when we went out to the garden to look, there it wasn't. I made sure to fill the birdbath before retiring for the night, hoping the 'munk would drink there and avoid the pond in case the snake was still there. (I should mention that we're happy to see bullsnakes. They're harmless to humans, and good neighbors. We just prefer they dine on the plentiful mice and gophers.)

I was worried the following morning when I didn't see any trace of the 'munk. What if it went for a drink and became a bullsnake breakfast? Fortunately, no: a little later in the morning, Dave reported seeing two baby chipmunks outside the bedroom window.

HOORAY! I'm still hoping to see these baby chipmunks for myself. Something cuter than an adult chipmunk? Is that even possible?

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[ 18:02 May 27, 2021    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

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