Saturday, October 21, 2006


The early visitor to the railing and birdfeeder this morning was the chipmunk who lives in the western corner of the garden behind the little blue house in the village. Another chipmunk (the eastern chipmunk naturally) lives under the garden shed in the eastern corner of the garden and also visits the birdfeeder frequently.

I have titled this photo "western chipmunk", but both of my bright eyed and bushy tailed friends are members of the eastern chipmunk tribe or tamias striatus. The word tamias means "steward" in Latin and striatus means "striped", thus eastern chipmunks are recognized officially as small furry stewards of the good earth, although the title probably has more to do with their hoarding of nuts and seeds for the winter than anything else. We could certainly do with a few more custodians of this wondrous planet which we are so busily engaged in turning into a great midden, a muckle and a trash heap.

Eastern chipmunks are one of the larger members of a subfamily which includes several other species of chipmunks and a wide assortment of marmots, ground squirrels and tree squirrels. Solitary, aggressive and very territorial by nature, they inhabit ground burrows in all sorts of places and prefer their own company, but I was fascinated to learn recently that from time time they come together and sing wonderfully (or chant) as a chorus. I think of them as the little monks in my garden.

Watching the resident chipmunks stuffing their chubby cheeks (pouches) with seed for the approaching time of the long nights is an entertaining exercise in the morning when I am enjoying my first mug of coffee. The small striped people scramble into the hanging bird feeder at high speed frisking their tails about, and they brook no interference from the ubiquitous sparrows and other rodents like the squirrels.

This morning, my friend chased three cardinals, two squirrels and a jay, a handful of mourning doves and a congregation of sparrows away from the railing and the bird feeder, and he (or she) briefly considered having a go at Cassie as well. Being a German Shorthair Pointer and an enlightened doggie soul, my darling little brown girl went into a thoroughly elegant point and simply waited for the chipmunk to come to its senses.


Endment said...

Your "western" chipmunk is wonderful! Guess that makes my chipmunks "southern" or at least "south-eastern" :)

one of our little horders proceded to snatch seeds while a large brown bear was licking the remains from pulling down a feeder... Like Cassie - the bear looked at the chipmunk and went on eating :)

Rowan said...

No chipmunks in UK though I have seen them at my aunt's house in Montreal. We have the native red squirrel here which is now very rare and also very beautiful. The rareness is due to them being ousted by the introduced grey aquirrels which are everywhere in huge numbers. They are welcome to the beech mast and acorns in my garden but the birdfeeders are all caged now because the birds were getting hardly anything. If the weather is really cold in winter I do put out handfuls of seds and nuts on the ground for them though.

Rowan said...

Sorry about the rare and previously unknown species, the aquirrel!:) Hands going faster than brain there!

Maya's Granny said...

Ah, I've never seen a chipmonk in Alaska, although I loved watching them when I lived in California. They are delightful and busy little creatures, enough to cheer a sould completely.

Anonymous said...

Hi kerrdelune

We have chipmunks here on Long Island, but I rarely get to observe them. The dogs on the property chase them and bark at them as they disappear into the wood piles.

I've been thinking today of getting a bird feeder for the winter. When my parents were alive they sat at the window with binoculars and simply observed. It was a quiet kind of joy.

I worry that my cat will kill the birds somehow.

I really wonder, kerrdelune, how you manage to keep the blogging instinct in check. You seem to spend so much time in nature, and yet your presence here on the Net is so strong. It's something I'm struggling with. Must I go on a long hiaturs like Endment?

silverlight said...

One summer when I was still a kid at home, we had to hand raise a Chipmunk. He was an Allen's Chipmunk. We named him 'Napoleon'. Because he took us over.