Feeder Watch – June 23, 2017

Author’s Note: Happy 400th post to me!

Things have picked back up at our feeder after a lull that resulted from running out of seed and buying a brand my babies weren’t familiar with – at one point, we had three open bags of seed, but we’re back to serving their favorites and all the usual suspects have returned. Last Saturday (the 17th) saw the return of our male goldfinch to the trees around our apartment, but sadly he has not visited the feeder. He was pretty elusive last summer, only appearing three times, so I’m not surprised he hasn’t come around much. Last Sunday, in Amherst, I was walking with Bill and we saw a solid black squirrel   which I had never seen before. A gorgeous creature, and rare to be sure, so I hope it stays out of the street.

The biggest news that I’ve got to share is that I can now officially confirm we have two chipmunks who visit our feeder. I had my suspicions because the one that has been visiting since last year always runs away to the left when he’s done collecting seed (ok, no clue if he’s actually a “he” but we named him Chet anyway) and recently we’ve had one that runs off to the right toward the tree line that separates our apartment lawn from Route 47. I wanted visual confirmation because seeing them one at a time is kind of like how you never see Clark Kent and Superman in the same place at the same time, and last Saturday, I had it. Chet was doing his thing, and the smaller/newer chipmunk ran up behind him and goosed him before chasing him in a circle. Makes me wonder if we do indeed have a boy and a girl chipmunk. They’re solitary creatures until mating season, which is it now, so I just wonder. I read somewhere that chipmunks can have a litter of between two and eight, and as little as a chipmunk is fully grown, I can’t imagine how tiny the babies must be. This past Wednesday (the 21st) I had the day off and was watching the feeder as I cleaned the kitchen. Since we’re in the basement, I have a direct line of sight to the creatures who visit us, and I watched as the new chipmunk ran off along the tree line (again, no way to know if she’s a “she” but we’re calling her Sheila). I had assumed that she lived somewhere in the mulch pile, but I was wrong, She actually runs along the tree line and cuts across to the building behind us, staying close to it as she returns home. They were both quite busy at the feeder so I decided to see if I could find their burrows when I went to put out fresh water.  I was looking to see if I could find a hole where Sheila might live, and when I turned back to the feeder,  I saw Chet running off, and I followed him at a respectable distance so I wouldn’t freak him out. He lives in a hole a bit further away from the feeder than I thought he did. I stepped back from it and waited to see if he’d come back out again – he popped his head up and when he saw me, he dove back into the burrow. Having found his home, I turned my attention back to Sheila. I waited until I saw her running toward me, and found (much to my surprise) that she actually lives in a hole between an old dryer vent duct and the building.There’s a mesh screen over the pipe so she can’t get hurt or stuck trying to climb into it, and it seems impossible that she can squeeze into the tiny space in the bricks, but she can. I backed up a bit and watched her and she came out and ate some seed while sitting on the electrical box. At first, I wondered why she doesn’t just run straight across the lawn, but I suppose it’s too open and could leave her vulnerable to predators if she did so. I’ll post photos of their homes when the weather breaks and I can get outside without risking getting hit by lightning. I can’t decide which is crazier, that I spent so much time tracking chipmunks on my day off or that I had so much fun doing it.

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