Friday, April 21, 2006

Eastern Chipmunk Tamias strictus

The scientific name, Tamias, means ‘steward’ in Latin.

I like this connection to the busy chipmunk who picks up after the messy birds and gleans the leavings of the other critters. Frequently, the chipmunks will come in early morning and clean the mess that was left on the deck from the birds feeding the day before. As you may have guessed the name “chipmunk” refers to the chipping “chip-chip” sound they make.

These bright-eyed little guys are a delight to watch – scurrying around the deck, diving in and out of rock piles where they have built passages. They are out on any day that has the slightest hint of spring warmth. Even when there is snow on the ground they will brave the cold if the sun is shinning. Two white stripes bordered by black run down each side of a central gray stripe decorating the middle of his reddish-brown fur coat.
Most of the eastern chipmunk's diet is made up of nuts, acorns, seeds, mushrooms, fruits, berries and corn. It also eats insects, bird eggs, snails and small mammals like young mice. The eastern chipmunk doesn't truly hibernate, but it does spend a lot of time sleeping. It may wake up every few weeks to eat the food it has stored. The books say that in winter, it stays in its den, however some of the chipmunks who live here, haven’t read the book. On every sunny day they are out gathering seeds left on plant stalks or filling their pouches till it looks like they must burst if they put in one more sunflower seed. The females give birth in spring or midsummer, producing litters of two to eight young. Like other members of the squirrel family, chipmunks are naked, blind, and helpless at birth.

When walking around the property we usually have one or two chipmunks eyeing us from under a rock pile or on occasion one will hide in a drainpipe. Chipmunks are ground-dwelling squirrels. They spend most of their lives at or below the surface, although they will also climb trees. Their extensive burrows are up to 12 feet long and may include a storage chamber, sleeping room, dump, and latrine, along with several concealed entrances. The pantry holds up to half a bushel of nuts and other food, all carried there in the chipmunk's outsized cheek pouches.

The Chipmunk
Ogden Nash
My friends all know that I am shy,
But the chipmunk is twice as shy as I.
He moves with flickering indecision
Like stripes across the television.
He's like the shadow of a cloud,
Or Emily Dickinson read aloud.

23 Comments:

Blogger Lorianne said...

I love that final pic of chippy in a drainpipe!

8:55 AM  
Blogger kerrdelune said...

Beautiful photos and a beautiful little fellow - I wish my little guy would make his presence known.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Gin said...

Aw... (I'd say "aw, what a sweetie" if their diet didn't also include some of my flower bulbs.) That is a darling picture, though.

11:45 AM  
Blogger GreenishLady said...

Your photographs are so sharp, I feel like I am there. I love these.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

god you snap the best photos and these little chippies move FAST-- how do you do it?

I love knowing their name comes from steward-- love that.

~bluepoppy

12:44 PM  
Blogger Cynthia E. Bagley said...

cute cute... I love your description of these animals. We had chipmunks and squirrels near an orchard. With the birds, they could strip a tree in an hour or two.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Rexroth's Daughter said...

What an adorable little creature. I was reading a post over at Roundrock the other day, and Pablo had posted a photo of empty peanut shells and other seed detritus that had been deposited outside of some critter's den entrance. It was probably spring cleaning its home! I find it so interesting that their dens have so many pathways and different rooms.

Love that chipmunk in the drainpipe. That's quite a shot!

2:46 PM  
Blogger HoBess said...

I learn so much each time I come here. Thank you! This poem was an especially nice way to wrap up your post. Happy Weekend!

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Cindy said...

I have an innate fondness for these little creatures, what a sweet photo. We were fortunate enough to have a melanistic chipmunk for 3 years. He made the news and was the first to be documented ever in Michigan. The first one was ostrasized by the rest of the chipmunk clan and was pretty beat up- but last year we enjoyed a beautiful baby black chipmunk, right up until the short-tailed weasels found them :(
I love the poem and photos.. and if you'd like to see 'blackie' (I name my little friends) you can view a photo of him at my pbase gallery, if it's not down for maintenance.. he was special and the coolest thing is, unlike the first blackie, blackie jr. had siblings to play with :)

well shoot, I just checked, and pbase is down.. will send you the link another time.

(I've since received many emails from others who have viewed their own little 'blackies'.. it seems they occur in the northeast and Canada.)

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Cindy said...

I just found the photo on my server- will post real quick to my blog, just for you :)

11:02 PM  
Blogger LauraHinNJ said...

Love the poem and that last pic is just darling! I don't get chipmunks in my yard - not sure why.

11:06 PM  
Blogger Tim Rice said...

Ah, chipmunks are always so cute to see and watch. Love your post.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

Your post brings back memories of our little guy under the front porch (which is also right next to the bird feeders)
He got "almost" tame and we enjoyed him so much...and then we got to witness a spectacular red tailed hawk land on our porch, and carry off our little chip. Sigh.
"Stewerd" is a fitting name for these guys.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Gwyn said...

We usually don't see these little guys in our yard, though one was trapped in our window well a couple summers ago.
My boys managed a rescue, and fortunately understood that cute though it may have been, it would not be happy as pet.

I always enjoy their antics. Lovely photos. I especially like the one peeking out the drainpipe!

1:27 PM  
Blogger Sigrid Jardin said...

Delightful photos and chipmunk lore. I miss them, and they remind me of my childhood on the East Coast, where chippys lived in abundance. Here in Santa Cruz I never see them.

5:23 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

These pics were so cute...I loved the little guy hiding in the drain pipe. The poem you chose was fantastic as well. Beautiful job as usual dear.
a.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Endment said...

lorianne
isn't he cute. I never know when I am going to turn a corner and have one peeking out at me.

kerrdelune
Hope your little chipmunks come out of hibernation soon.

gin
they do eat a few things I would rather they leave in the garden ... I have a friend who uses small mesh wire for all her bulb plantings. (sometimes it works :)

greenishlady
would love to have you come sit on the deck and watch with us

bluepoppy
yes these little guys move fast but for some reason they seem to have been in the mood to pose for the camera.

cynthia e. bagley
They are hardy eaters- I have been surprised - we still have some berries on some of the bushes left from last fall.

rexroth's daughter
found a pile of shells behind our storage unit on the deck... Must be a clean out since it is only shells.
He was back in the drain pipe today - guess he feels safe there.

hobess
thanks for coming by again and for the good wishes for this rainy weekend.

cindy
thanks so much for posting the photos of the melanistic chipmunk - he is so cute ---

laurahinny
I suspect there are a number of us who have a few chipmunks that they would be happy to have visit your bunnies on a permanent basis :)

tim rice
they are cute - in small doses... they can be nearly as distructive as the gray squirrels if they don't have adequate food.

susan kailholz-williams
by the end of the summer they will be coming up on the deck and looking for a handout whenever we sit out in the yard chairs Sorry about your little friend

gwyn
It is so fascinating that in this area we have lots of chipmunks yet we have no English Sparrows (Knock on wood) There really is good habitat for them here and lots of space.


Sigrid Jardin
It really is quite different - I spent several years at LaSelva Beach and it seems almost like a different world.

andrea
thanks for stopping by and for your encouraging comment

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Claude said...

We don't have chipmunks in Europe. I saw my first chipmunks a long time ago when I was in the States. They are quite different from our squirrels. Thanks for these great photos.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Cynthia Padilla said...

No chipmunks here in my southern USA backyard so thanks for sharing the information and the delightful photos!

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3:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have one of these little fellas in my backyard(surprise), and he comes right up to our glass dorr to eat the crab apples from our tree that fell last year. I bet that i could get some nice pictures... but I can't post them online.

Bummer.

Anyway, all of these pics are ADORABLE!!!

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you don't mind that I used that ah-dorable poem for my research project. Don't worry , I'm not stealing your work or anything. I'm in seventh grade and we have a Research project about animals and I need a poem or a song about my animal, which is obviously a chipmunk.

7:58 PM  
Blogger therb1006 said...

Wow !! Great pic !!

We have been adopted by 2 or 3 chipmunks ... who really seem to love the attention of our 10 year old son !!

If he does NOT go out in the morning and feed them (he leaves seeds, nuts and other treats) one will sit up on the fence post and call up to the window at us !!

9:56 AM  
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3:00 PM  

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