Here at The Edge of The Wood we noticed that chipmunks can talk up a storm. They can sound alarm calls for as long as 30 minutes but what are they saying? Scientists noted three distinct alarm calls, one of which is called a “cluck.” It is a very specific warning of an aerial threat like a red-tailed hawk. So if you hear a cluck, don’t think chicken…a chipmunk might be warning you to duck!
Here at The Edge of the Wood we noticed that in urban areas there are more black squirrels than gray squirrels. Biologists believe that black squirrels may have been the norm several centuries ago, before large-scale deforestation. Today’s woodlands are much less shady than forests used to be, and cities, with their tall buildings, may mimic the darker environs of the early continent. In environments with more sunlight, “squirrel gray” can offer better camouflage. In New York City black-coated squirrels blend in perfectly with the urban human population. … after all, a little black dress is always in fashion.
Cheek pouches are pockets on both sides of the mouth. They allow for rapid collection of food, but also serve as temporary storage and transport. Some hamster moms can hide their young in their cheek pouches to carry them away from danger. Other species are known to fill their pouches with air to make them more buoyant while swimming. Clearly everyone would be better with a cheek pouch, as this amazed song sparrow seems to express.
The tiny Song Sparrow on the right is a newcomer to The Edge of the Wood. She seems interested in the kerfuffle. This tiny sparrow is less than two ounces and may have come all the way from Mexico to join us. Her lovely song is a welcome addition to the morning chorus.
Scientists Milena Shattuck and Scott Williams studied tree dwellers versus ground dwellers and found that mammals who spend the majority of their time up a tree live longer than those who scurry along the ground. Trees can provide food, shelter, protection from predators….. and they’re a great place to raise the kids. Trees…you can never really have too many.
In the words of the great visual artist Chuck Close, “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work… But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you… Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” Here we have a chipmunk applying Mr. Close’s principles. We thank Mr. Close for his… uh… inspiring thoughts and enlightening works of art. Here at the edge of the wood we wish you all the joy of a job well done.
Here at the edge of the wood we have seen some goofy behavior. It looks like pure fun to us, but is it? Squirrel authority Richard W. Thorington states in Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide, “juvenile squirrels that engaged in more social play had increased motor skills…additionally, females that engaged in more social play as juveniles, weaned more young as yearlings than those females that engaged in less social play…(which) suggests that play behavior is essential to a squirrel’s physiological development, including neuromuscular control, bone growth, lung capacity and overall physical stamina and coordination.” Well, if that’s the case, anyone for a game of catch?
All of us at the edge of the wood wish you a lovely Thanksgiving celebration. Jennifer Saranow Schultz at the New York Times suggests NOT shopping on Black Friday. She believes the goods aren’t that good, the deals are mostly hype, the day encourages overspending and shopping doesn’t fit into the Thanksgiving spirit. May we suggest a brisk nature walk in the woods, a game of touch football, or baking a nice apple pie? Don’t forget to leave a slice out for the squirrels.
At the edge of the wood the squirrels and chipmunks are stocking up on the abundance of fall food for the long winter ahead. Everyone seems to enjoy the cool autumn temperatures, and frisky play abounds. Here the squirrels are among the newly ripe pumpkins and pears; flowering anise hyssop and globe amaranth, and hanging chokeberry bush.