Sunday, August 31, 2008

Morning Chipmunk

As I've been taking photos of the Thresheree for the club, I've been staying onsite. This morning when I crawled blearily out of my tent, I saw I had company. There was an Eastern Chipmunk, Tamias striatus, sitting on a piece of old weathered wood about 15 feet away. And unlike Chewy this Chipmunk did not bolt at the sight of me. He looked wary for a moment

Then picked up something and began to eat. Just like Pancake the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, Chipmunks are also omnivores. They eat grain, nuts, worms, fungi, bugs, plus bird's eggs. In a way, they are teeny avian predators who are sometimes eaten by larger birds themselves.

The something may be a kernel of corn as that is one of the grains that's grown on the property and looks about right from the little I can see. The other grains are sorghum and wheat, both of which tend to be smaller and more oblong.

Thresh is keeping an eye on me but he still isn't going anywhere. Eastern Chipmunks do stash food for winter and they are larder hoarders. They store all their food in one place, their burrow and live there until Spring. Whereas, some Western Chipmunks, there are 23 species in the west, can be scatter hoarders--a little here, a little there. (The only other Chipmunk species is in Asia.)

I must have moved a little too fast as he's stopped chewing momentarily.

Back to noshing, things must be okay again. Eastern Chipmunks have two litters a year, whereas, in the West, one litter is the norm.

While Thresh is looking for another tidbit, I'll tell you a tidbit I discovered about Chipmunks. I always wondered why mycorrhizal fungi, the fungi that helps many of our tree's roots to efficiently absorb water, didn't produce air spores to spread itself.

Chipmunks turn out to be the answer.

They are a chief starter of tree seedlings because of their food stashing habits. And part of the food they stash and never eat are the seeds for trees.

Well, it turns out that as the Chipmunks evolved along with the trees, the mycorrhizal fungi spores are dispersed by the Chipmunks along with the tree seeds that they cache. They have what's called a symbiotic mycorrhizial association with underground fungi and the underground fungi have since lost their ability to spread their spores through the air.

Thresh checks around for more breakfast.

Nothing else being apparent on his old log, Thresh gives me a last look before scampering down the side and disappearing into the foliage. Personally he's not in the least interested in the fact that he has a symbiotic association with anything.

Donegal Browne
P.S. My email box has been down for two days. It should be back in running order very soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Verry good pics, I cant wait to see the ones from the air of the steamers, keep me infromed. Ron