Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Foxy Squirrel

It's New Year's Day, and predictably, the rabid - or is that avid - listers are feverishly ticking birds. Like racing Greyhounds released from the gate, birder-listers launch into forest and field first thing at the dawn of each new year, darting about notching marks on their checklist.


But why isn't anyone out there racking up a Big Mammal Year? This would be different; out of the box if you will.

If you embark on this furry quest, you will certainly want to add my personal fav, the Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger.

Dashing chap, eh? Those that live in regions that don't have Fox Squirrels are somewhat deprived. These giant orange-tinted mega-climbers are about as good-looking as it is possible to be and still remain a squirrel. Climbers extraordinaire, they nonetheless are rather Woodchuck-like in that they spend loads of time on the ground. Much more than the Eastern Gray Squirrel, our other large tree squirrel in this neck of the woods.

Bold and inquisitive, this shot was taken seconds before the squirrel leapt wildly at me, attaching to my neck and attempting to sever my jugular. Just kidding.

Although, compared to Gray Squirrels, these are quite the burly bruisers. Think Arnold as opposed to Richard Simmons. A whopper fox stuffed on a diet rich in acorns can dent the scale at nearly 2.5 pounds.

I was subjected to a few guffaws for taking this snap. We were on a birding expedition, you see, and there was precious little time to devote to orange-bellied brushtails like this one. Speaking of tails, like at the leaf-sweeper on this thing! Daniel Boone would have been proud to tie that to his cap.

But Daniel probably didn't see nearly as many Fox Squirrels as we do today. They are mammals of open country and scattered woodlots, and have spread eastward and proliferated following the opening up of the original eastern deciduous forest that blanketed much of the Ohio Country.

So, should yet another Big Year of birds bore you, try a MBY (Mammal Big Year). It'll be much more challenging, although adding the "Stump-eared Squirrel" - an abomination of a nickname - shouldn't be too hard.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

I about cracked up at your description of birders racing into the forest. It was so funny because my Hubby and I are some of those crazies. Ha...

I might just keep a mammal list this year. We have gray squirrels that frequent our feeders. Only an occasional fox squirrel comes around.

Happy New Year of Nature to you.

KatDoc said...

Happy New Year, Jim! On my "medium-sized day" Jan. 1 (when I got 48 avian species), I added the following mammals to my list:

White-tailed deer
Gray squirrel
and my Best Mammal of the Year - a mink (very cool!)

I saw a beaver in northern Kentucky (Campbell County) on Dec. 28, during the Cincinnati CBC, but I doubt I will be able to re-find it.

dAwN said...

Hi...I am a fairly new on and off birder...and have been following some birdie blogging sites for the past month or two...and I have to laugh when you mentioned the birders racing to the forests..I noticed tha blogs come the first of the year listed the first bird seen....I always had a life list...but never did i realize that birders had year lists...county lists...state lists ...etc.
This is a new and interesting world to me and I am always learning something.
Thanks for including my silly blog on your blogroll...
I have been enjoying your blog and all the great information you have for a while. i have to go think about making a mammal year list..Yikes..