Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Spermophiles have arisen

A number of us had a fabulous early spring field trip today, exploring various southern Ohio habitats. I took about 1,000 photos, and some are even usable. Our group found many noteworthy species of flora and fauna, and I'll share some of the highlights later.

On my return to Columbus, I stopped in a big prairie just south of Circleville to check on one of our most hibernatory of mammals; a true Rip Van Winkle. I figured if these furry little slumberers were up and at 'em, I could officially announce that spring has indeed sprung.

This 1,000 acre grassland harbors a fabulous diversity of birds and other animals. A Short-eared Owl was hunting not far from me when I made this photo, and the plaintive tew-tews of a Lesser Yellowlegs carried from high in the sky. But it was a small mammal I sought, in the mowed verges of this country lane.

Shazaam! One of the fuzzy little jack-in-the-boxes pops from its hole. A thirteen-lined ground squirrel, Spermophilus tridecemlineatus! This species is the easternmost of the prairie dogs, and has a scattered and spotty distribution in Ohio.

One of the squirrel portals that leads to an expansive underground labyrinth of tunnels and rooms. Thirteen-lined ground squirrels out-hibernate any of our other mammls, excepting possibly the jumping mice. The anvil-headed little gophers go subterranean in September\October, and don't arouse themselves until early spring. I suspect that the three or four squirrels that I saw this evening were enjoying one of their very first days above ground in 2012.

They're wary little buggers, but by sending out the right vibes, moving VERY slowly, and making NO sound, I've found that I can approach at least some of them quite closely.

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels rank high on our Most Interesting Mammal list, and I've written more about them HERE, should you be interested. Their presence topside means that spring has us in its full embrace, and winter is but a memory.


KaHolly said...

He certainly is a handsome little critter, and a welcomed harbinger of spring! Enjoyed your post and will be back for more. Have a nice Easter. ~karen

Jim McCormac said...

Thanks Karen, and happy egg-hunting!

Jared said...

My top to-see mammal in Ohio. I was given a location in Crawford Co. Will have to check!