Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Delmarva Fox Squirrel: A foxy squirrel indeed

A while back, I posted an image of a sensational rodent, the Delmarva Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus), HERE. Seeing this jumbo was high on my list on a trip to the Delmarva Peninsula region of Maryland and Virginia. I met with much success, and here is a bit more of a pictorial essay on the handsome beast.

Here's an Ohio specimen of the Fox Squirrel, and it's a fine-looking mammal. The largest of our tree squirrels, it is distinctive with those bright orangish tones in the pelage. I made this image on February 15 of this year in Lorain County, Ohio.

Here's the Delmarva Fox Squirrel, a different subspecies of the aforementioned Fox Squirrel which is markedly different in appearance. It's every bit as large if not larger and is characterized by its stunning silvery fur. Note the little stub ears. This one is eating the remnants of a pinecone, in much the manner that someone would eat a cob of corn.
PHOTO NOTES: I first encountered Delmarva Fox Squirrels at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, near my base camp in Cambridge. Over my visits there, I saw about five squirrels - and one Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus caroliniensis). However, I quickly learned that the big silvery fellows are often quite wary, and none of them allowed me shots. Even after I wised up to their behavior and general wariness, I still didn't have much luck with close approaches at Blackwater. That all changed at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. All of the shots in this post were made there. I think the squirrels just see many more people there and are somewhat habituated to us. After spending several hours slowly hiking along the Woodland Trail there, I had several nice encounters with squirrels. I'd often hear them in the leaf litter before I saw them and would quietly sidle into position for shots. The animal in the above photo was the first one I managed to photograph. He had the good manners to sit in a pool of sunlight in an otherwise shadowed woodland understory. It was like a stage light was shining on him. I was using my Canon R5 mirrorless camera and the Canon 400mm DO II with 1.4x extender (560mm) for all of these shots. It's a fantastic rig for handholding and allows the operator to work fairly far from the subject.

I'm forever looking closely at snags in the hopes of seeing a roosting owl, and that's how I noticed this squirrel. It was cold on this morning, and he was sunbathing. Note how the pelage looks whitish. Could be just the way that the light was striking it, or it may be an older animal.

This is a typical Delmarva Fox Squirrel dray (nest) in a broken-off tree snag. I also some drays out in the open in branches which I assume were also of this species.

As part of the recovery plan for the formerly federally endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel, nest boxes like this were placed in suitable habitats to provide additional nest and roosting sites. I saw a number of these boxes at Chincoteague. The squirrels take readily to them, and the animal sunbathing in the previous photo was using this box.

The Delmarva Fox Squirrel was included on the federal governments inaugural list of endangered species, released in 1967. This distinctive and charismatic subspecies once ranged commonly throughout the Delmarva Peninsula region, including parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Primarily due to habitat loss, the population contracted to the point that perhaps only 10% of its original population remained.

They favor mature woodlands - often mixed deciduous and pine - with mostly open understory. Habitat restoration and targeted reintroductions into favorable locations increased the population significantly over time, and the Delmarva Fox Squirrel was de-listed in 2015. Still, I believe it is only found in limited parts of Maryland and Virginia now, and no longer occurs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

I spent a lot of time quietly observing the squirrels, thoroughly impressed with their size and beauty. It was also interesting to see firsthand their behavior and diversity of diet. The woodlands that I saw them in had plenty of greenbrier (Smilax sp.) and this relative of the Lily Family (Liliaceae) still had many fruits clinging to the thorny stems. That's what this squirrel is noshing on, and I saw others eating greenbrier fruit.

It's a testament to the Endangered Species Act that the Delmarva Fox Squirrel still survives, and at least locally, thrives. The world would certainly be a poorer place without these jumbo silvery rodents.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Upcoming talk - April 9, Delaware, Ohio

I'm giving a talk on Saturday, April 9 for the Delaware County Master Gardeners. It's in Waldo, Ohio, home of the G & R Grill and the world's most famous brats! I share the slate with Julie Zickefoose, who will be speaking habitat transformation and Blue Jays. My talk is a pictorial trip around Ohio, featuring a diverse cast of flora and fauna, and their roles in ecosystems.

All are welcome, and it's sure to be a fun time. The venue is the Barn at All Occasions, right off U.S. 23, not far north of Delaware. For registration and further information, go here: Maximizing Ecological Diversity in your Ohio Garden and Beyond

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Bertalan "Bert" Szabo: December 4, 1920 - March 22, 2022


Bert Szabo, in the field. A legend among natural philosophers, Bert spent an incalculable number of hours afield over his 101 years - far more than anyone who will read this has. And far more than any of us probably will. Always the consummate gentlemen, Bert was a pioneer in many ways. He was among the first formally titled naturalists at the infancy of the establishment of local park districts and many of his ideas led to programs and interpretive tactics still commonly in use today. The product of a life well lived, insatiable intellectual curiosity, and darn good genetics, Bert remained active to near the end.

Bert's full and informative obituary follows:

Bertalan Louis Szabo (“Bert”) passed away on March 22nd, 2022 at 101 years of age. He was born in Lorain, Ohio on December 4th, 1920. Previously a resident of Hudson, he lived in Munroe Falls, Ohio for the last 45 years. He is survived by four children: Judy (Floyd) Aprill, John (Rosario) Szabo, Suzi (Phillip) Gard, and Mark (Vianna) Szabo; nine grandchildren and fourteen great grandchildren.
Visitation will be held at Dunn-Quigley Funeral Home, 3333 Kent Road in Stow, on Friday, March 25th from 4:00-8:00 pm. A funeral Mass will be at Holy Family Catholic Church, 3179 Kent Rd, Stow, on Saturday at 9:30 am.

The family has requested that remembrances be made in the form of contributions to Sieberling Nature Realm, Summit Metro Parks, 975 Treaty Line Road, Akron, Ohio, 44313.

A neighbor, Mr. Green, first introduced him to nature at the age of four. As a teen, he roamed the woods along the Black River and French Creek in Lorain County, admiring the birds and wildflowers.
After high school, Bert worked in a steel mill and soon discovered that was not his life’s calling. He found Ohio University much more to his liking. After three years there, WW II intervened. When the war was over, he returned to school, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and masters in plant pathology.

After several agriculture related jobs, Bert began his professional career as manager of the Western Reserve Academy’s Evamere Farm in Hudson in 1951. In 1957, the Akron Metropolitan Park District (now Summit Metro Parks) hired him as an Area Manager. The following year, he began to present interpretive programs about nature in addition to his managerial duties. In 1963 his position was officially changed to Naturalist. After helping thousands of park visitors of several generations to identify, appreciate, and better understand the flora, fauna, geology, and history of the park system, he retired as Chief Naturalist at 71 years old. Toward the end of this career, the unique nature center building that he helped design (located in the F.A Seiberling Nature Realm) had finally opened.

Bert was involved in the creation of Summit Metro Parks Fall Hiking Spree. From its inception in 1964, Bert’s nature walks helped to promote this novel idea. Approximately 600 hikers participated that first year and received a wooden hiking staff. Over the years, the Hiking Spree continued to grow and now attracts nearly 40,000 participants yearly. Of those original 600 original hikers, 12 completed every Hiking Spree up to the 50th anniversary. Of course Bert was one of them!

Since Bert’s retirement he has stayed in close touch with Summit Metro Parks as a volunteer. He organized the park district photographic and historical archives as well as assisted in special events. When he reached 7000 total volunteer hours in 2018, Summit Metro Parks honored him.

An avid birder, Bert served as official compiler for Greater Akron Audubon Chapter’s Christmas Bird Count from 1970-1992. For a decade he volunteered on Lake Erie’s shore with Crane Creek State Park’s monthly bird census as well as pursuing his hobby through travel both domestically and abroad.

Several of his offspring followed in his naturalist tradition. His oldest son, Dr. John Szabo is a retired chairman of the Geosciences Department of the University of Akron. His son, Mark, is a retired naturalist from the Huron-Clinton Metroparks in Michigan. Grandsons Howard Aprill is a naturalist with Milwaukee County Parks, Dr. Michael Aprill is a science teacher in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and Shawn Szabo is a wildlife biologist attending graduate school at Oregon State University.

Bert became a member of the Association of Interpretive Naturalists (AIN) in 1958 and eventually served as its president (1969-1971). In 1988 AIN became NAI, the National Association for Interpretation and Bert was a founding member. The organization gave him numerous awards and accolades. Despite the fact that he retired thirty years ago, he remained active in NAI and was a revered as an elder.

Bert served on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Natural Areas & Preserves Council (governor-appointed position) 1970-1983 and 1987-1994 and on the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Sanctuary Council 1981-2004. He also served on ODNR’s Recreation Resources Commission, 1990-1994 and as Audubon’s representative on PPG (formerly Pittsburgh Plate & Glass) Advisory Panel, 2002-2006.

As a board member (circa 1991-2002), Bert helped to establish and grow the Friends of the [Summit] Metro Parks, a nonprofit cooperative organization that helps to provide financial support of his park district.

In the early 1970s, he was an outspoken advocate for the establishment of Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, finally realized in 1974. A few years later the Akron Beacon Journal wrote, ““His grassroots campaigning in the early 1960s on behalf of the National Park in the Cuyahoga River Valley is generally recognized as the force which kept the political ball rolling.” It has since grown to 33,000 acres and was officially re-designated from a recreation area to a national park in 2000.
He was inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in 2018 and the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in 2019.

The last paragraph of his last article in the Metro Park “Green Islands” (1991) states:
The pollution of our planet, the loss of forests, plants and animals must be our major concern. They are biological time clocks ticking off the time when man may no longer persevere. We cannot separate natural history from human history – each is dependent upon the other. Protecting our environment is essential for the health and welfare of future generations. It is my hope that I have contributed somewhat to this endeavor.

The family has requested that remembrances be made in the form of contributions to Sieberling Nature Realm, Summit Metro Parks, 975 Treaty Line Road, Akron, Ohio, 44313.

Bert (L) with another Akron-area legend, Ed Pierce.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Nature: Ferocious hunters, northern harriers are also incredible aerial performers


A female northern harrier looks and listens for prey/Jim McCormac

Nature: Ferocious hunters, northern harriers are also incredible aerial performers

Columbus Dispatch
March 20, 2022

Jim McCormac

In the 1960s, British aviation company Hawker Siddeley developed an innovative jet capable of vertical takeoffs and landings. This formidable war craft was dubbed the Harrier. Its name was inspired by the hen harrier, an agile raptor capable of impressive aerial acrobatics.

The jet’s namesake occurs here in Ohio. Well, sort of. Until recently, the Eurasian hen harrier and New World northern harrier were considered the same species. However, the world of taxonomy is ever-shifting and ornithologists finally decreed them separate species based on genetics and appearance. Only northern harriers are found in Ohio.

As impressive as the multimillion dollar jet is, it’s got nothing on the bird. Just ask the voles that it hunts.

I recently spent a frosty blue morning observing harriers at Killdeer Plains, a wildlife area in Harpster, Ohio, an hour north of Columbus. A major goal was to get sharp in-flight images. Photographing one of those jets would be far easier. The crafty raptors don’t miss anything and shy away from people.

Fortunately, my field tactics worked and I was able to get some passable images, one of which accompanies this column. Even if I had met with photographic failure, the trip would have been a success.

Northern harriers are beautiful birds, both male and female. Sexual dimorphism is pronounced. The more commonly seen females are significantly larger and dark brown to bright cinnamon. Both sexes have conspicuous white rumps and hold their wings in a dihedral — above parallel thus forming a V-shape.

The comparatively dainty male is sometimes termed “gray ghost”. It is a beautiful pearl-gray color and appears like a ghostly wraith as it floats about the meadows.

Up to eight harriers hunted in nearby fields, offering a tutorial in harrier hunting techniques. This raptor has long wings and tail, the better for instant aerial transitions. A hunting harrier quarters low over the ground, the better to surprise potential prey.

The prey — mostly small rodents — try to counter the enemy by crafting vegetative bunkers. Meadow voles are probably the most common prey here and in many areas. A chunky mouse-like mammal, voles are essentially sausages with legs and raptors covet them.

To better protect themselves, voles create runways — tunnels of grasses in which they can move while avoiding visual detection. Even that strategy doesn’t thwart the technologically advanced harrier. These raptors have evolved conical feathered facial disks which give them a remarkably owl-like appearance. Thus, their hearing is enhanced such that they can hear the rodents scurrying in their runways.

Many times, I have seen harriers pounce repeatedly, springing back into the air with grasses caught in their talons, only to immediately drop again. They are probably hunting mostly by sound, dropping on the runway and trying to seize the vole sight unseen.

Oftentimes they do, but the voles also frequently elude them.

Ohio is at the southern limits of the northern harrier’s breeding range, which stretches from Alaska to Newfoundland. While many winter here, few remain to breed.

Nonetheless one can occasionally witness the spectacular courtship flights. Performed primarily by males, this sky-dancing involves fast, deep U-shaped dives. The harrier strafes the ground before shooting high aloft, nearly stalling at the apogee. Wings flailing, it’ll barrel-roll and drop back toward the ground and repeat the circuit over and over. I’d like to see a harrier jet try that.

A great place to observe harriers locally is the aptly named Harrier Trail at Battelle Darby Metro Park. I’ve hiked this trail numerous times and don’t think I’ve ever missed seeing one, at least from October through March. Park information is at: https://bit.ly/3t9bBS2

Naturalist Jim McCormac writes a column for The Dispatch on the first, third and fifth Sundays of the month. He also writes about nature at www.jimmccormac.blogspot.com.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Last night's amphibian run


A Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans) stares inscrutably at the cameraman. It was one of a number that I saw last evening.

Last night's conditions were very good for a vernal amphibian migration. The temperatures stayed in the mid-50's F, and late afternoon showers persisted into the early evening. The ground was wet, the air was warm, and the amphibians were hopping and crawling overland to breeding pools.

Rather than go to some wooded vernal pool sites where I knew there would be scads of species such as Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) and other subjects, I opted for the open country of the hinterlands of Champaign and Logan counties in west-central Ohio. The primary reason: our largest mole salamander, which I will share shortly.

Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) filled the nighttime air with their loud peeps. Shallow wetlands harbored many of the tine blowhards, and their collective song was audible for long distances. Joining them were numerous Western Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris triseriata). The latter's song is a raspy grate, often likened to running a finger down the teeth of a comb. But amplified through a Marshall stack.

The Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) was the most common frog on the move. This handsome amphibian thrives in open country and marshes. Joining them were many American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus).

At one spot, where a country lane bisects a small woodlot, a Unisexual Salamander (Ambystoma hybrid) was crossing the road. This locale has many of these strange hybrids, but by this time late in the evening the rain had ceased, conditions were drying, and amphibian movement had slowed.

The "Unis" are a strange and imperfectly understood group of mole salamanders. They include the DNA of several species, potentially, including Blue-spotted, Eastern Tiger, Jefferson, and Smallmouth salamanders. All of them, or nearly so, are females. To delve into deeper detail about the Unisexual Salamanders, go RIGHT HERE.

And the star of the show! An Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) pushes its way through grasses as it marches to - or perhaps from - a breeding pool. This is our largest mole salamander, and exceptional individuals can be nine inches or so in length.

A tiger crosses a road. As always, after taking photos it was moved off the road (on the side that it was headed for). We saw five of them in total, and four were in a breeding pool. We thoroughly checked that pool first thing after nightfall and could not locate any. Several hours later, we easily and quickly found the four, suggesting that they were just entering the pool. No egg masses or spermatophores (male sperm packets) could be seen, further suggesting that the big mole salamanders were just arriving at their breeding pools.

All in all, a wonderful night of communing with the amphibians.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Get ready for warblers: Pine Warblers are back on territory


A male Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus) perches, quite appropriately, on a pinecone. This big White Pine (Pinus strobus) was part of his turf. I photographed this bird last Monday in Hocking County, Ohio, and the warbler was probably newly arrived and busy establishing his territory. While small numbers of Pine Warblers will overwinter in Ohio, I suspect this one wintered further south, as most do.

Pine Warblers are the first to arrive back on territory and commence singing and this one was in fine song. Of our breeding warblers - Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata), which commonly overwinters, is not a nester here), the Pine Warbler leads the spring parade. Before long, Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla) will appear very soon, then Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia), Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens), Northern Parula (Setophaga americana), and Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica) will soon follow up. Not long after the warbler rush will be on.

I watched this Pine Warbler foraging for some time. Here, he rests among dense fascicles of pine needles. I saw him grab a few small caterpillars but was unable to photo-document them. Quite a few species of moth caterpillars specialize on feeding on pine, and a number mimic the needles to a remarkable degree. Thus, Pine Warblers employ a slow deliberate creeping style of foraging rather than the maniacal rushing about of many other warblers. Even for the sharp-eyed warbler, these pine needle caterpillars are probably pretty tough to spot and require more methodical searching.

Friday, March 11, 2022

My photography in the pages of Columbus Monthly magazine!

I was quite flattered - and surprised - when Randy Edwards, a Columbus writer with an impressive resume, approached me last winter about doing a profile of my photography work. We met in the field on a frigid winter day for an outdoor experience, me with camera in tow. As it was too cold to take notes, we later repaired to a nearby McDonald's for coffee, finger-thawing, and discussion.

Randy's piece appears in this month's Columbus Monthly, and features over a dozen of my images, covering a broad range of species. If you would like to have a look, GO HERE.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Celebrating 100 years of "Nature" column


The Canada goose was the first animal mentioned in The Dispatch's inaugural Nature column by Ed Thomas in 1922/Jim McCormac

Celebrating 100 years of "Nature" column

Columbus Dispatch
March 6, 2022

Jim McCormac

On March 5, 1922, a lawyer-turned-naturalist named Edward Sinclair Thomas penned the first incarnation of this column. The Dispatch had asked him to write a short series of articles about birds, and Thomas eagerly took up the challenge.

His writings proved popular, and the newspaper asked him to continue with the column. He did so with a passion, stamping out weekly columns for the next 59 years. Thomas wrote over 3,000 articles in all, in addition to his weekly “Blendon Woods — Metro Parks — Central Ohio Park System” series that was geared toward kids.

Thomas was born in Woodsfield, Ohio, on April 22, 1891 — fittingly, as April 22 would much later become the date of the annual Earth Day celebration.

The very first animal mentioned in Thomas’ inaugural column was, “A flight of wild geese…” referring to the now-ubiquitous Canada goose. A century ago, geese were not nearly so frequent and a wild skein of honkers passing overhead piqued great interest in the citizenry far below.

Thomas didn’t confine his prose to birds. He was an old-school naturalist, an ecological Renaissance man who once would have been termed a natural philosopher. He had expertise in flora, singing insects (the orthoptera), geology, amphibians, mammals and more — and he wrote about them all.

His last column appeared on Sept. 6, 1981, just about five months before his death on Feb. 16, 1982.

Thomas inspired many people with his encyclopedic knowledge of natural history and his passion. One of them was a young naturalist named Jim Fry. Thomas became a mentor to Fry, who went on to become a professional naturalist. He worked for Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks for over three decades, with much of his tenure at Blendon Woods.

Fry took over the column in 1981, segueing seamlessly from Thomas' final piece. By this point the column was dubbed Nature — same as it is today. Fry, who now lives in Hocking County — not far from Thomas’ cherished retreat known as Neotoma – is an ornithologist of note.

For the next 29 years, Fry regaled readers with his adventures involving birds, both rare and common. An inveterate lister, Fry annually racked up large lists of species in Ohio. He was well-known for his spur-of-the-moment chases of great rarities, no matter where they might appear. His regular fodder of bird subjects was often interspersed with other subjects in keeping with Thomas’ template of diversity.

In all, Fry wrote 802 columns. By the time he took over Nature, it had shifted to a bi-weekly format or I’m sure he would have written double that number.

Fry, in turn, was a mentor to me. I met him when I was still in middle school, and he was stationed at Blendon Woods. Because of my strong interest in birds, he took me under his wing, so to speak. I became a fixture at Blendon, soaking up knowledge from one of Ohio’s most accomplished birders.

In late 2009, Fry decided to cap his pen and hand off the column. I was flattered when he recommended me as his successor. I had already been writing a science column for The Dispatch, but when my editor offered me the Nature column, I jumped at the chance. This column is my 336th to date.

I appreciate The Dispatch’s long-standing role in supporting conservation and natural history. If there’s a longer running nature column in an American newspaper, I’m unaware of it. If you know of one that bests our centennial-eclipsing Nature column, please let me know.

Naturalist Jim McCormac writes a column for The Dispatch on the first, third and fifth Sundays of the month. He also writes about nature at www.jimmccormac.blogspot.com.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Common Redpolls, feeding on Black Alder


A male American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) feasts on the seeds of Black Alder (Alnus glutinosa). Much as I love goldfinches, this was not the species that made me visit a grove of invasive nonnative alders. The main reason was a close relative of the goldfinch, and a species far scarcer in Ohio.

I made this trip - and these images - back on February 15. In part because of my curiosity about the plant that my target birds were feeding on (avidly!), I wanted to write about the experience. It's just taken me this long to get around to it.

A female Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea) sits among the abundant fruits of Black Alder (sometimes called European Alder). She is fluffed like a puffball in the frosty temperatures - low-20's F as I recall. Nippy as that may seem, it is nothing for these finches of the far north.

She was part of a flock of perhaps 75 birds that had been in residence at Willow Point Wildlife Area on Sandusky Bay, Erie County, Ohio, for several weeks. There is no question that the alder was part of the allure for them. I spent about two hours with the group, and all they did while I was there was feast on alder fruit. In the photo above, the cone-like structures are the pistillate (female) catkins. They produce the seeds that were so coveted by the finches. The pinkish slender elongate structures are the staminate (male) catkins. Alders are in the birch family (Betulaceae), and redpolls are quite fond of feeding on plants in that group.

However, I would not have guessed they'd work over Black Alder, a small tree that always makes me cringe when I see it. This Eurasian species was brought to the New World long ago, and has been planted ornamentally, and as erosion control. I suspect wildlife agencies may have at one time planted it at one time, too. I don't know how the alder got to this site, but it is thriving and has formed fairly extensive dense stands.

A redpoll dangles acrobatically to better pop cone scales off and access seeds. Look at those little leggings! Redpolls are a delight to watch, and a quiet observer can usually do so at close range. The small finches can be incredibly tame. At times, birds were coming to within five feet of me - well inside my lens's minimum focusing distance.

It was snow-covered, and the dark cone scales littered the ground under feeding areas. Similar to crossbills, the flock was mostly silent when busy with feeding, and showers of scales rained down. When they took to the wing, it was a riot of redpoll vocalizations, and the flock could not be missed.

A major issue with Black Alder is its dense growth. As the plants mature, they shade out the ground below and greatly reduce or eliminate native flora. This is particularly vexing at this site. The southern shore of Sandusky Bay is known to harbor populations of the federally threatened Prairie White-fringed Orchid (Platanthera leucophaea) and the site where these alders are looks fine for that spectacular orchid (See HERE for photos of the orchid and one of its pollinators). But not when overrun by alders.

A striking male Common Redpoll looks like it got pelted with raspberries. The showy little songbird was taking a brief rest and look-around before diving back into the alder cones.

This tale illustrates that even the most pernicious of weeds can have a plus side. There's no question that these redpolls found favor in the fruit, as did the goldfinches. Does that justify planting Black Alders in wild places for erosion control or wildlife? No, in my opinion. Any wildlife that is lured by the invasive tree certainly does not need or depend on the alder. And the diversity of native flora cast out by the alder invasion serves far more ecological functions.

But I will admit that in winter - especially winters with redpoll irruptions - I will pay more mind to Black Alders when I see them.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Delmarva Fox Squirrel

As always, click the photo to enlarge. You’ll want to enlarge this one to fully appreciate how beautiful a squirrel can be.

A Delmarva Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) noshes on the fruit of greenbrier in the genus Smilax (I’m unsure of the species). This distinctive subspecies made the inaugural U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listing of endangered species in 1967. At that time, the squirrel had plummeted in numbers, and was reduced to only four counties in Maryland’s eastern shore region. Thanks in large part to habitat restoration and protection, the beautiful rodent has rebounded and it was removed from the endangered list in 2015.

Seeing this large silvery squirrel, and hopefully making photos, was high on my list for this trip to Maryland and Virginia. Obviously I met with success, but the photography part wasn’t that easy. I found these squirrels to be rather bashful, and prone to running, scaling trees, or remaining in thick cover when approached.

But some perseverance paid off and eventually I was able to work with several animals and get nice images. I’ll try and make a more complete post on the Delmarva Fox Squirrel after I return home, including other imagery of them and their haunts.