Saturday, March 05, 2011


We have a chipmunk in our spirea. Who even knew that they climbed?

He doesn't actually live there. But he does hang out in the winter-barren shrub in the early morning hours. I suspect that he is waiting for the sun to rise high enough to warm his muscles because he seems to leave shortly thereafter. We have seen vultures performing a similar ritual in the open fields of Marfa, Texas -- so I assume that what is good for large, cold muscles is equally good for smaller ones.

The bush is just outside our kitchen window so we get to observe this ritual while we are preparing breakfast. It is also about fifteen feet from the back door of our garage, where we are certain he actually resides. The other night I wandered into that car shed, which is attached to the family room, and startled him. He quickly spun around and scurried to the farthest corner, under our coiled up garden hose that is stored inside for the cold season. In previous years we have witnessed previous chipmunks sneaking around our carport. And discovered purloined sunflower seed hulls that they had shucked into the air filters of our vehicles. They have also taken refuge in our downspouts -- but I suspect that housing is more suitable in the warmer weather.

The chipmunk is the second observed occupant of our garage this winter. During the height of the twice-a-week, heavy snowfall in early and mid-January, a tiny brown and white striped bird (possibly a wren or severely undersized sparrow) took refuge there.

The first time I saw him he was hopping towards the car enclosure with a wobbly gait as if he were injured in either leg or wing or both. I was between him and his goal and my startled reaction frightened him into reversing his course and rapidly hobbling back into the precipitation.

The next morning, when I was refilling the bird feeders, I looked down and he was standing at my feet, within inches, and pecking in the snow at the millet that was falling to the ground as a byproduct of my efforts. I carefully stepped over him and created a small cereal-eating area on a cleared-off segment of pathway away from the normal foot traffic. He followed me into his private dining area and began daintily chowing down. This same vignette continued for several days.

A day or two later, as I was out having my early morning pipe in front of the open garage, he strolled out and hopped past me as if he were on his way to work, totally oblivious to my presence. Our paths crossed daily for the next couple of weeks during either or both of these scenarios.

Then he stopped appearing. I figure either he somehow got locked out of his adopted home by the accumulation of snow and became a victim of the elements or - - and here is what I'm hoping -- that he recovered from his earlier impairment, built up his strength thanks to my specially provided meals, and continued on his way to wherever it was that he was going before his unplanned stopover with Mars and me. Either way I miss him.

The chipmunk however looks just fine -- reasonably chubby and yet extremely agile. I expect that we will see him off and on throughout the upcoming seasons. At the moment I don't have any plans for a personalized meal plan for him. This however could change at the first sign of injury. In fact I have already checked out specially designed feeders online.

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