What a coincidence! Right after we told you about our tree frogs in the February RoundUp, the story broke on February 2nd about the discovery of 10 new species of amphibians in the mountainous Tacarcuna area near the Columbia/Panama border. The newly discovered species include a spiky-skinned, orange-legged rain frog, three poison dart frogs and three glass frogs, so called because their transparent skin can reveal internal organs. The scientists, led by herpetologists from Conservation International in
Not that they are facing extinction, but they do give us hope, we want to tell you about another amazing creature found, possibly, in your own backyard. You know that we are avid watchers of our quail and sparrows. For at least a year now, we have also been entertained by a family of chipmunks in our backyard. There are now four of the critters, with their very expressive tails and curious faces. We were interested in knowing more about them. As you might guess, they are in the same family as squirrels, Sciuridae, but in the genus Tamias. Generally, there is only one species in a given geographic area, and they are generally found in
The species found in our area is called Merriam’s Chipmunk (Tamias merriami), although there is a California Chipmunk (Tamias obscurus). Merriam’s Chipmunks have a pattern of black and grey stripes that extend all the way along the back, down to the tail. They also have black and white stripes around the eyes; cute, pudgy cheeks that they fill with seeds; and a dark tail without any white. They gather nuts, berries, seeds, fruit and grain, stuffing as much as they can carry into their generous cheek pouches. What they don’t eat, they carry to their burrow or nest to store for the winter. They may hibernate in very cold climates, but instead of storing fat, they periodically dip into their cache of nuts and seeds throughout the winter.
Chipmunks are solitary creatures and normally ignore one another except during the spring, when mating takes place. After a 30-day gestation, a litter of two to eight is born. The young stay with their parents for two months before they begin to gather their own provisions for the winter ahead. Our chipmunks seem to be part of the broader family of California Quail, cotton-tail bunnies, Spotted Towhees, Gold Crowned Sparrows and jays that come to Whale Point every morning. They certainly have learned about the Coopers Hawk, and other predators. They are also very entertaining and seem to reflect their mood with the motion of their tail….very expressive.
Now, just so you don’t think all we do is sit around and watch the chipmunks, we want to invite you to the Reserve to see scientists in action. Our almost-new Reserve Director, Mark Readdie, would like to invite the neighbors over for a walk along the river on March 29th. Mark will be looking for spawning steelhead trout and would love to have some company. If you are interested in joining him for this adventure, please call the Reserve office at 667-2543. The trout aren’t as cute as the chipmunks, but it will be fun and informative, just the same. And Mark is very anxious to meet more
ALSO, please mark your calendars for May 9th, for the Reserve Open House. As in years past, the Reserve will open to the public at for folks to come visit; meet the staff and scientists; go for a walk; go for a ride to the top; and generally enjoy the beauty of the place. AND, if you are up for a little work and a lot of fun, we would love some help in getting the trails all groomed for the big event. We will start working toward the end of March, mostly on weekends, but we’ll take help anytime. If you have a little time and elbow grease to offer, again, please call the Reserve office at 667-2543.
One final note: you can find more information about the goings on at the Reserve at http://bigcreekblog.ucnrs.org.
So get out there in the backyard and see what cute and new species you find!
Terry Hallock and Feynner Arias