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Yesterday a California Ground Squirrel visited our backyard. A couple of years ago we had a ground squirrel that hung around the bird feeders during the winter.

This ground squirrel seemed very wary and stood erect never moving like a stone statue for almost a minute. I ran to get my camera thinking that it would be gone by the time I got back. Luckily, the squirrel was still standing like a statue.

The squirrel’s upper parts are mottled, the fur containing a mixture of gray, light brown and dusky hairs; the underside is lighter, buff or grayish yellow. The fur around the eyes is whitish, while that around the ears is black. The tail usually lies flat on the ground and does not arch up over its back as with other squirrels.

This picture isn’t very clear but it shows the grayish mottled coat and the tail.

The California Ground Squirrel is a common ground squirrel of the western United States and the Baja California peninsula; it is common in Oregon and California and its range has relatively recently extended into Washington and northwestern Nevada.

California Ground Squirrels live in burrows which they excavate themselves. Some burrows are occupied communally. Although they readily become tame in areas used by humans, and quickly learn to take food left or offered by picnickers, they spend most of their time within 25 m (82 ft) of their burrow, and rarely go further than 50 m (160 ft) from it.

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Friend or foe, squirrels are very interesting creatures!  Here are some fun facts you may not know about our little backyard buddies!

Did you know  there are over  365 species of squirrels in the world?

There are tree squirrels, ground squirrels and flying squirrels!

Squirrels are in the rodent family which makes up 40% of all mammals.

Gray squirrels can have different shades of fur.  Some are even black or pure white.

Red squirrels can sometimes have a completely black coat.

Squirrels eat nuts, seeds and fruit.  And they’ll also eat corn and sometimes bugs. They need about a pound of food per week.

Tree squirrels don’t hibernate, but during storms and really cold weather, they’ll stay in their nest for days–sometimes sharing it with other squirrels for warmth.

Squirrels communicate with a series of chirps, expressing alarm or locating family members.  They twitch their tails for emphasis!

The smallest squirrel is the African Pygmy. They are 5 inches long from their heads to the tip of their tails. They are found in Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon.

The largest squirrel is the Ratufa. It can be as long as 3 feet in length. This beauty is found in Asia and Nepal.

 Squirrels have been known to live as long as 20 years in captivity. Our Common Gray squirrel lives an average of 5 years in the wild, if they are lucky enough to survive their first year.

 The squirrel has a brain about the size of a walnut.

 Squirrels can run as fast as 20 miles per hour.

 The oldest known squirrel skeleton is over 50 million years old.

 Lafayette Park in Washington, DC has the largest concentration of squirrels in the United States.

 President Ronald Reagan loved the squirrels at the White House so much that he commissioned an artist to paint a squirrel running across the White House lawn for the Presidential Christmas Card.

If a squirrel’s nest is high in a tree, it is called a drey. A squirrel’s nest in a hollow tree is called a den.

Squirrel teeth grow at the rate of six inches per year!  However, their teeth stay short from constant wear as they nibble and gnaw on everything!

Squirrels keep their teeth clean and sharp by chewing on twigs.

From Duncraft’s Wild Bird Blog

We’ve had weekly rain showers this spring. Our yard is lush and green with flowers blooming.

A few days ago I was looking out my kitchen window at the rain and saw a squirrel sitting on the fence crunching a peanut shell to get the peanut morsel. The squirrel’s bushy tail was folded over its back to protect it from the lightly falling rain. What a terrific umbrella!

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Once in a while I am very lucky and get a close up photo that I wow over. This large red dragonfly was flying around in our front yard and landed on the car antenna.

According to Wikipedia a dragonfly is a type of insect belonging to the order Odonata, the suborder Epeprocta  or, in the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera. It is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body. Dragonflies are similar to damselflies, but the adults can be differentiated by the fact that the wings of most dragonflies are held away from, and perpendicular to, the body when at rest. Even though dragonflies possess 6 legs like any other insect, they are not capable of walking.

Dragonflies are valuable predators that eat mosquitoes. They are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetland because their larvae, known as “nymphs”, are aquatic.

We often hear coyotes howling at night where we live here in northern California. This afternoon I was looking out the window at the backyard and low and behold there was a coyote in the backyard! It was sniffing around the edge of the deck, probably sniffing out mice or rats. Unfortunately, we have some of these vermin because I feed our backyard birds birdseed and we are located near unpopulated open natural hillsides.

I ran to get my husband to come and see the coyote but it was gone when we got back to the window.

I didn’t take this picture but this is what the coyote looked like.

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“Jeepers, creepers, where’d you get those peepers!”
“Jeepers, creepers, where’d you get those eyes!”

(Pardon the eyes. The camera flash made the eyes glow!)

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I make homemade suet for my backyard birds. Some days the birds don’t eat all of the suet. Tonight at dusk a new backyard friend couldn’t resist the suet and cleaned out the feeder!

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The two photos above were taken at night.

Last night about 12 am as I was going to bed I heard a noise outside on our deck. The bird feeders are on the deck. When I turned on the light and looked out, guess what I saw? A little black and white visitor eating bird seed. I decided to carefully open the sliding glass door to get a picture. The skunk looked up and then continued to eat bird seed. He or she didn’t seem to be bothered by the light or me looking at him or her. When I closed the door the noise frightened the skunk and he turned around with his tail facing the door. I guess I wasn’t perceived as a threat because the skunk went back to eating. One of his front paws is injured and he limps.

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These two pictures were taken this afternoon. The skunk was photo shy and went under our deck.

This afternoon I looked out and there was the sknuk eating bird seed during the day. I was very surprised because I’ve only seen him after dark. Much to my extreme surprise there was a racoon in the backyard digging in the grass. I’m beginning to feel like we have a nature preserve. We’ve had deer in our front yard eating our shrubery. I’ve tried to photograph the racoon before, but the pictures taken at night did not turn out very clearly and the eyes were shining.

I know this blog is about birdwatching but I also feed the squirrels. They scamper into the yard every morning looking for their share of the sunflower seeds and peanuts.  Usually the squirrels eat some of the peanuts and hide some for later. Today I watched a squirrel, peanut in mouth, run over to the flower bed and dig a small hole in the soil. Then he placed the peanut (in shell) in the hole and pushed down with his feet and then his nose. He carefully covered the peanut with soil with his little feet, then smoothed some small twigs over the top. He rubbed his feet together to brush off the dirt and scampered away. All of this activity happened in a few short seconds.

These are pictures of one friendly little squirrel that visits my backyard.

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