Photography · Writing

Back Yard Photographer – Cuteness Overload!

Nom, Nom, Nom… love those seeds!!

During the dark days of winter or just when ever some happy thoughts are needed, it seems to help to look at pictures of little critters enjoying their day – at least it helps me! 🙂

Ground squirrels are just too darn cute – that is until the destructive side starts to reveal itself. But then, those eyes!! I just can’t stay mad at them too long. I spend quite a bit replanting flowers in my garden every year, but… those eyes! I’m preparing (emotionally) for these little guys to be back in the Spring. At least when the are back, it is warm enough to spend some time outside. 🙂

Since these guys spend so much time in my yard (maybe I shouldn’t feed them?), thought I should learn more about them. The ground squirrels in my yard are referred to as 13 stripe ground squirrel. Here’s some fun little facts about this particular ground squirrel:

  • Dig burrows of 15 to 20 feet long with more than one entrance.
  • Litters are usually 7- 10
  • Usually solitary, may congregate in groups of 10 in a prime habitat.
  • The are climbers, but prefer the ground (I saw one climb a tree in my yard so he could get to the bird food.)
  • They eat freshly planted seeds and/or immature plants

There are some benefits to having ground squirrels around:

  • feed on weeds, weed seeds and insects that can cause damage to crops -this may not be a true statement for my yard… 🙂
  • Their digging might actually improve the soil. (I should have the healthies flower garden around!)
  • They are cute and fun to watch!

Not convinced yet that these little guys are cute? Here’s a few more pictures that might just convince you! 🙂

I can see better now
I see yummies!!
Shhhh… I’m hiding
Brave hunter has found seeds

The ground squirrels and I had lots of fun last Summer, so I have far more pictures than I realized!! Hope you liked these few I picked out. Some days it is fun to just smile about silly things.

Thank you for stopping by my blog!

All photos are originals by Kim Lawless

Photography · Writing

Back Yard Photographer – He’s Back…

Ground Squirrel enjoying bird seed and other treats

I knew it would happen. I wish it didn’t happen already. The ground squirrels have returned! Now my love/hate relationship with these little guys continue…

Right now – I think they are adorable and just the cutest critters! But I know as soon as I start planting flowers again I will have my annual show down with the ground squirrels and the rabbits as both love to eat the fresh flowers. But that is a fight for another day. Today, I can’t resist their cuteness! What do you think – are these critters cute or what??

Ah… Chubby Cheeks!
What could this be??

Hope you like the photos! Thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog!

All photos are originals by Kim Stites

Short Stories · Writing

Ground Squirrels – Are they cute or are they pests? Part II

You didn’t really see me – did you??

Sure these little guys look cute and they are fun to watch when they dart through the yard or are busy eating the bird seed that has fallen. However, these critters can be sneaky and destructive. I found out the hard way.

Several years ago when I first purchased my house, there was a large open field just past my back yard. Not many trees, mostly long grass and weeds. This field was the perfect living place for ground squirrels and rabbits. I loved sitting on my deck in the evenings watching the ground squirrels and rabbits play. While I spent time watching them, something else was happening. They were becoming less afraid of me and down right bold. There were a few mornings when I would go out on to my deck at least one ground squirrel would be sitting near the deck stairs. They had started observing me.

I started seeing them in my front yard and soon saw the holes in the flower gardens where they had dug their tunnels. The flowers started to die and some disappeared entirely. Yes, the rabbits did help with the disappearance of the flowers, but the tunnels were completely the ground squirrels. The tunnels and the dying flowers were annoying, but I still thought those darn ground squirrels were just too cute!

Our observation of each other kept on for a couple more Spring/Summers, then a very cold Autumn surprised humans and animals. We weren’t prepared for this drastic change. I, of course, didn’t have much to worry about because all I really needed to do was switch the thermostat from air conditioning to heat. Some times being human is soooo difficult… However, the ground squirrels hadn’t had much of a chance to prepare their tunnels for the winter. So, they started looking for things to take to their tunnels or alternative places to stay. Some of them found a small hole at the foundation of the shed in my back yard, and then had a cozy place to stay all winter. I really didn’t give them much thought because I knew there wasn’t anything I could do for them. Nature had to be nature.

The coldest winter months passed. As the calendar approached the Spring months, there was a warming in the air. This warming woke the critters that had been hiding through the winter. I received a call, while I was at work, from my eldest daughter (who was in her early teens at the time) that we had a mouse in the garage. I assured her I would handle it and make sure the mouse was out of the garage. This didn’t happen, I didn’t see the mouse when I got home, so I put it out of my mind. Ends up it wasn’t a mouse.

Several weeks later, I kept noticing little white dots all over the garage floor at the back of my vehicle. I was curious, but not really curious enough to see what it was all about. Soon after, every time I drove the car out of or in to the garage it looked like there was snow falling onto the car. It was finally time for me to look into this further. Some critter had tore holes into the garage door, so when ever the door was raised, the insulation pellets fell out of the door. I gathered as much of the insulation as I could, put it back in the garage door and secured it with duct tape – it truly does fix everything! As I finished that task, I was quite please with myself for handling this situation. However, I hadn’t noticed the weather stripping at the bottom of the garage door that had been chewed off.

About a month or so later I started to see a few of the pellets on the garage floor again. I determined they must have been left from the insulation that had fallen out of the garage door earlier. I was wrong. The critter had moved back into the garage door, but in a different area of the garage door.

This wasn’t confirmed until one day when I was opening the garage door to drive the car into the garage. My daughters were both with me in the car. I hadn’t gotten very far into the garage when my oldest daughter, who was sitting in the front seat, screamed, “There’s a rat!” She animatedly pointed and screamed at the rat that was falling from the open garage door onto my car. Once I saw this, I screamed too. My youngest daughter, didn’t want to be left out, so she started screaming too. I quickly parked the car and we all jumped out. My daughters ran into the house, which left me to be the brave one who had to check things out.

I got the critter off my car and back out into the great outdoors. I don’t remember exactly how I did it as I’m pretty sure I have blocked that part of this traumatic experience from my memory. 🙂 Nonetheless, this critter was not a mouse, or a rat, but it was one of the ground squirrels that I had been happily watching for years. Apparently the garage was a warm place to stay, with access to food (in the garbage containers). This is also when I noticed the missing weather stripping from the garage door.

To truly handle this problem I knew I had to get the garage door replaced or repaired, I called and got some estimates to get this done. Unfortunately, the cost for either option did not match the funds in my checking account, so I had to find a different solution. Duct tape came to the rescue, once again for the repair work. I really have no idea what happened to the ground squirrels in the garage, but I’m sure they were just chased out by the cat that spent an afternoon in the garage.

After all of this – I don’t really find the ground squirrels to be as cute as they were when they played in my back yard. We don’t spend time much time watching each other any more. One of us scurries off when we see the other. It just depends on who gets startled first. Some times nature and humans need to keep their distance from each other.

Are the ground squirrels cute or pests? I believe they are cute pests. What do you think?

I hope you enjoyed the stories in Part I and Part II! No science here – just pure human emotion. 🙂

Thank you for stopping to check out my blog!!

Short story by Kim Stites