Open Thread - Wednesday December 16, 2015

After last week's weightier Open Thread topic, I thought I would lighten things up a bit with a diary on chipmunks. Being from Florida, we never saw chipmunks in our yard but I always thought they were such cute little critters. I mean, I remember Alvin and the Chipmunks from my youth.

When we came to North Carolina, I was so excited to see real chipmunks in our yard. The variety found in this area is the Eastern chipmunk which is the largest of all the chipmunks. And these little guys were the real life version of those cartoon characters from my childhood. They were so cute scurrying around the yard stuffing their little pouches with nuts (wonderful photo in this link) and other things to eat. Never mind, that they are members of the rodent family along with mice, rats, and squirrels. Something about their cute little bodies with the racing stripes along the sides of their backs made them far more acceptable to me than some rat or even their close cousins, the squirrels.

Once I started feeding birds, the number of chipmunks in my yard seemed to increase. Maybe it was simply that I became more aware of them rather than their numbers actually increasing. Even though I buy a high quality seed mix with no filler, some species of birds that come to my feeders will go through it searching for the seeds or more often, the peanuts that they want. In doing so, they toss good seed out and onto the ground. Then the squirrels and chipmunks come in. The chipmunks are like tiny, little vacuum cleaners, scooping up as much seed as they can and holding it in their fat cheek pouches which can expand to as much as three to four times their normal size. What I never knew was what they did with all that seed until I read an article in the local paper on chipmunks a couple of years ago.

I had always assumed that chipmunks lived in family units under our low wooden deck out back. What I did not know is that chipmunks have extensive underground burrows and are solitary creatures except during mating season which normally occurs twice a year.

The chipmunk's burrow is fascinating in its intricacy. Each animal has his own burrow that is between twenty and thirty feet long with at least one entry and one escape exit and are usually three feet underground. The entry opening is about two inches in diameter and is usually well concealed. Chipmunks go to great lengths to hide the entry and exits from their burrows by carrying the dirt away from these entry areas and scattering it about the ground.

From the entrance, the burrow plunges straight down for a few inches and then descends more gradually until it levels out at a depth of about three feet. During burrow excavation, soil is carried away from the entrance in cheek pouches used to carry food. Because of this, there is little or no evidence of excavated material from the subterranean burrow system.

Often the entry is located near a log or stump to disguise its location and function. Chipmunks are very territorial about their own burrows, but occasionally will raid each others' food stores.

Chipmunks construct two types of burrows within their home ranges: shallow burrows with many entrances and complex networks of interconnected tunnels, and deep burrows that have extremely complicated systems of tunnels and entrances within which food storage areas and a central, leaf-filled nesting chamber are located. The shallow burrows function as temporary refugia for the chipmunk during the day, while the deep burrows are the overnight and overwinter sleeping locales. Burrows are often located on sloping ground, a feature that contributes to efficient water drainage.

Chipmunk burrows are very extensive and have several rooms within them. There are at least three rooms in every burrow and sometimes as many as six. There is a room for sleeping or nesting, at least one and often more rooms for food storage, and a room for waste. Chipmunks are most active during the early morning and early evening hours. However, I have seen them at all times of day. Perhaps that is because my yard has a lot of trees and bushes and thus offers great cover from predators.

Chipmunks technically do not hibernate, but during colder weather go into a state of torpor. They do not live off stored body fat like animals that do hibernate, but instead wake up regularly to dip into their stored food for nourishment.

Because of the damage that their burrows can do to foundations and walls as well as their eating of ornamental bulbs, chipmunks are often considered pests by many people. But I still think they are cute.

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detroitmechworks's picture

I only know about that torpor state because of Hummingbirds who go into it nightly. (The ultimate Manic Depressive bird. NO activity at all, followed by hours of frenzied searching.)

Also find it interesting that chipmunk burrows remind me a bit of pre-Roman human fortifications. Specifically, Maiden Castle in Britain. Seems we aren't that different from our cousins as we'd like to think. Smile

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

mimi's picture

I am not here yet, but felt I have to say hi and thanks to gulfgal98 and everybody else who is passing by. I think in my garden the chipmunkeys are all underground, plotting a war against those terror squirrels, who are just like the US military forces, invading everywhere, eating all the good stuff and leaving a mess behind. In my garden ... THAT WILL NOT WORK. Comrade chipmunkey and his adoring fans is ... plotting to stop and end the peanut trade which enables those squirrel terror brigades to ... threaten the interests of all the noble and honest and hard working American gardeners. They work from an undisclosed location, but I have magic eyes and see them underground and hear them ... cricket noises.

Ok, I am off to get my coffee. Have a good day all. I didn't listen to any GOP mad men or women (they sound too much like chipmunkeys), I won't read any analysis of mad munkey's minds, and I hope you starve them by stopping the peanut trade with them. Comrade chipmunkey is your role model. Revolution !!!!

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hecate's picture

all you missed was Uncle Ben Carson squandering his last remaining brain cell in recounting a conversation with RNC chair "Rinse Pubis." Also, Cruella Fiorina revealing she saved the world after 9/11 by turning a truck around.

Gulgfal, I love the chipmunk info. There is a variety out here with the Mean name "Least Chipmunk." But it is feisty and will even eat lizards.

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gulfgal98's picture

The least chipmunk is the smallest of the chipmunks. I guess we grow them bigger here in the east. Wink In the linked picture, it appears that their ears are much bigger in proportion to their bodies than those of the eastern chipmunks around here. Cute little devils though.

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"I am done with it all. Life is just a charade in which we are all unknowing pawns." ~gulfgal98

hecate's picture

to go to this place called Burney Falls, patrolled by clever bands of welfare-recipient chipmunks, dependent upon the kindness of strangers. They would shrewdly shove to the front of the ranks chipmunks with only one eye, or missing patches of fur, or with a limp. People would shower upon them mass quantities of nuts and other goodies. Theirs was a good life.

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enhydra lutris's picture

many years now. During the day, even from up near the falls, the drone of the omnipresent Jet Ski makes it less pleasant than it should be.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

gulfgal98's picture

Around 5:30 am, we got a phone call that my husband's 98 year old aunt had passed away during the night. So most of this morning has been spent on arrangements for her funeral and a memorial service to be held in two different states. We knew this was coming so it was not unexpected but in the confusion, I forgot to do any links this morning.

Here is one good link to a series of conversations between Killer Mike and Bernie Sanders. I will be back a little later.

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"I am done with it all. Life is just a charade in which we are all unknowing pawns." ~gulfgal98

98 is a long, long life...hope she lived it happy and healthy.

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"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

gulfgal98's picture

She lived a very long life and was only in failing health the last year or so. My husband is the executor of her estate even though her sister and son are both still alive. Although she had made her funeral wishes known, there are some issues with getting her son for it from a foreign country and coordinating arrangements with two churches in two different states. That is why it was a little chaotic here, he was trying to coordinate the logistics of when and how especially with Christmas coming up.

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"I am done with it all. Life is just a charade in which we are all unknowing pawns." ~gulfgal98

joe shikspack's picture

i hope that all of the arrangements fall into place neatly and everything goes well.

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enhydra lutris's picture

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

gulfgal98's picture

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"I am done with it all. Life is just a charade in which we are all unknowing pawns." ~gulfgal98

smiley7's picture

Just read your post on detroitmechworks good Be Patient thread. It's been heartening to hear from you folks. Yes, this Dementia is a horrible disease; watching a proud independent woman like my Mom struggle takes it out of you.
Well, as you know, we've springtime in the High Country with ski resorts closed and they are the economic engines of winter here.
We are hoping for the forecast to hold for three days of cold this weekend. I can't wait to put on the Santa costume and ski around with the little ones.
Thanks for your encouragement, GG.

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hecate's picture

I was reading that the pope is cranky about Christmas. I think you should offer to put on the Santa costume and in it conduct midnight mass. Might cheer him up. Other people, too.

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enhydra lutris's picture

supposed to be holy business, with a clear cut moral objective and lord only knows what's with all these jihadis acting like they're on a Crusade(tm) or something.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

gulfgal98's picture

which I suspect you already know. When dealing with someone with dementia or Alzheimers is to try to live in their world instead of trying to make them live in yours.

My husband attended a funeral on Monday for a high school friend who recently died from early onset Alzheimer's. The man was brilliant and extremely well accomplished in multiple areas of his life and work until being diagnosed at the age of 57. He and his family were very active in promoting awareness of Alzheimer's. The pamphlet that the family had made memorializing his life had several photos of him as we remembered him before Alzheimer's and on the inside there was one photo of him with his grown son during his last days and these words written by his son which are good ones to remember.

This is what end stage Alzheimer's looks like. What it feels like is, of course, much worse. It's made up of 1,000 little indignities that build up over the years until in the end there's very little humanity left and a lot of disease. AND within this world there moments of connection of what once was, and I guess I would have to say that I'm grateful for them

Thank you for your kind comment. I am continuing to send you all good karma in both of your trials, smiley. Smile

BTW, here in the lower elevations, we have had some highs at or near 70 degrees recently. And for the fourth year in a row, we will not see any snow before we leave at the end of December. I hope you can at least get temps cool enough to hold any snow if the resort has snowmaking capability. I am picturing smiley Claus since I have seen you. Biggrin

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"I am done with it all. Life is just a charade in which we are all unknowing pawns." ~gulfgal98

Shahryar's picture

We've got regular visitors, like our mama squirrel, Mr. Blue Jay, Mr. Robin. You get to know them as individuals when they keep coming around. Not to mention the two human critters in our house (shaz and Shah). We sometimes call our house "our burrow" because we're well aware that we're critters too. I frown on the separation of human and the other forms of life. Go back hundreds of thousands of generations and we've got the same ancestors as our cats.

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