Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ground squirrels at the shore

Howarth Park in the winter is usually quiet and, if you stay off the main trails, not at all crowded. In the summer it's another story. Cyclists careen along the trails as though they were at the racetrack while teenage couples find a bit of privacy in the woods. Families stroll about, enjoying nature while the sound of Camp WaTam counselors leading young campers in rousing cheers and familiar camp songs as they hike about the park.

If I'm able to get myself going early, its still quiet enough to see some deer or a jackrabbit and to hear birds singing. Today, though, I was a bit pokey getting out the door and once I'd found a parking spot, Chloe and I had to navigate around the new group of campers milling about the edge of the parking lot before we could even enter the park. We skirted along the edge of Lake Ralphine and were surprised and delighted to find a California ground squirrel catching the early morning sun on a big rock overlooking the lake. She moved a few times, but always returned, giving me several chances to sketch her in her relaxed state.

I finally dragged myself away and about 12 feet farther along, a very young ground squirrel was busy stuffing grass seeds into his mouth just as fast as he could. He was 3 feet from the trail and both Chloe and I stood transfixed by the brazenly fearless youngster. At one point, a squirrel that looked very parental appeared at a safer distance to keep an eye on things and then disappeared again. I'm constantly amazed to see the traits that we call human so evident in very non-human species. By next time this year, if he survives, this young squirrel will have acquired the same caution that his parents exhibit. For now, I'm delighted by and fearful for the youngsters I see all over the park and in my neighborhood, fearlessly discovering the world.


  1. What a delightful action sequence! Chloe must be very easy-going as she sure doesn't have your average dog's attitude toward squirrels...

  2. Wonderful to see you back!

    I love all your squirrel sketches. I ran into friendly ground squirrels the other day. Your sketches make me wish I'd spent more time with them.

  3. Super sketches! How lucky you are to have this wonderful park!

  4. Great sketches, especially the ground squirrel relaxing on the rock. It has adopted the same posture as the squirrels here when they relax on top of the stump in my yard.