Monday, July 12, 2010

Squirrely day

I love Howarth Park in the early morning. When the sky is clear the sun rises over the eastern ridge creating beautiful shadows among the trees and grasses. On foggy days you can see hundreds, maybe thousands of funnel spider webs woven between grasses and attached to tree trunks. When it's foggy the light is flat and even, allowing you to see things that are invisible on bright, sunny days. If the wind is right you can barely hear the traffic on Summerfield Road and, if you're lucky, songbirds will be starting their day, too, and singing about it.

A week ago I walked on a trail I hadn't visited in a while. It skirts the edge of Howarth Park, where it meets Spring Lake Park. There's a place there where logs and brush are piled up, creating hiding places for California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) and Black-tailed jack rabbits (Lepus californicus). The rabbits freeze in an attempt to be invisible and then kind of lope off when they catch me looking at them. I've yet to be able to get a good sketch of one. One of these days I'm going to have to just park myself in the grasses and wait until they come back from wherever they go when I arrive.

A little farther along the trail I encountered a ground squirrel nestled in the crotch of an Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana). We stared at one another for a while before some runners came along and he scrambled down the tree and disappeared in the tall grass.

Later in the day, I watched one of the western gray squirrels (Sciurus griseus) that roams our neighborhood as she climbed the bean trellis and leap acrobatically onto the bird feeder and vacuumed up most of the seed while the poor, starving birds waited patiently in the apple trees and on the bean trellis. We've tried all sorts of things to prevent the squirrels from raiding the feeder but have finally given up and let them have their way with the food. So, now we buy a little more seed and I get some nice life drawing in return.


  1. I love your description of the fog ... the spiderwebs... the birds singing. Makes me want to be there with you.

    And I think you captured the character of the jackrabbit. They are the devil to get to cooperate, aren't they!

  2. Love that oak and the nearly hidden squirrel! Your park sounds magical in the mornings. Wish I didn't have to go to work today, now I am yearning to do some rambling in the woods...