I was sitting at Lin's kitchen bar, my usual place to set up my computer and hang out when I'm staying with her. It's near a bay window and I get to daydream, I mean “muse”, while I'm trying to find some inspiration for writing. The windows are all open now and I could hear a distinct chirping sound outside. I looked out, but I couldn't identify the source of the chirp.
The sound continued. I looked more closely. Still nothing. More chirping ... maybe it was clicking ... or was it chattering? not a bird … a squirrel, maybe? Then I spotted some movement in the woodpile. A chipmunk, well camouflaged, sat nestled in the midst of the chopped wood. I tiptoed out the back door and let the door close ever so quietly while I wielded my camera around the corner. Snap! Snap! Snap! I got him, the little rascal.
Actually, I wasn't sure if it was a chipmunk or a ground squirrel. I had to look up the difference on the internet; they're often confused because they look so much alike. First of all, there are 25 species of chipmunks in the world and 24 of them live in North America. This is definitely an Eastern chipmunk. They do favor wood piles, for one thing. This guy's coloring is very distinctive ... five well-defined dark stripes down his back.
A little trivia about this particular species. It has two fewer teeth than other chipmunks and four toes each on the front legs, but five on the hind legs. I don't feel so confused about describing his chipmunk sound now. I read that they have several bird-like or chattering calls; one is a trill at the rate of 130 vibrations per minute and another is a lower-pitched, clicking sound. Like other chipmunks, he transports food in his cheek pouches. He also uses those cheek pouches to transport dirt out of his burrow.
Chipmunks are solitary critters except at mating time. They live in burrows and we think that though this guy hangs out near the woodpile, he actually lives near Lin's front step in a nest under a low clapboard which happens to be bulging out at the moment.
I've seen him twice more since that first chance viewing the other day. His chatter gives him away. This morning he was sitting on the stone retaining wall just outside my window. Remember Chip and Dale, the Disney chipmunks? I couldn't help think of them when I saw this little guy chattering away and then scurrying under the cover of the shrubs when he heard my footfall.