Monday, May 27, 2013

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel and more

On Sunday morning, May 25th, Rodolfo and Miryam Palma and I took advantage of the cool, sunny weather to go around Willow Run airport near Ypsilanti to see what we could find.  With the exception of a few misses - e.g. Red-tailed Hawk, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Bluebird and Grasshopper Sparrow -  I think we saw all of the Willow Run target species.  If interested, I have included our complete eBird checklist.

Wanting to remain in the car so as not to alert airport security, it was not a morning that yielded a lot of photographs.  We did, however, find a couple of pleasant surprises.

A first for all of us was this Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) along the roadside on the western edge of the airport drive.  A trip out west, especially to national parks and the like, will acquaint one with any number of these cute and industrious little creatures (I have included several in prior blog entries), but I was completely unaware that there were any ground squirrels in Michigan.  Upon arriving back home I plucked the Kaufman Field Guide to Mammals of North America (2004, p. 74-75) from the shelf and quickly made the identification with the following account.  "Originally a resident of short-grass prairies, this distinctive and adaptable ground squirrel is now abundant in many places where people mow grass: golf courses, cemeteries, parks, yards and along roadsides throughout much of central North America."  To this list I'll add airports.  When I posted this off-topic sighting on a birding listserve, I received several responses that the Thirteen-lined has also been seen at Ann Arbor airport, U of M's North Campus, Kensington Metropark and even in a friend's backyard off North Territorial in Washtenaw County.  Michigan and western Ohio seem to be the eastern limit of its range.  Pretty little thing.  All photos were taken by Rodolfo.         

Finally, I cannot omit cuteness from this blog entry.  For all of the Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) we have here in Michigan and for how noisily visible they are (the latin name says it all), I will own up to not often seeing Killdeer young.  I think the last I saw young Killdeer in Michigan was about eight years ago on the front lawn of a friend's house in New Boston.  After that I saw some in an uninhabited area of central Florida in 2009.  Perhaps this is because, to me, Killdeer seem to be such good parents.  I apologize for my anthropomorphism, but I think anyone who has walked in Killdeer habitat during breeding season knows what I mean.  It's one of the reasons I don't enjoy birding the Rouge River channel in Dearborn between the end of March through the breeding season.  

In total there were three of these little guys at the edge of the road just south of where we saw the ground squirrel.  The car was a good blind. They are no longer tiny fuzz balls, but still pretty darn cute. 

Successful and enjoyable morning outing.

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