04 January 2010

Squirrel gets a surprise on Christmas day

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Gryseekhoring) heading down heads first

The Eastern Gray Squirrel is native to North America. This species has a "good" track record for establishing colonies in non-native countries.

Sitting on a rock next to the stream

The Eastern Gray Squirrel is not considered a big invasive threat in South Africa, mostly because of the location where the introduction took place. The Western Cape has no native squirrels and the habitat (mostly shrubs and heaths) are not very attractive to squirrels which usually prefer areas with more trees. The same conditions that limit the native squirrels from spreading into the Western Cape is also limiting the Eastern Gray Squirrels from leaving the Western Cape. In the Western Cape they are limited to Oak and Pine plantations and suburban gardens.

I very rarely photograph individuals in the native vegetation. If I do get a photo of one it is usually in the forests or the transition between forest and fynbos. These are most likely dispersing individuals looking for new territories and they don't stay in the area for long. However, they are much more commonly found anywhere near Oak trees and the photos in this post where all taken along a small stream at Kirstenbosch with Oak nearby.

So, to get back to the title of this blog entry: On the 24th December I moved my camera a little up the stream onto a branch from an Oak tree that crossed the stream. The next day when the squirrel crossed the branch it did not know what to think of this strange new object in its way, and it spent some time checking it out.

Click the image to view the larger version

But by the next day it was confident enough to do some serious grooming in front of the camera.

Some serious early morning grooming

And some more crazy moves to get at that last spot

My main reason for trying out this area along the stream was to maybe get pictures of an Otter or Water Mongoose, although I think it's a long shot... More realistically I was hoping for some nice Large-Spotted Genet pictures and maybe a Porcupine crossing the stream. No Porcupine appeared, but a Small Grey Mongoose appeared and I did get the tail end of the local genet a few times. Maybe better luck next time.

I have been looking at the rear end of genets for far to long now... I want some mug shots please :)

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