Chipmunk Paparazzi

I have waited a very long time to get this shot. Chipmunks have been around the entire time we’ve lived here, but sightings became rare when the hawks and owls arrived a few years ago. Since then, two large trees have been cut down, and the raptors have moved on. Last summer, the chipmunks returned.  

A huge sweet gum tree used to stand about 35 feet from the kitchen window. You don’t want a sweet gum tree. Its fruits are spiny balls that hurt if you step on one. I used to have to rake them up each year—a real pain literally and figuratively. The tree became diseased, so I had it removed. The stump is now is surrounded by large hostas that hide the ground from view much of the year.

While in the yard one day, I noticed a chipmunk running along the fence then disappearing under the hostas. Curious, I decided to coax the chipmunk out for a photo session using treats as bait. Not knowing what to try, I placed sunflower seeds and blueberries near the tree stump. I sat waiting for maybe half an hour before a curious robin showed up. The robin, looking leery, slowly approached and hopped around before going after the blueberries. Before the robin could eat two berries, out charged the chipmunk, chasing the robin away. I didn’t have a chance to aim or shoot. Having wasted a lot of time waiting, I walked away disappointed. The blueberries were gone when I came back. 

Feeling I was on to something, I tried raspberries and sunflower seeds (ran out of blueberries). This time a squirrel popped by and was promptly chased away by the chipmunk. Later, the robin came by again. After waiting patiently, I found that my Sony a100 and Maxxum 5D would not focus with a teleconverter attached.  Oddly enough, the Maxxum 7000, which is nearly 20 years older, did. So, I managed to get blurry pictures of the robin and the squirrel, but the chipmunk was too fast. Frustrated and having developed way more respect for wildlife photographers, I gave up. 

Of course, when I don’t have a camera in hand, the chipmunks (I’ve seen two at once) run everywhere. They leave my yard and go next door, always at breakneck speeds. They never eat out in the open like squirrels and robins. Chipmunks have a lot of moxie, routinely chasing away squirrels and robins. I have never seen a single squirrel or robin put up a fight. 

I finally gave up on being a chipmunk paparazzi; I don’t have the patience. They enjoy my hospitality but never let me have a shot—I know when I’m being abused.  

They say every dog has his day. My day came recently while wandering through the house at 6 AM. I looked out the window, and only about 20 feet away was a chipmunk casually digging holes in the pine straw, looking for nuts hidden by the squirrels. (I have watched squirrels use the area to hide things.)   Nonchalantly, I went to get my camera. I didn’t run because I didn’t want the chipmunks to make me look stupid again. When I got back, he was still there, oblivious to my presence! In the dim morning light through a dirty window, I rattled off as many shots as I could. But, I’m not complaining—I’m grateful for what I could get. Chipmunks are skittish and don’t like having their pictures taken, but I think they owe me. They’ve abused my hospitality too many times. 

Next up, it’s the goldfinches in the front yard that stop by each fall to munch black-eyed Susan seeds. I leave the flower stalks with seeds just for them. I’ve fed them for six years, and they owe me too. You would think they’d have the decency to sit still. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *