01.02.22: Chipmunk meal time

Chipmunk eating on tree branch, Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

Chipmunk eating on tree branch, Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Jun 7, 2010 10:03 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Lens: EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/125 second
  • ISO: 1600

Unusual sight: chipmunk  still and in the open

Most of my photography experiences involving chipmunks go something like this: My eyes see a chipmunk and my brain says “there’s a …” (the chipmunk drops into hiding) “… chipmunk."

It's not easy to get shots of chipmunks. They don't spend much time in the open. Their color allows them to blend with their surroundings. And they are quick to head for cover when threatened. This survival behavior is important because there are a lot of animals hanging around the woods that eat chipmunks, including owls, hawks, coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, foxes, weasels, cats, dogs, snakes and possibly others. An inattentive chipmunk can become a snack.

But I've managed to get some good shots through the years, lucky accidents when I'm in the woods or fields photographing birds. Chipmunks like wooded areas or fields near wooded areas, preferring locations with rocky terrain and shrubs to provide cover.

This chipmunk was violating all rules of chipmunk survival behavior when I found it in a park north of Columbus, Ohio. It was eating while sitting on a tree branch, in the open with no immediate cover nearby. It didn’t see me approach — inattentiveness isn’t a good trait for a chipmunk — and kept eating. So I slowly lifted the camera to get a shot, fully expecting the chipmunk to dash off when detecting motion.

It stayed, so I got a shot.

Chipmunks can be found resting in trees but they live in burrows they dig underground.

A chipmunk’s burrow can be very elaborate, according to the Ohio Animal Companion website:"Eastern forest floors are dotted with 1½ – 2 inch holes, which are usually the humble openings to a chipmunk’s complex system of tunnels and chambers. These underground dens can be up to 30 feet in length, and as time goes on, many rooms are created to serve different domestic purposes. There are separate ‘rooms’ for sleeping, for waste, and for storing food. The basic bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen are covered, with more chambers added throughout a chipmunk’s life. When more space is required, chipmunks can simply dig, and remove soil from the burrow using their specialized cheek pouches.”

This chipmunk was violating all rules of chipmunk survival behavior when I found it in a park north of Columbus, Ohio. It was eating while sitting on a tree branch, in the open with no immediate cover nearby. 

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