Getting a little squirrelly around here

The last time we visited our aunt and uncle in Minnesota, we were mesmerized by the black and albino squirrels skittering around the backyard. Two years later, the yard still had a good population of squirrels, but the black ones were gone and just one albino remained.

There’s a surprising amount of literature devoted to coat color in gray squirrels. Black is apparently one of three color variants found in gray squirrels. As in other animals,  albinism is rare, however, according to one article, albinism in squirrels can run in colonies. I remember one such colony in Verona Park, Verona, N.J., during the 1980s.

ON A LIMB — Albino squirrel clings to the knob of a limb.
VISIBILITY — Albinism is an obvious  summertime disadvantage for tree and ground-dwellers, even ones living in a  somewhat protected environment such as a suburban backyard. Four days after we first saw the squirrel, he appeared with a bloody patch on his chest, a mauled ear and his white coat mottled with blood. He managed to survive his wounds, at least in the short term. Should he survive into the Minnesota winter, the odds are in his favor. 
WELL-MATCHED — Sciurus carolinensis in its normal coloring blends in nicely in the hardwoods.

Splendor in the grass

This web in the grass captured more than prey this morning. Suspended in its threads were droplets from sprinkler,  each catching the filtered morning light and each acting as lens and window into a world closer to the ground.

WEB OF JEWELS — Droplets of water cling to a web suspended from blades of grass.

Crazy legs

Haven’t the foggiest notion what this creature is, but it is exotic looking. Very ’80s post-modern, like something that walked out of the Stravinsky Fountain near the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

DOWNWARD — Spiny, stripy, orange-y. Such a creature!
CAMERA SHY — The orange critter tried to remain somewhat invisible.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Close

Better late than never!

CLOSE — The squirrel on the right spent a good half hour chasing the squirrel on the left, round and round the yard and up a tree. The squirrel on the left finally laid down for a nap on a limb. The one on the right halted its head-butting chase only reluctantly.

And a repost from 2010’s visit to St. Paul’s Como Park Zoo.

BUT FOR THE GLASS — Closeness between children, water and polar bears.

And others to check out from this week’s challenge:

And more …

ZZzzz is for zoo

What to do on a hot, bright June day in the Land of 10,000 Lakes? Go to the Minnesota Zoo! What better idea than to see exotic animals in a natural setting while enjoying a beautiful day away from the blue glow of the computer screen and the hubbub of the office. It was vacation, after all.

The zoo was all excitement. Dozens of school buses and minvans were wedged into the parking lot. Families with strollers and adults with “chaperone” tags were clamoring for tickets. Once inside, one could hear see the boundless energy of thousands of elementary school children in their last week of school unleashed in the zoo’s broad walkways.

Weaving our way through the maze of youthful zoologists, we were privileged to hear some of their observations, including: “It smells like poop here” and, after glancing at the tortoises,  “Are those real?”

This brought back youthful memories of school visits to the Bronx Zoo and watching  many and sundry creatures doing what came naturally: grazing, grooming, walking, swinging, flitting, et cetera.

Well, on a hot, bright June day, what we saw at the Minnesota Zoo was a lot of ZZZzzzzzzzz-ing.

AHEM — Can you keep it down? I’m trying to nap here.
WARNING: Exposure to sun can induce sleepiness. Do not operate heavy equipment, including self, while exposed.
TIRED TIGER — A refreshing swim calls for a nap on a bed of grass in the shade.
CARIBOU — After scanning the great expanse of the caribou exhibit for some time, we finally caught these two. Napping. This may be one of my favorite zoo photos ever.

Weekly photo challenge: Friendship

The desert tortoise on the left was quite keen on following the tortoise on the right. Everywhere. If the two weren’t already, it sure seemed as if somebody wanted to be friends. These two made the rounds in their sandy home at the Minnesota Zoo.

TORTOISE TAG — Not exactly a high-speed sport, at least from a mammalian perspective. 

See more of friendship at: