A Melanistic Squirrel on Turkey-Eve, 11-22-17

Around 7 o’clock I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was about 46º and foggy when I went out, but turned somewhat sunny and got up to 61º by the time I headed back home.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

A lot of the usual suspects at the preserve this morning, but there were a few interesting moments including being able to watch a flock of Wild Turkeys chasing each other in circles; and watching a California Scrub Jay pose nicely for me so I could get photos of it, and then seeing it jump down onto the ground and then flit back up into view with a big, fat Jerusalem Cricket in its beak. But the coolest sighting today was of a melanistic tree squirrel: all pitchy black. It was in one of the granary trees used by the Acorn Woodpeckers to stash their acorns and nuts, and was ripping off the bark from the branches to it could steal their stock from them. The birds were freaking out, buzz-bombing the squirrel, but it was bold and took the harassment (including be struck in the head several times by the birds) for quite a while. I’d never seen a squirrel like that before, and took lots of photos and video snippets of it.

“…Melanistic animals actually are somewhat common in nature, with some species even passing on the trait as a genetic adaptation. Black skin and fur assist in nighttime camouflage, and melanism can also help animals deal with extended periods in direct sunlight…”

I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed home. It was so nice outside when I got home that I opened up the whole house to let the fresh air in. (It was a little chilly, but lovely.)

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Mary K. Hanson is a breast cancer survivor who, at age 61, took coursework to become a Certified California Naturalist. The author of “The Chubby Woman’s Walkabout”™ blog, Ms. Hanson has also written nature-based feature articles published in regional newspapers, authored over ten books, including her "Cool Stuff Along the American" series of guide books, and has had her photographs featured in books, articles, calendars, on the American River Parkway Foundation’s Instagram stream, and even the White House blog. This year Ms. Hanson is helping to launch and teach a new Certified California Naturalist course through Tuleyome, in partnership with the University of California and the Woodland Library, so members of the public can themselves become certified as naturalists in the state. All of the photos seen on her website were taken by Ms. Hanson herself (unless noted otherwise) with moderate- to low-end photographic equipment more easily affordable to the everyday nature enthusiast. She also occasionally leads photo-walks through the American River Bend Park for the public and is sometimes available for public speaking.