A natural landscape – one with a chemical-free lawn, stone walls, brush piles and weedy edges – provides habitat for a surprising array of wildlife species. Add bird feeders to the mix and the response from seed-eating animals can be overwhelming. The Eastern Chipmunk is one such critter. Stone walls become condos and dirt-free entrances to burrows, tunnel systems and nesting chambers seem to appear overnight.
Despite decades of observing chipmunks underfoot, I was unfamiliar with nest-building behavior until April of this year. A chipmunk popped up from a tunnel entrance in the lawn, checked for threats, then scurried a few feet and picked up a dried oak leaf that had persisted through the winter.
Ok – now what? That leaf is difficult to carry and too big for the tunnel. Of course – chew it up and use the cheek pouches for storage and transport!
The oak leaf project was repeated over and over again. The shredded leaves appeared to be the primary nest-building material and I assumed the work would be done when the last shredded leaf made its way into the tunnel.
I was wrong. Should have known. Shredded oak leaves aren’t all that warm and cozy. The nest needed a liner, and the solution was soft, dried grass, literally plucked from the lawn.
Chippy spent the best part of a morning hauling leaves and grass into its hidden, underground chamber and constructing a nest….in the dark! That was several weeks ago, so I imagine the hard work is now paying dividends.
Photos by NB Hunter (early April, 2019). All rights reserved.