After my post about the squirrels last week, my friend Matt Hickner began telling me about his own wildlife experiences at his relatively new home in Bakersfield, California. They don’t have tree squirrels there (not really any trees, as its a desert). But they do have ground squirrels and friends.
Since Matt’s house was recently constructed in a new neighborhood, there are quite a few empty lots nearby, featuring lots of dry grasses and dirt, which give him prime critter viewing opportunities.
A couple of days ago, he posted this on Facebook:
In the vacant lot across from my house are burrows that the local ground squirrels dug. These burrows were also a great temptation for the endangered Western Burrowing Owls to occupy. I can see all of this activity from my home office so I clicked a few pictures of them this morning.
Yes, burrowing owls! I’ve always been fond of those, since they were the mascot of the school my brother and my friend Anita went to (Florida Atlantic University, all the way across the US from Matt).
I checked with my friends at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and sure enough, both those places are year-round burrowing owl habitat. Apparently the eastern burrowing owls have more white spots than the western ones, but they are the same species.
I was curious about what kind of ground squirrels the ones Matt sees are, since the ones I see on th Texas coast look different. These are California ground squirrels (duh), and they don’t have the stripes on their bodies that some other types have (and chipmunks, which are related). They look like small prairie dogs, which are also related.
The two species sure don’t seem to bother each other, do they? Apparently they have lots of fun, which prompted Matt to share:
Today these guys are all standing around the burrow like they’re having a wildlife cocktail party.
They seem to fit right into the neighborhood. This cartoon Matt shared with me says it all!
I hope you enjoyed learning about the wildlife in the southern California desert as much as I did! Thanks, Matt.