|Link to ARKive photo|
The bird feeder in my backyard is full of safflower seeds this winter.
The squirrels do not approve.
Sunflower seeds, on the other hand, bring them out in droves. You probably already know this, and no doubt have a squirrel-proof plan of your own. It's not that I don't like squirrels. (My husband believes I am a descendant of Scrat. *ahem*) I just want the birds to get some food too.
Out on the Anatolian plain, the highway (highway being a two lane road at the time) between Ankara and Mersin is covered in sunflowers. Squirrel heaven. Except there are no trees.
So where are the squirrels? Hiding out underground. You don't even know they're there. Unless you're the farmer, twisting your ankle in a burrow hole, swearing at them for eating your precious crops. Farmers took to poisoning the poor critters. The Anatolian Ground Squirrel population dropped somewhere around 25% before they were declared "near threatened" and offered some protection.
My first sight of them was at the side of the road, as I was going xxx kilometers per hour. The farmers had just cut down the sunflower crop and flushed the squirrels out. They were up on their hind legs, all in a row (the squirrels, not the farmers). I imagine they were a group of boy squirrels, daring each other to cross the road. (Why else were they there?)
Anyhow, they were very cute, so I hope they listened to their mommies and did not cross the road. (There's a TUNNEL, silly!) After that, I wondered if the underground cities were the brainchild of some ingenious, squirrel-minded individuals. As for myself, I was looking for a way to use these critters in my writing for a couple years now. I finally found a good spot in my WIP - Mist of Kavala. (Check out my brand-spanking-new query.)
You know what - it's a good thing I was sharing this with you today, because according to my research, ground squirrels don't drink standing water. So my squirrel at the watering hole - needs to find some other reason to be there. (Oops!) I guess it can nibble on some tasty seed plants growing there instead.