Tag Archives: tree squirrel

Once Upon a Campsite

Most of the campsites that we stay at have one or two local residents that come and welcome us as soon as we arrive.  We like to think that they are just being hospitable, but we secretly know that they have been lured in by all our predecessors and they’re really hoping that we will keep up the tradition of feeding them scraps.  They vary from birds to jackals and monkeys, but when we visited Cape Vidal we had a marvelously different array of hungry souls that came in search of food.  With the Park’s strict “No Feeding” policy we were hard-pressed not to give in to the pressure as they scrounged around our vehicles.

Red-capped Robin Chat

During the day we had this sweet little Red-capped Robin Chat (and his wife) getting underfoot.  With their beautiful bright feathers they were welcome guests (or perhaps WE were actually their guests) and we were glad to have them around.  Their happy chirping always heralded their arrival and they weren’t scared when we moved around the campsite doing our daily chores.

Large Spotted Genet

Night-time brought other visitors.  On our first night around the campfire we were visited by a Large Spotted Genet.  As we sank a few beers and/or Gluwein we debated whether our Genet was a large Spotted Genet or a Large Spotted Genet – there is a difference you know.  As you can see, the conversations are very deep and intense when you’re in the bush and staring into the dancing flames of a campfire.

Bushpig

Our second night brought in a rather large visitor in the form of a wild Bushpig.  When he came bumbling into our campsite humans and chairs scattered and we dived for our cameras.  It’s always a good policy to keep a camera close on hand when you’re in the bush – you never know what is about to come into your viewfinder!  The Bushpig was a first for us, as we’d never seen a wild one so close by before.  He snuffled around in the sand hoping for some leftovers and then disappeared back into the bushes without so much as wishing us good night.  He came back a couple of times during our stay, but this was the best photo that we got of him.

Mongooses raiding the refuse bin

We were woken up every morning by the chattering of dozens of Striped Mongooses that swept through our campsite like little vacuum cleaners.  They weren’t content just to scour the dusty ground, but even managed to climb into the sealed refuse bin to feast on peels and bones that had been thrown away.  Of course they were always in competition with the monkeys that I wrote about in my last blog.

Tree Squirrel

Competition for food is tough in the bush and every animal is on the lookout for easy pickings.  Next up was a sweet little Tree Squirrel that also wanted a piece of the action.  His magnificent tail looked like a golden bottle brush in the early morning sun.  He was rather shy and fled if we so much as moved a finger.

Bushbuck

Last but not least was a pair of Bushbuck.  They looked so vulnerable on their delicate long legs, but they could take off very quickly when the need arose.

Imagine having all these different creatures in one campsite.  We didn’t even have to take a game drive to enjoy them either.  What an amazing place to park off for a few days to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.   As an added bonus, the game drives during the day also offered up opportunities to enjoy lots of animals and birds.  Definitely worth a visit and a revisit sometime soon.

Just nuts about squirrels

Our focus on this website is predominantly on birds and birding, but we have spent many delightful hours watching the squirrels that are found in Namibia and Botswana.  The two varieties that are prevalent here are the Cape ground squirrel (Xerus inauris), found mainly in the dry, semi-desert areas and the little tree squirrel (Paraxerus cepapi), which mostly favours woodland areas.

Cape ground squirrel

Cape ground squirrel

On visits to the Kgalagadi TF Park and the Central Kalahari, this year, we came across scores of the Cape ground squirrels and had to drive very carefully to our campsites because they had completely undermined the road with all their burrows.  Living in little colonies, they share the burden of keeping an eye out for predators.  They appear just as comfortable standing on their hinds legs as walking around on all fours.

Typical burrow area

Typical burrow area

Identifiable by their white stripes

Identifiable by their white stripes

We saw a banded cobra take refuge in a squirrel burrow when we stopped too close to it, but squirrels also often share their living space with mongoose and meercats.

An unwelcome visitor in a squirrel burrow

An unwelcome visitor in a squirrel burrow

The ground squirrel’s diet is varied and apart from eating seeds, pods, insects and whatever else they can catch, they are also partial to bread and other foodstuff that generous campers offer them.   Bigger than the tree squirrel, the ground squirrel is easy to recognize as it has a white stripe down its side and an enormous bushy tail.  The tail, when lifted, serves as a sunshade.

Now guys, don't be jealous .....

Now guys, don't be jealous .....

The tree squirrels are shyer than their bigger cousins and tend to live in smaller groups.  We found them much more difficult to pin down for photographs until we went to Savuti in Botswana, where the little critters virtually took over our campsite and we had to hold down all our food and snacks.  They had no qualms about coming into the caravan, car and even onto an occupied chair to pinch some nuts.  We were amused at how they picked up nuts and carried them long distances to store, before coming back for more.

Here, there and everywhere

Here, there and everywhere

What a cutie!

What a cutie!

The little one pictured above was brazen enough to nibble my toes before climbing up my leg and onto the chair.

At the Island Safari campsite in Maun, we were fascinated to see how the tree squirrels almost mobbed a puff adder as it slithered through the campsite.  Together with the birds they made quite a noisy fuss about the danger that this snake presented to them.