The ground squirrels that live around the research house are very curious little buggers. They are constantly running around the lawn using their nose as a guide, nibbling on anything they can get those squirrely little hands on. In fact, if you walk out with a piece of bread and sit down for just a few minutes, you may very well be mobbed by those hungry little creatures. Even more fun, I’ve noticed, is to place the bread somewhere on your lap and wait for them to crawl up and start munching right there on your leg. I’ve been tempted to reach out and pet the little guy as he sits on my lap eating my bread, but something tells me he’d react something like my cat does – by turning around and biting me. My goal on this trip was to leave Africa the way I came in, and that means sans rabies or parasites, so I’ll do my best to avoid being nibbled by a wild animal. In spite of this, however, I’m quite surprised how delicately the squirrels end up taking the food from your hand. Unlike the peacocks who just peck at whatever is in front of them (I’ve learned to keep my thumb pressed against my other fingers when feeding the peacocks by hand because they end up just pecking anything and everything, including fingers that might be out in the open), the squirrels on the other hand are almost graceful when they take food from your hand. They will gently sniff the piece of bread for a second, then carefully grasp it with their fingers before slowly putting it in their mouth. It’s quite cute actually, unlike those stinking peacocks who just slam their beaks into whatever looks like food. And best of all, these little guys don’t leave huge piles of gooey poo all over the place!
Ground squirrel on the lap
About two months ago a guy who was visiting the farm decided to take a day trip to the city of Kimberly about 200km away. Kimberly is location where diamond mining in South Africa really took off in the early 1900s, and today holds tourist attractions like “The Big Hole” – the original diamond mine. I anxiously asked if I could tag along for the ride, eager to get off the farm and explore more of this country I was visiting, and he told me he’d be happy if I come with. “The Big Hole” was nothing short of a big hole…basically it was a 100 meter hole in the ground with some water on the bottom, about 300 meters wide. ‘Not too spectacular’ I thought to myself as we walked around it, but then again I am no diamond mining connoisseur. We looked around, walked through the museum, then grabbed a bite to eat before heading back to the farm. Just as we were leaving Kimberly he turned to me and asked if I brought my big camera lens. I told him I hadn’t (expecting we were just going to visit some big mining hole, I had no intentions of lugging around 30 pounds of camera equipment). He looked slightly disappointed and said ‘bummer – there is a lake with some flamingos just down this road coming up.’ Never having seen flamingos in the wild, I was not only shocked to hear that they were there in Kimberly, but a little upset he hadn’t told me about the lake before we left! I would have loved to visit the lake, but then again I was thinking to myself ‘yeaaah yeah what are the chances the flamingos would be there right now anyways…’ Knowing how birding works, whenever there is a species you’d like to see and you go looking for it, it is often not where it is supposed to be. Instead, you accidentally run into it in a Costco parking lot or some random guys back yard. Anyways, I justified not bringing my big lens with me by telling myself that the chance that flamingos were actually on that lake right now were minimal.