Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Woodpile Sketches - Chipmunk

The chipmunk's latin name (genus) of "tamius" means "storer" and that describes this little guy perfectly. He spends most of his time stuffing his cheeks with food, which he will hide in his burrow for winter eating. The name "chipmunk" most likely is a variation of an American Indian term ("chitmunk") for this little squirrel.

In addition to nuts and acorns, chipmunks eat fungi, worms, berries and insects; all of which are found in and around the woodpile.

Chipmunks create extensive burrows, which can be over 10 feet long underground. They keep their burrows clean, with special places dedicated to garbage (mostly shells from the nuts they eat) and special places to poop.

Male chipmunks live to be about 5 years old, females live to be about 10 years old. Females usually have babies twice a year (spring and late summer) and have litters of 4 or 5 babies at a time.

Chipmunks are quick and skittish, but also are very inquisitive. With a LOT of patience, you can train a chipmunk to eat nuts or seeds from your hand.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Woodpile Sketches - Common Garter Snake

The common garter snake. Next to mice, this is probably the most plentiful creature in the woodpile. It uses its tongue to smell and, because of its small size (it rarely gets more than two or three feet long), it can squeeze into the small spaces where it finds one of its favorite foods, baby mice.

The garter snake isn't picky though, and will eat nearly anything else (alive) that is small enough for it to swallow, including worms and bugs.

Garter snakes are "duirnal." That means they are most active during the day. In winter, the snakes hibernate together in a snake den, which might have dozens of snakes squirming together, all trying to keep warm.

In the springtime, the snakes mate and a female garter snake will give birth to 12-40 live snakes. Gartner snakes do not lay eggs, like some other snakes do.

Garter snakes are eaten by many other creatures, including larger snakes, hawks, skunks and foxes. Young garter snakes might even be eaten by bullfrogs. One of the defenses of a garter snake is to emit a stinky, oily fluid, which probably makes it taste mighty bad.

Most garter snakes are pretty harmless and easy to catch, but some may bite if threatened. Their saliva is toxic, but for most people (or dogs!) this will only create a minor rash or swelling.

Woodpile Sketches - Deer Mouse

It would be unfair to start looking at any of the creatures in the woodpile without first discussing the humble mouse.

This little guy is the key to the entire woodpile community. Unfortunately for him, that's because he's breakfast, lunch and dinner for most of the other creatures hovering around the woodpile.

This little guy (which I called a "field mouse" when I sketched it) is probably a deer mouse or white-footed mouse. They are closely related.

Side note: The term "field mice" (used by many people) actually refers to meadow voles, who live under the grasses in fields.

Deer mice require very little water, getting most of what they need from the seeds and insects they eat. Deer mice, like all mice, cannot vomit and so are easily killed when poisoned.

Deer mice can have litters of babies all year and typically will have a litter (4 or 5 mice) about once a month. They are short lived, mainly because they are a food source for so many things around the woodpile! But in any case would rarely live more than two years. Like all mice, they are extremely territorial, and dominant males will fight other males off of their territory. One male will typically live with several females and young mice.

So... Our little woodpile is likely the home to dozens of mice!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Woodpile Behind the Shed

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There is a woodpile behind the shed in our backyard where a variety of creatures live and congregate. Mice, weasels, chipmunks, squirrels, possums, an occasional red fox or turkey. It's a veritable micro-ecosystem back there.

I thought it would be interesting to do a few sketches of the creatures that live in or rely on the woodpile.

Short-tailed Weasel

There's been a short tailed weasel in our woodpile. Hunting for mice, I suppose.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lex and Nanny

Lex and Nanny... smiley face style.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lego Jedi-Sith Bridge Duel

Another in the Lego Star Wars theme I'm currently focused on....

Sketched with pencil during a pretty dull webinar on "Writing Better Content for the Web." (hence the notes)

Lego Leia

Sketched in with pencil then inked with a felt marker.

Lego Star Wars - Preliminary Sketch

From the CD cover art on the PS2 game.