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Will you survive another day, sweetie?

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

Svartskog, Norway

For a brief moment I thought this young squirrel (born this summer) was stretching out on the ground searching for sunflower seeds that I hand out, but I quickly realised something was seriously wrong.

Normally all squirrels jump to the nearest tree when I come closer, but this one was still flat in the grass. I had noticed a domestic cat roaming around here a couple of times and thought it was perhaps wounded by a cat, but why would the cat leave it out in the open? Something else must have happened. Perhaps it had made a bad decision and fallen to the ground? I’ve seen that several times before – young squirrels missing their targeted branch and then ended up on the ground.

Painstakingly slow it was limping closer to the tree, and I noticed it was unable to use its left leg and was dragging it behind as if made of rubber - It had no control over it. It made some very disturbing spastic and abnormal whole body stretching and twitching movements, as if life was about to end.
With extreme effort it managed to get up in the tree using its three functioning limbs, and find refuge on this branch.

I quickly went inside to get my camera to document it as I thought it was going to die in front of me.

Countless times it dozed off and almost lost its balance, and I was waiting for it to lose consciousness and fall to its death.

Yet it didn’t happen!

Time and time again it held on to life, and then I no longer could find it. A day went by and I thought it had died.

But then I hear some strange scratches on the tree, and down comes a super clumsy squirrel with only three limbs working. It had survived and was hungry for sunflower seeds!

It was very weak still, and it was struggling hard to process the food as it could no longer sit on its legs and use both hands processing the seeds. Instead it would find a seed and then fall on its elbows and then open and process each seed. It looked so exhausting!

Next day it seemed to have gained strength and also improved its technique. As the days went by I realised this was going the right way as it went up the tree real fast and was shouting at me with the familiar smacking sounds only squirrels can.

This improvement has now gone on ever since and today this lovely creature is thriving, and the leg has healed sufficiently for partial muscular control. Perhaps it will even survive to its first birthday!

So what did really happen?

Yesterday I noticed it had several ticks on it, and when I looked through the images of that fatal day I see it has lots of ticks on it. How only this one of the litter is so full of ticks I don’t know, but all the ticks could be the cause of the near death situation, one or more of them could be carriers of diseases that the squirrel’s immune system needed some time to fight off.

On this image you see three ticks, but many more are lurking deep in the fur and have become very easy to see now. Hopefully they will fall off somewhere they will not get in contact with mammals, but there are plenty foxes, badgers and deer here – not to mention all the birds… Yet this is the worst infestation I’ve seen on a squirrel.

Even though I always wear long sleeves and pants in the forest and rubber boots in wet weather like now in the autumn, I still got a tick bite two days ago! It was a tiny one too, on my thigh of all places, and I have lost count of how many bites I have gotten during my decades here. The one that bit me is impossible to see on your clothes as it’s like a speck of dust. I only noticed it because I felt the typical tick itch – I recognise it and therefore take a very close look before I scratch. I had to check several times over to finally conclude it was a tick and not a skin disorder/coloration/mole, etc. A piece of flesh went along with it in order to remove it - that’s how small it was!

So far I’ve not gotten sick from the bites, but statistics are working against me with each new tick bite……. Hopefully I stay out of harm’s way as I normally discover the tick within 24 hours.

Image Copyright © 2017 +Morten Ross
Image Capture Date: 03 September 2017 12:49
Altitude: 16 meters

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Alone

Capped langur (Trachypithecus pileatus)

Bhutan

Langurs are for the most part seen in groups, but sometimes individuals are roaming all alone, like this one I encountered by the side of the road. Sometimes they are driven out by the dominant male but I wonder if some are caught up in the moment and find themselves way behind the group.

This one was behaving as if it did not know which way the group had gone – up or down the mountain side

The clouds were hugging the ground and the mist had condensed in the fur as myriads of beautiful droplets, but the dense fog also made any visual reference hidden and thus vocalisation of the group members was perhaps what it was hoping to hear as it was turning its head in many directions on a spot with clear line of sound from below and up the slope.

It eventually crossed the road and slowly headed upwards.

Image Copyright © 2017 +Morten Ross
Image Capture Date: 01 April 2017 14:29
Altitude: 2223 meters

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I need a hug!

Golden langur (Trachypithecus geei)

Bhutan

These three were part of a good sized group of at least 18 and of all age groups and at least 3 individuals just a few weeks old.

I had so much fun watching their natural and very relaxed behaviour, and here I caught this very young one apparently calling out for mum or any adult to come and make whatever was scary go away.

Image Copyright © 2017 +Morten Ross
Image Capture Date: 11 April 2017 06:52
Altitude: 220 meters

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Watchful and wary

Assam macaque (Macaca assamensis)

Bhutan

I encountered many groups of macaques in Bhutan, but opposed to the langurs they were rather wary of humans, so I only had brief encounters where I had to be very quick with my camera.

This one was passing by above me on the steep slope and was paying attention to my every move as it was moving away from me. The langurs I encountered were mostly just looking and continuing with whatever they were doing as if I was just another animal of the forest.

What’s half the fun is going through the images afterwards, as I so often capture details I am not at all aware of in the field, and here it is snot! Albeit just a small amount. It could also be sap, water or nectar from flowers under the nose, but in any case I was not able to see this through my viewfinder.

It was after all early in the morning and rather dark still, and this is shot at ISO 12800!

Image Copyright © 2017 +Morten Ross
Image Capture Date: 12 April 2017 06:22
Altitude: 977 meters

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Folding feet

Golden langur (Trachypithecus geei)

Bhutan

A human would not at all find this relaxing or energy saving.

Watching the goings on of the langurs is such a fun experience, and this group was slowing down as the day was changing to late evening, low light and the need for finding a suitable place for the night.

This was a healthy group of all ages, and they were so harmonious and mellow. No squabbles or fights, only low vocalizations. Some seemed to be waiting in anticipation of going to the resting place for the night. Others were still eating leaves and as expected the young ones were busy being kids.

I remember how excited I was when I encountered the species for the first time in Bhutan, it is after all an endangered species. Then another encounter followed, and then more. I had so many wonderful encounters that I was filled to the brim of this species. Who would have expected that?

This is Bhutan and a one of the very last strongholds of this species, but still I did not expect to see so many healthy groups and am truly grateful for that.

#wildlife #animals #deer #bhutan

Image Copyright © 2017 +Morten Ross
Image Capture Date: 12 April 2017 17:08
Altitude: 641 meters

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Close encounter of the cute kind

Barking deer (Muntiacus sp)

Bhutan

I had two wonderful encounters with this orphaned barking deer which was so lovingly cared for by Dema the farmer, and this is the encounter of the first day and the third post from this lovely experience.

This young deer was so incredibly harmonious and confident in this setting – surrounded by dogs, humans, livestock and constant sounds.

The dogs were wary of me as I was a new element, but this one was so curious and time and time again I found myself having to hide the camera as it wanted to lick the lens, and even me!

The deer had a free pass to wherever it wanted to go, and it definitely preferred to rest inside with Dema, which is just amazing. I was hoping to photograph it inside, but the day Dema had let the door open for it to come and go, it wanted to be outside. This day the door was closed, and surely it wanted to go inside. Typical behavior of a kid.

A short recap of the background of this deer:
The farmer that came across the calf did not have any cows, thus was unable to provide the necessary milk and care for the calf and asked Dema if she could care for it, which she did.

The other farmer stumbled over a situation where a leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) was stalking and in a rapidly progressing attack which resulted in the mother escaping and the calf following the farmer instead of her mother, and this resulted in the unplanned and likely unwanted adoption of the calf.

Dema is confident she will provide for the calf until it is ready to move on by itself, but want the local or regional wildlife authorities to manage the best possible path to re-introduction to the wild, as that is Dema’s ultimate goal. She had no interest in keeping it for any other purpose than making sure it would grow up healthy and strong.

Image Copyright © 2017 +Morten Ross
Image Capture Date: 04 April 2017 12:45
Altitude: 1529 meter

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Letting go

Golden langur (Trachypithecus geei)

Bhutan

Better not stand under this tree!

Long ago in Costa Rica I was watching a group of howler monkeys when I heard what appeared to be an approaching rain shower. It was not one howler urinating, but several, so the sound of raindrops was not too farfetched. Fortunately I realized what was going on in time to get away from the unpleasant precipitation.

Here it is different as I am far away and in clear sight, and thus I learned something new. Instead of a steady stream, it is a series of drops. How unusual that it is not easier to just let it all out in one stream until the bladder is emptied?

This was one of countless activities going on in this healthy sized group of golden langurs getting ready for another day.

Image Copyright © 2017 +Morten Ross
Image Capture Date: 11 April 2017 06:49
Altitude: 219 meters

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Up to safety

Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)

Bhutan

I had heard stories of this species while in Bhutan, one being a close encounter with a farmer and the cat stalking a barking deer and her calf. In the mountains this widespread species grow larger than in the lowland and can take on a young deer.

Wild cats are notoriously hard to spot as they are so elusive and can walk silently on dry vegetation. Many are also nocturnal. The excellent camouflage is making them extraordinarily hard to spot in the forest. But a few times they cross a road or venture out in the open during the day, like in a pasture or a part of land without any trees or thickets.

This encounter was on a very bad and rarely used road, and it was about to cross it, much likely due to the sound of the car engine, but as the other side of the road was a very steep slope it was not at all an easy escape. It was amazing to watch how it climbed up with each step carefully calculated. I looked glued to the slope.

It would perhaps normally have escaped into the forest with a couple of jumps, but here it was all about getting to safety through an extremely risky route. It didn’t look back at us even once, only focused on the next step up and away from us.

Even here against the open dirt, it is well camouflaged, and if it had not been in the middle of the road for a split second and just stood still on the slope I would most likely have missed it.

It is an amazingly beautiful and agile creature and the only wild cat species I encountered during my Bhutan adventure.

Image Copyright © 2017 +Morten Ross
Image Capture Date: 04 April 2017 14:56
Altitude: 1519 meters

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Mineral supplement

Nepal gray langur (Semnopithecus schistaceus)

Bhutan

Just 20 minutes ago I had an amazing encounter with a lone individual of the species a little higher up the slope. Perhaps it belonged to this group and just took its time exploring on its own?

It was quite a sight watching these beautiful langurs out in the open and in the middle of the road. So valuable are the minerals in the road that they put themselves in harm’s way, or at least out of their comfort zone. Much of the main roads in Bhutan are being upgraded and widened, which means a lot of rocks are being crushed and distributed in sizes from dust, sand, gravel to the foundation of the roads themselves.

Thus a large amount of minerals previously locked in the mountains are being revealed and made accessible as any ripe fruit.

I would assume they would want a big gulp of water after such a snack, as the dust is sucking up any moisture it encounters like flour.

If a car approached, they leisurely went to the side of the road and then back when it had passed. Further up in the thicket and trees I saw many more langurs, but only a few did venture down to the road. Perhaps most had already finished their road-snack?

This was my second and final encounter with the species during my Bhutan journey, and I am very grateful I got some good captures of both.

Image Copyright © 2017 +Morten Ross
Image Capture Date: 14 April 2017 11:52
Altitude: 2988 meters

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Family branch

Golden langur (Trachypithecus geei)

Bhutan

My early morning encounter with this family was such a lovely experience as they were sharing their normal and relaxed behavior in the time before they went on to their first handful of food.

The mothers were sitting together with their young ones, trying to keep them from getting into trouble. The older kids were finding it best to team up on this large branch and seemed a bit bored I think. They were not play fighting, nor jumping around – just sitting and taking it really slow. It was as if they were anticipating the signal to move on to find breakfast. The warming rays of the sun might have been pleasant too.

It was such a peaceful group as all the individuals of various ages were so relaxed and at ease. No stress or tension.

As the sun rose ever higher, the soft light was lost, but they still weren’t moving, so for once I moved on first as they had already provided so many amazing photo opportunities.

Image Copyright © 2017 +Morten Ross
Image Capture Date: 11 April 2017 07:01
Altitude: 219 meters

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