05.22.16: Fox squirrel tail tale

A fox squirrel, backlit by the morning sun, eats in a tree
in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK ARCHIVES

Technical information

Date/time:
March 21, 2009,
10:30 a.m.

Location
40°7’10” N,
82°57'29" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Camera: 
Canon EOS 40D

Lens: 
Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm)

Aperture: 
f/5.6

Shutter: 
1/250th second

ISO: 
800

I see a lot of squirrels during my hikes through local forests, so I’ve added a lot of photos of squirrels to my files through the years.

But this photo of a fox squirrel is one of the first I think of whenever I need to use a photo of a squirrel for some project. It’s not my favorite (the squirrel peering out from a hole in a tree or the squirrel facing the camera in a three-point stance are much better photos, in my opinion), but it’s definitely memorable.

I guess it’s because of the length of the squirrel’s tail. That’s the first thing I noticed when I saw this squirrel in the distance eating on a tree branch. The length of the tail seemed so out of proportion to the body. Maybe it’s because I seldom see a squirrel on a limb with its tail hanging straight down. It is usually raised along the squirrel’s back. Or maybe the tail is just unusually long. I don’t know, but it caught my attention.

I moved into a position where I had an unobstructed view of the squirrel and managed to do that without scaring it off. The morning sun was behind the squirrel, providing a nice backlight/rim light effect on the body and the tail. The forest in the background was reduced to an out-of-focus gray tone similar to the color on the squirrel’s head and back, making the orange-yellow underside — a distinguishing characteristic of a fox squirrel — pop against the monotone background.

The fox squirrel is the largest species of tree squirrel in North America, up to eight inches longer than the gray squirrel that shares much of the same range. The body length of a fox squirrel can be up to 28 inches with the tail reaching as much as 13 inches long. A gray squirrel can be up to 12 inches long with a tail reaching as much as 10 inches long.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.