August harvester

August is not the best sleeping month at our house. My earlier blog was about loud, early morning fog horns. This blog is about a little busybody harvester whose work often wakes us with a loud BAM beginning about 5:30 a.m.

We have a huge Douglas fir tree towering over our house. Each year in late August a little red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), or maybe it is an army of red squirrels, begin harvesting the thousands of cones our tree produces each year. The skylight in the bathroom adjacent to our bedroom seems to be the main target. It is uncanny how loud the sound from a small three inch cone can be when it drops from 70 or 80 feet.

There does not seem to be a particular system for what happens once the cones are felled. Some of them get eaten on the roof. Some of them get carried into our wood pile. Most of them seem to be abandoned all over the back yard, where they are a bit like walking on marbles.

Years ago when I worked for the U.S. Forest Service we took advantage of the red squirrel’s scattered approach to putting away food stocks for the winter. Our forest biologist explained that they harvest way more cones than they need and actually forget where all their stores are. So, we would find a cache and collect cones to give to give to the nursery that grew young trees for our replanting operations.

I am not sure what signals the squirrels that our cones are ready for harvesting or why they quit after about 5 days. It is simply one of those mysteries I enjoy tracking in our rural setting.



2 replies
  1. Gretchen Staebler
    Gretchen Staebler says:

    I was outside the other day doing my half sun salutations near the Douglas fir that towers NEAR the house but fortunately not over it, when the cones began thudding to the ground. I figured squirrels, but I see very very few here, and I detected none in the tree. But there were birds, and when they flew out the harvest ceased. Do birds knock off cones, too?


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