If you blindfolded me and dropped me somewhere on the property at random right now, I would still be able to tell you whether or not there was an oak tree nearby, based on the sounds alone.
The chattering and scolding of the red squirrels. The screams of the Blue Jays. The knock-knock-knock of the jays’ bills against the acorns’ tough outer husks. The loud smacks of discarded caps and husks falling to the forest floor. It’s harvest season, and the animals are taking full advantage of this year’s acorn mast, which I first wrote about a month ago.
Like squirrels, jays are voracious acorn eaters (you’ll have to excuse the fact that I couldn’t get a good photo of one with my point-and-shoot camera). Researchers have found that a single bird can harvest and cache about 110 nuts a day. What they can’t eat right away, they cache (store for later) by burying it in the soil and leaf litter, and since they don’t find and eat every acorn they cache they’re also planting the next generation of oak trees. For more information about the relationship between jays and oaks, check out the article Jays Plant Acorns from the University of California’s Oak Woodland Conservation Workgroup.
Last winter I wrote about squirrel caches and posted a photo of the scraps of pine cone left behind after a squirrel’s meal – I suspect that this winter those middens will contain acorn husks as well!
Next week I will be leading a backpacking trip to the Porcupine Mountains for my students, so (obviously) I won’t be on the internet at all. I have three fabulous guest posts scheduled for you, but I won’t be replying to comments etc. until I get back, at which point I’ll hopefully have lots of new photos and stories to share.