I think I'm pretty clever and have lived a long time, done much, and learned just about everything until days like today strike.
It seems one mindlessly accepts the world as it is until something, for reasons not understood, piques one's interest. "Have you ever seen a chickadee's nest?" Hubby asked as we watched the cheery, plentiful birds flit about our campsite.
I realized I didn't know if I had because I had no idea what a chickadee's nest looks like. Unfortunately, or fortunately, our get-away campsite has no internet or cell phone service, so googling chickadee nests had to wait for the weekend to be over.
Half the time these days, things I want to google go in one side of my brain and then disappear into the ether before I get anywhere near a computer or smartphone. It was halfway through the next week before I remembered to look up the nesting habits of chickadees. I discovered no, I likely have never seen a chickadee's nest because they build them inside tree holes and hollows. But, as always happens when one surfs the net, another curiosity arose. Along with the chickadee nest article were instructions on how to build a 'bird house' that chickadees would nest in. Included in those instructions were tips on how to keep the squirrels out of the house as they might raid the nest and eat the eggs.
Squirrels eat eggs? I thought squirrels ate nuts, and pine cones, and judging by the mess they once made in our abandoned outhouse, tissues, mushrooms, corncobs, and carpet strings. I was pretty sure this was an example of 'internet misinformation.'
Further research on my trusted nature sites revealed, yes, both chipmunks and squirrels will raid birds' nests and not only eat the eggs, but eat the hatchlings, too. Some, in fact, have been known to catch and kill adult birds. (They've also been known to scavenge dead birds.)
Okay, so there went my impressions of kind and cute vegetarian squirrels, but also therein lay the answer to my burning question about where the unhatched robin's egg on my deck went after the fledglings fledged.
I was pondering these newfound facts of nature as I hiked through my forest this afternoon when I came across a fresh pile of bear scat. I pondered that for a while, trying to decipher what it was the bear was eating since the spring infestation of tent caterpillars had severely stunted the saskatoon berry crop. There were seeds of some sort in the scat, perhaps raspberry and strawberry as due to the caterpillars destroying the forest canopy, extra sunlight reached these plants.
When I came across the second pile of bear scat an observation struck me. Most people would not be prone to thinking deeply when encountering bear scat, either about food sources of Ursa or wood frogs, but authors are known to be unlike most people in their view of the world and their thought processes. I surmise, because about then I realized both times as I neared the scat pile, five or six frogs hopped away from it. When the same thing happened at the third pile, I realized frogs eat bear scat, something even google doesn't seem to know.
About then, I pulled my canister of bear spray from my holster...
The three things I learned today:
1. Chickadees build their nests inside trees
2. Chipmunks and squirrels eat birds
3. Wood frogs eat bear scat
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Eileen Schuh, Author
Web site: http://www.eileenschuh.com