High above the forest floor, there's a whole world of living, out here JOTOLR! This time of year it becomes more obvious. Bald-faced Hornet nests we never saw before appear and finally pinpoint the source of our summer long annoyance with this double-edged sword of the insect world. On the one hand hornets provide great pest control. On the other, though, it's hard to ignore their annoying and threatening presence!
Vacated bird nests of one kind or another are tucked into the shrubbery and reveal how crowded are yard has been! A new house in the distance can be seen amidst the tree tops, its elevation higher than ours, and which wasn't there back in the spring. And that serves to solve the mystery of all that hammering and sawing this past summer.
And that black blob you see in the photo? It's a mass of tightly balled up leaves, crammed between the bare branches of an ash tree by a squirrel. Every night at milking time--and yes, we are into darkness now as we milk Marigold, (lights in the milking shed help!) having to milk at roughly 12-hour intervals--this is the scene, right behind the milking stall. The fretwork of the limbs against the sunset, highlight the sculpture of the leaf-ball.
Those of us who live in the Appalachian region, mainly take these nests for granted, but when the wind is blowing hard, as it does often throughout the winter I am amazed at how sturdy, safe, and apparently warm they are. Right now, squirrels scurry up and down the trees, gathering all manner of "mast" (food, such as acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts) for the winter, burying it close by the nest site. And the mast has been good this year. The forest floor is a vast carpet of acorns.
We have three varieties of squirrels here in West Virginia--actually four, if one includes the illusive Flying Squirrel. The Fox Squirrel is the largest, followed by the Gray, and then there's the Red, which inhabits the pine woods of higher elevations in the northern part of West Virginia. Here's a link to a great article on squirrel nests, written several years back by the Art Shomo, Writer for the West Virginia DNR. Go to: Squirrel Nests This is an excellent collection of information that lets us all appreciate what we often don't notice!