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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Magic squirrel mulch

An incense cedar fell across the flume during the last storm. Evidently the tree had been injured when it reached a height of about 40 ft.

The original shoot is the gray stub on the left. It died back from the damage, and eventually became a bird's nest cavity.

Two new shoots replaced it and grew into the two logs you see laying across the flume. These forked shoots were off center, and as they grew they placed an increasing strain on the trunk. This year they strained the trunk to the breaking point. Heavy winds were all it took to snap the trunk.

The trunk was hollow, but squirrels had packed it with cedar bark stuffing. It smelled good, and I started to dig it out like a terrier in a rat hole.

"I wouldn't do that", warned the redhead, "it could have fleas and all kinds of things.

"My God, there's squirrel hair in it! Tail hair!" I exclaimed. "Why this is a multi-generational squirrel nest!"

"Remember when your house had the flea infestation and your parents threw out your bird nest collection?"

"That was different," I answered. "This is self-sanitizing nest material filled with terpenes and secondary compounds. Just smell it. It's wonderful." The redhead backed up a step.

"C'mon!" I pleaded. "It smells just like cedar pencils."

Finding a fallen tree can be a cheap thrill for a biologist, especially one with cabin fever.

As we walked home I hatched a plan.

Three days later I returned to the scene and packed three grocery bags with magic squirrel mulch. It looks great around the camellias. The redhead hasn't noticed yet. When she does, I'm going to tell her, "It's special. You can't buy it at the garden center".


Owlman said...

Cool story. I'd like to install an entry alert system in my owl box. How difficult/expensive would that be to do and where do I go to get the right equipment?

Please send any info to qjoubert2@embarqmail.com



Camera Trap Codger said...

I'll send to your email the info shortly.