Over the years numerous red squirrels have staked their claim to this large stump and the midden that surrounds it. Middens and squirrels are common in our woods but this arrangement is different from most.
I spotted the cone pile first, right on top. An odd choice as cones are usually stored underground.
Alongside the cones was another surprise — a nest of dried grass and moss. And sitting in the nest, the current owner, with a great view of the neighbourhood.
On top of the world, sort of. A cache of spruce cones and the current owner.
Both of us are curious about the other.
A good spot to survey your world on a dry day. Not so much when it rains.
On rainy days, the owner is absent so perhaps he (or she) is tucked down in the midden, safe and dry.
Red squirrel Tamiasciuris hudsonicus White spruce Picea glauca
I found this odd object growing in a midden at the base of a spruce tree.
A midden? It’s a tree squirrel’s go-to spot for just about everything: winter den, pantry, kitchen, garbage dump.
Middens pass down to successive generations, so as years go by the detritus piles up — old cones, new cones, twigs, spruce needles, small bones.
At times stuff begins to grow in the rubble.
That’s where I found them: Two white “things” lying on the midden. It took me a minute to puzzle them out.
Of course! I was looking at the remains of dried puffballs. Fungi. Mushrooms.
The grey wrinkled “head” was the actual puffball — the spongy little thing that squirts out a cloud of mushroom “seeds” (spores) when you touch a ripe one.
The white part — the “shoulder pads” on these little guys — is the part you never see. It develops from a spore. Microscopic at first these tiny threads grow and accumulate until finally the mass is large enough to see.
If you know where to look. Until now I never have.
Looking more carefully I spotted a single puffball, still embedded in the midden. A slight tug and up the whole thing came: head, neck and shoulders.
Nature always has something up her sleeve. Some times I’m smart enough to notice.