Caught in Time

The fluttering of many wings caught my eye as a breeze ruffled through the trees.

It wasn’t a swarm of butterflies, however. Instead I’d found a graveyard of sorts.

Nearly two dozen moths died here and despite months of record snowfalls, they were still more or less intact.

The trap, such as it was, had been made unintentionally by a moose or an elk.

Over the summer male members of the deer family grow antlers. The bony formations are protected and nourished by blood-rich velvet.

Although people have posited that males rub off the velvet because it’s itchy, some scientists say it has more to do with increasing levels of testosterone prior to the rut.

When fall arrives the males search for a young tree to use as a scratching post. The damage to trees and shrubs can be considerable.

The males run their antlers up and down the trunk to rid themselves of the velvet, shredding the bark in long strips and exposing the unprotected wood. The tree’s wounds begin to ooze.

Moths trapped in pitch

What drew the moths here? Did they mistake the sap for water drops? Or was it the sweet taste of sap?

“Sugaring” for moths — painting a sugar solution on trees — is one way to attract and collect moths, butterflies and other insects. Perhaps that’s the answer.

Moth trapped in pitch

I managed not to get any sap on me or my camera. The moths weren’t so lucky. They got stuck, literally and figuratively.

Stumped

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 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

The Tree

Once upon a time there was a tree.

For nearly 100 years it stood. Tall. Resilient. Firm against the wind.

But ants arrived. Tunnelled chambers deep into the heartwood.

Woodpeckers appeared. Drilled holes in search of ants.

Wind returned. This time a century of life fell.

Now, in a long-forgotten woodpecker hole, a green heart beats. Again.


White spruce   Picea glauca