Nutcracker

Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You plant it in the ground and it explodes into an oak.

~George Bernard Shaw

The trail cameras have been busy these past few months with lots of images of squirrels (too many), raccoons, opossums, two coyotes (finally, I was beginning to wonder what happened), a few raptors, loads of deer, some neighbor kids, and, unfortunately, too many outdoor cats. I tend to leave the cameras in one location for some time to try to get a feel for the wildlife activity in that particular area. I moved one camera slightly back in October to get a better angle on what seemed to be a lot of foraging around a large Northern Red Oak down-slope from the house. This has been an off year for acorns in our woods with almost no White Oak acorns produced. White Oak acorns mature in summer and drop in the fall (one year). The red oak group of acorns take 2 years to drop, but some are produced every spring, so, even in a bad acorn production year, there are some red oak acorns still on the tree. So, in our woods this year, the critters that rely on acorns for a portion of their autumn diet have been concentrating on the red oaks.

The deer have been particularly busy at the large red oaks as there isn’t a lot of understory that they haven’t already over-browsed. The one camera placed near the large Northern Red Oak has had a lot of clips taken of the animals scavenging the acorns that have dropped. Interestingly, very few squirrels have been seen eating the acorns on the ground, probably because they tend to do a lot of their foraging in the tree tops. Here is a selection of the goings on at the old oak tree this season…

A group of deer foraging under the large Northern Red Oak on our property

Sometimes they don’t play nice while searching for acorns.

A doe strikes at another deer to drive her away from what might be a good spot for acorns

Sometimes there are other woodland critters getting in on the bounty under the oak tree…

A Southern Flying Squirrel scurries around the oak trunk
A deer wanders over to check out what the raccoon may have found (raccoons were common at night in the area around the tree)
A rabbit was a frequent visitor under the tree

What I enjoyed the most was watching deer crack the acorns – the way their jaws move, the sounds (sound up for these video clips).

A doe chews loudly on an acorn
Crunchy breakfast

The action under this tree was pretty constant, day and night, for a few weeks, lasting through about the third week of November when most of the acorn drop ceased. Now, an occasional visit by a deer is captured on that camera, but they typically are seen sniffing the leaves a bit before moving on. Winter has set in and times will be tougher for some of our woodland neighbors until the spring green starts to appear.

3 thoughts on “Nutcracker

  1. Great videos. I watched/listened to a group of deer crunching acorns over near Fearrington village a couple of months ago. Very loud. Thanks for sharing your critters with us.

  2. Interesting about your oaks. Our Willow Oaks have this year produced more acorns than I’ve ever seen. Little, tiny acorns in piles everywhere. This is in Raleigh, the aptly named City of Oaks.

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