Pennsylvania Game News - July 2017 - 63
- a brief moment with an elusive creature.
On our front porch, a pair of eastern
phoebes had built their second nest.
One early July evening, while Elanor
was eating dinner with us on the porch,
the four nestlings became four fledglings
as one after the other flew over our heads
Even our back porch was attractive to
One night, I left house plants I'd
washed out on the porch to dry. The next
morning, I found a hole dug in the dirt and
muddy raccoon prints on the porch floor.
And, of course, we had our usual bear
One afternoon early in the month,
a young cub ran in front of our son
Steve's car, halfway up the mountain.
Near the end of the month, as I reached
the top of Sapsucker Ridge, I heard a
crash from a tree and caught a glimpse
of a bear running downslope toward
Often when I catch glimpses into the
lives of wild animals and birds, I can only
guess their intentions. But I did solve one
One hot, humid morning inside the
Norway spruce grove, I noticed dozens
of still-immature spruce cones that had
been clipped from the tops of the tallest
trees and stripped of their overlapping
The scales lay in golden-beige heaps
at the base of the trees.
While the trees have had mature cones
for years, never had I seen this.
Fourteen days later, I spotted a gray
squirrel climbing up a cone-laden spruce
tree, proving to my satisfaction that they
were producing the piles and scatterings
of diamond-shaped cone scales throughout the grove. The acorn crop had failed
for two years, and I suspect hungry squirJULY 2017
rels were after the two seeds at the base
of each scale.
Later, I read in North American Tree
Squirrels by Michael A. Steele and John
L. Koprowski about a longleaf pine cone
study they did in North Carolina.
They found that, even though the cones
of most conifers don't fully mature until
October, they already are nutritious by
late July, when squirrels sometimes have
little else to eat.
The North Carolina fox squirrels
stripped the longleaf cones the same
way our gray squirrels had stripped the
Norway spruce cones, by starting at the
bottom of a cone and rotating it like an
ear of corn, gnawing off one cone scale
at a time.
At the end of the month, after a muchawaited rainstorm the previous evening,
I walked Laurel Ridge Trail listening to a
much-quieter suite of singing birds.
I picked up an exquisite eastern wood
pewee nest, lined with thin stems and
plastered with lichens. It had blown from
a high branch in the storm.
Later, as I approached our yard, I
noticed a male American goldfinch crying, on and on, from our electric line. An
immature Cooper's hawk then lifted off
a yard tree and landed on a low, black
walnut branch. Still peering around in
search of prey, it provided a close look at
the white streaks above its eyes, and its
reddish breast and belly.
As soon as the hawk flew off, the
goldfinch was quiet, and a gray catbird
and several other birds began calling as
if giving an all-clear signal.
July's swelter might often make time
spent outside uncomfortable, but my
many glimpses of wildlife make every
sweaty, buggy walk worth the effort.