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It’s in your nature: Enterprising animals

While driving many of our region’s secondary roads the past few weeks, I couldn’t help but notice the super bountiful acorn and in particular, black walnut crop this year. Squirrels will be reaping the rewards to prepare for winter.

But maybe what wasn’t quite as obvious were the crows feasting as well. Anyone who may have dried walnuts for eating knows how difficult it is to “shell them.” Crows are unable to get to the walnut meat inside as well.

But these enterprising birds wait until numerous vehicles have driven over them, cracking the hard walnuts open and exposing the delicious nuts inside. The crows then, between passing autos, swoop onto the streets to gobble up the meat of the walnuts. Pretty smart birds.

I’ve already noted in a previous column how robins and grackles head to wet secondary roads early in the morning following an all-night rain. They are there to gobble up the tremendous number of earthworms that either were killed by traffic or are still trying to find their way back to the farm field from which they came.

In the next month or two as you travel to the Lehigh Valley to shop at one of the region’s malls, you’ll see many more enterprising birds. Ring-billed gulls have modified their behaviors over the past few decades.

Once relegated to feeding along the coastal areas and as winter approached, moving southward, these gulls have found new feeding grounds. Probably every one of our shopping areas boast a number of fast-food restaurants. It appears to me that enough French fries, bagels or bits of burgers make it onto the asphalt parking lots to feed the sometimes dozens of gulls that are there. In addition, the surface of the lots holds water puddles where they can find plenty of water to satisfy them.

I have recommended adding suet to your feeding stations. Knowing that nuthatches, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays and even mockingbirds will feast on the fat, high-calorie food source. In many cases it makes a difference on how many might make it through the toughest parts of winter.

Well, I had an opportunity to watch chickadees finding a natural suet source. On a cold, January morning I took a short ride along a few back roads in East Penn Township, of course looking for a few new birds to add to my yearly list. A few feet off the side of one road were the remains of a deer carcass.

It appeared to me that someone had butchered their recent deer harvest and discarded parts of the deer. Some of the deer hide was still attached and on the hide were strips of fat. I was able to park the car safely and spent about 20 minutes watching the feeding. Chickadee after chickadee would alternate trips to glean bits of the tallow. Nature has a way of not letting anything go to waste.

I’m sure you witnessed some enterprising wildlife, but if not, get out there in this Times News area and enjoy, enjoy.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: True or False ____ The main “trigger” for leaf color changes is the frost killing the leaves.

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: Woodchucks are hibernating animals; the striped skunk may remain active until severe winter conditions arise and then “den up” for short winter sleeps.

Contact Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com.

Vultures, like this turkey vulture in Mahoning Township, have capitalized by feeding on many roadkilled animals. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
This enterprising robin arrived locally soon after a large snowfall last winter. It took advantage of a spring seep on the edge of a local homeowner's lawn where the snow had melted.
Black-capped chickadees normally survive in winter feeding on small seeds and add some protein from overwintering insects and spiders. I watched a small group glean bits of tallow from the remains of a deer carcass.
Great blue herons normally search steam and pond edges for small fish or amphibians. However, some homeowners with koi ponds have reported that the enterprising herons sometimes will not overlook an easy meal.