I have always enjoyed being a backyard detective. Whenever I take a walk around my property I am constantly looking for wildlife, or telltale signs that tell me that they have visited my yard. On many occasions, I would never know that a particular animal had ventured into my yard if I was not able to read the signs it left behind.
On a recent early morning walk, I stumbled across a green loblolly pine cone that was missing some of its scales, the core of a pine cone, as well as a number of green pine cone scales. Since I have found similar items in my yard over the years, I immediately knew the identify of the animal left these clues behind.
In this case, these items told me that a gray squirrel had ben feasting on loblolly pine seeds high above in the canopy of a tall loblolly growing in my backyard. It seems that gray squirrels like to dine on the unripe seeds found at the base of the tree’s green pine cones. In order to reach these delicacies, the squirrels have to dismantle a green pine cone one scale at a time to reach the seeds.
When a squirrel finishes with cone, it simply drops the core to the ground. I suspect that the pine cone that was missing only a few scales was accidentally dropped by a hungry squirrel.
Over the years I have encouraged my daughter and granddaughter to join the ranks of backyard sleuths that are always looking for clues that are hiding in plain sight. To this day, they routinely call me up to share their backyard discoveries. When they do, I like to believe that I played at least a small roll in enhancing their appreciation of the natural world that exists just beyond their backdoor.