On a colorful fall day with some rainy drizzle, I sat watching two squirrels running down an eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and jumping onto an American beech (Fagus grandifolia), biting off small branches full of leaves, and running back up the tree as fast as they could climb. Back and forth—the two squirrels took turns and continued this behavior for several hours as they worked on their nest-building.
American beech has always been one of my favorite landscape plants because of its winter interest: the leaves hold on to the tree all winter long. Every spring, I enjoy trying to guess what day in the first week of April the leaves will finally fall off. Of course, these leaves would be excellent nest-building materials. Eastern squirrels will also use pine needles and white oak leaves if available, and squirrels, being social creatures, will share their nests during certain times of the year.
Another fun squirrel behavior is to see them use their bushy tail as an umbrella in the rain as they sit on a tree branch. A little rain does not keep them from being active and enjoying their habitat. This is a prime example of the importance of planting native trees for habitat.
by Robyn Affron
Visitor Services & Volunteer Coordinator