Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Shock and Surprise in a Buckeye Tree!

Earlier in September, while walking on the Little Miami Trail, I stopped to admire a Buckeye Tree. The buckeyes were still encased in their spiny capsules, and I wanted to get a photo of their neat texture. As I was zooming in on a branch with three buckeyes hanging off, a squirrel parted the leaves and came face to face with me. He froze in total shock. He didn't know what to do! I was shocked too and also had that delayed motor response that accompanies total surprise. It was pretty cool--we both froze for a micro second, each reading a thousand thoughts in the other's eyes. Then I snapped a photo, and at the same moment, he skedaddled out of there (yes, "skedaddled" -- no other word will do). It all took place so fast, and that look of sheer terror and surprise on the squirrel's face made me laugh out loud!

When his little foot pushed that leaf down and he saw me, he froze! He truly was shocked and surprised to see me. He had been so intent on running up and down the branches knocking off the buckeyes he wasn't paying attention to what was on the other side of the leaves.

In a flash he was gone...turning and running up that branch where he looked at me from a safe distance.

I stayed around to watch what he was doing. He would run to the end of the branch and knock off a buckeye. He wasn't gathering the seeds because they were still encased in the husks, which hadn't even started to ripen and split. Instead, he would hang there at the end of the branch and gnaw on the part of the twig where the buckeye had been. What? I had no idea what that was about, so when I got home I did a little research. I found buckeyes are poisonous to most animals, but squirrels can eat them. They don't particularly like them, but they will do in a pinch. I also found many references to squirrels eating the pith from terminal twigs, and one direct account of Fox squirrels in Illinois eating the pith of Buckeyes (Havera, Stephen. 1976. The American Midland Naturalist, 95(2):462-464). Yeah! Maybe that's what my little squirrel was doing. From the USDA Forest Service of the Northeastern Area:
"Buckeye pith contains 66 percent raffinose, a sweet-tasting 18-carbon sugar that is much sweeter and contains potentially more energy than sucrose." I'd go for sweet sugar over a bitter seed any time! If you're wondering what pith is, it's,"the soft, spongy, innermost tissue in a stem" -- as defined in my "National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees," Eastern Region.
The Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra) -- Ohio's state tree

My cousin, Mary Ann (the one from California--I have three!), just sent me a link to "The Cheeky Squirrel Photo Crasher." Click here...it's pretty cute!

32 comments:

holdingmoments said...

That made me smile Kelly. I can just imagine that surprising encounter between you and the squirell.
Lovely shot of him too.

Jayne said...

How funny! I can just imagine what was going through his brain. Uh-Oh. Uh, there is a person at the end of this limb! I'll just turn around and hope she does not follow me!

Chris said...

Oh yes, it made me smile too! What a funny shot of him you got! He was quite cooperative just to do that for the shot and you got him very very well. I guess you were happy when you got home and saw the shot.

Montanagirl said...

That's pretty funny. Everyone needs a little surprise now and then.

JRandSue said...

What a cute little chap,nice suprise.
John.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Squirrels are masters of the dumbfounded look—as if they can't believe they've done something so stupid…again. I don't know how you looked at that same moment—but you got the shot. I'm thinking that makes you the winner of the momentary mutual surprise stare-off.

Connie said...

I'm still laughing at the look on that squirrel. How funny.

HBFG said...

Oh so cute!!! What a lucky moment for you! His little face is adorable! :))

Cicero Sings said...

Right place, right time. What a look.

We don't have buckeyes here and was interested to read an account of them ... and their sweet pith.

Warren Baker said...

Now thats a creature I can share with you kelly - there are millions of 'em over here!

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Beautiful shots Kelly !! So Cute and funny !!Unseen Rajasthan

Midmarsh John said...

A great shot of the squirrel. It just belonged in those surroundings. They can really move when they want to choosing and changing direction in a split second.

ShySongbird said...

That was funny Kelly, I wonder which of you was the most surprised! Lovely photo of 'the moment'.

Andor Marton said...

Oh that's funny. Of course the squirrel is very cute.
It's really impressive, how the animals know, what is good for them and what not.

Roy said...

Do you have that effect on everyone you meet Kelly. {:)

Dave Lewis said...

That squirrel sure looked "pithed" in that photo!
Sorry...I couldn't help myself!

Ginnymo said...

What an adorable photo Kelly! I see the squirrels eating stuff of the end of branches all the time. And of course I've watched them break off the branches too and take them to their nest. fascinating little creatures for sure!

Laure Ferlita said...

Maybe he thought you were going to snitch his pith!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Kel, That little squirrel was probably telling you to 'get outta there' ---don't you think?????

I haven't seen a buckeye tree in years. There was one in the ballpark in the town in VA where I grew up. I used to collect the buckeyes. Haven't seen one in years.

Hugs,
Betsy

Mary Ann said...

Kelly, you will really enjoy the "Cheeky Squirrel Photo Crasher." Go to National Geographic Traveler; you can just click here: http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/intelligenttravel/2009/08/ground-squirrel-photo-crasher.html

Kelly said...

...it makes me smile...and sometimes still laugh out loud when I think about it. It was hysterical.

Keith, Jayne, Chris, Mona and John :-D

Scribe...mutual surprise stare-off is a good description! (I probably looked just like him!!) :-)

Connie and Michi...I love it when things like that happen...

Cicero...Buckeyes are realy cool. The nuts after they pop out of the husks are very pretty, but they are not for eating. They are poisonous....unless you make the peanut butter dipped with chocolate Buckeye confections...Yum!

Warren...and I read they are doing a bit of damage on trees in Italy. Seems they are eating the pith on your trees too!

Unseen...thank you!! Their little faces are so cute!

John...you are so right. That might have been the funniest part. The split-second dash up the tree...so funny. Although the startled face was hysterical.

Songbird....it might have been me. Not sure!!

Andor...so true. He was not too impressed with the big black camera and the lady standing behind it!

Roy.....Hahaha! You mean scare them to death?? ...only when I don't have my makeup on ;-D

Dave....good one......wish I had thought of that!! hahaha!

Ginny...well it's good to know someone else has watched them gnaw on the end of branches. I'm going to start watching them more closely.

Laure...haha! Now that I now it's super sweet..I just might!!

Betsy....I love finding Buckeye trees. The leaves are gorgeous.....the fallen seeds are gorgeous...;they are just fun. In the spring, the hummers love the flowers!

Mary Ann....so funny. I posted the link at the bottom of the post so others can see it! Thank you for sending it!

oldcrow61 said...

Ha,ha, that is so funny. What a great picture you got though. Interesting stuff about squirrels and the buckeye.

Nick S said...

Cute little fella and a funny story Kelly. Thanks for sharing :-)

Heather said...

Hee hee, your close encounter is too cute. I can just imagine both of you thinking "Hey, what the - !!!!???!" I'm planning a post on Buckeyes here soon myself.

Kelly said...

oldcrow...I'm on my way over to the trail now...maybe I'll see him again! The Buckeyes should be in another stage of ripening...hoping to get some shots. (I always love your icon photo!)

Thanks, Nick! :-D

Heather....heading out to the trail now....hopefully I'll see a few ripened nuts on the ground. I love finding the buckeye trees... Can't wait to see your post!

Kitty said...

They really such cute darlings! The look on his face is priceless :D And they're fun to watch as they go about their ways - one of my most memorable moments this summer was watching three red squirrels playing together on a fallen tree; had they seen me, they'd probably have been away in a flash!

Thanks for comments and feedback! I'm home in Ireland during the holidays, just now I'm studying at University in Scotland - but both countries are equally lovely :) Archaeology is one of my greatest loves (although I study ecology) - I love hillforts and pretty much anything prehistoric :)

andrea pratt said...

Wonderful shot! The squirrels are getting very busy here, much to my dog's delight! :)

JeniQ said...

Cute Cute Cute !!!!

E said...

Very funny lady, I have one over here that stole my bell with the seeds. Great pics, so neat and clear.
Many hugs.

dAwN said...

What a great encounter Kelley! and u captured that moment..that is even more impressive!

Adrienne in Ohio said...

You captured a great moment, Kelly. Wonderful shot of the squirrel!

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