Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Hole Story

Hello World
The other day I had a delightful encounter with a new PCV resident who was very inquisitive about squirrels. He had recently moved in and was understandably fascinated by the squirrels. He asked a lot of questions, many on the technical side, some of which set me thinking. I found out that he was a mathemetician, which could  explain why he looked at things with  different eyes. Oh, and he was also ftom China.  One of the things he was most curious about was squirrel holes.

 He had noticed their nests, but was surprised to learn that squirrels also make dens in the holes of trees. He hadn't noticed the tree holes. I pointed out a few, and told him to keep looking up and eventually he would see lots of holes.

Remember to look up

If you look closely you will often see squirrels peeking out of holes.

Look for small heads

A room with a view
this hole has a nice porch 

I pointed out Spunky's hole where she keeps her babies.
Spunky's tree grows a mushroom.
The maitake is growing in an indentation
just below the entrance to her den.

As we walked around we passed the Orange tree where countless squirrels  (including Alphie) have been born. It was once home to a family of orange squirrels, which is how it got its name.
Orange tree hole - top center
I explained how in the cold of winter the squirrels will pack into the holes for warmth. He was surprised since he didn't think squirrels were that sociable. I said that was true, but being warm trumps being antisocial. I sometimes imagine what it would look like if the tree were transparent and you could see all the squirrels packed in there on top of each other.

I told him about the killer ice storm we had in Februry of 2011, when we lost many squirrels to frostbite. He was curious as to how and where on their bodies they got frostbite. I explained that there were not enough dens to go around and for some unlucky squirrels there had been no room in the inn.

Frostbitten squirrels (pictures)

It was a sad time, because many squirrels who had struggled valiantly (with our help) through a long, cold winter and were in great need of a respite, just couldn't withstand that final icy blow. They apparently no longer had the resources. That was the time we lost Mr. Operator.

We passed this great tree which is still standing.

I told him about some of the wonderful old trees that had lots of holes but were no longer there. Before it was chopped down, the squirrels used to race through this tree, popping in and out of holes. It reminded me of children having fun on a playground!
ye olde gnarled tree

count the squirrels

But, my friend asked, where do holes come from? How do they happen to be in a tree? Is it by design or serendipity? Good questions. I think he was wondering if the squirrels  made the holes. He was also thinking about the way the trees grow branches with mathematical symmetry, which was, he explained, using the occurrences of the Fibonacci series and the Golden Ratio.  I told him that holes will occur in trees that have been damaged by storms or weakened by age, and can occur in a spot where a branch has come off - either via nature or man. Birds and animals will often work to increase the size of the hole by clawing and gnawing.

Union Square Park Digs
Inside a tree squirrels may find spacious hollows with many rooms!

 A fairly large tree had been felled in Union Square Park in 2011. The trunk was lying on its side and offered a rare glimpse inside a squirrel den.

Inside a squirrel den (pictures)

Living Dangerously
Some squirrels forego dens and go for nests. After all, there is just so much hole real estate available.
Out on a limb
you get dizzy just looking!

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