Quoddy Nature Notes – Seasonal Foods

Seasonal Foods
by Fred Gralenski

With the summer winding down here in the Quoddy region it’s interesting to note the changing diet of the critters as some their foodstuff items have gone by, others are still available and some are just starting to ripen.  From my perspective this year was not a good year for Service berries.  The blossoms were outstanding in the spring, but I guess some hiccup in the weather must have hindered the development of the fruit.  Pin cherries were pretty good, but were all gone by the end of July.  A small tree out back of the house was an attraction for the local robins for only a few days before it was cleaned out.  Choke cherries, a very common small tree along the roadsides, last longer, and there is always a little competition between the birds and four footed critters like chipmunks and red squirrels as to who gets the most.  The Mountain Ash looks like it’s going to produce heavily.  And so it goes.

Chunky. He got his name by the chunk taken out of his ear by something or somebody.














All animals need protein to grow, and the easiest way to get protein is from other animals.  Hummingbirds supply their young with mostly tiny insects and spiders until they fend for themselves.  The youngsters somehow learn to catch tiny insects to finish their development, and are now buzzing each other, primarily around the flowers and hummingbird feeders.  All summer, wasps and yellow jackets combed the area vegetation for grubs and caterpillars to feed their young, but after the young have reached their adult stage these insects  change their diet and now search for nectar from flowers, stealing from the hummingbird feeders, spilled jam on a picnic table and decayed or overripe apples. The apple crop seems to be pretty good this year, with some heavily ladened trees already dropping their production.  Many critters like rabbits, squirrels, porcupines, coyotes, bear and deer will use apples in their diet, as well as birds like Robins, Blue jays, Pine Grosbeaks, Ruffed grouse and turkeys.  Other fruits that are ripening are blackberries (lots of berries, but all pretty small size), bunchberries (good production), Lingonberries (good production) but my favorite little patches of blueberries seem to have been overtaken by bears and raccoons, leaving me with slim pickings.  Around the house my cultivated fruit trees have been harassed greatly by porcupines, so my dream of a harvest of Asian pears, peaches, plums and apples is essentially zilch.  My garden provided extra sustenance to a big crop of rabbits that found our yard to their liking.  Smutty Nose, Ginger and Chunky (some of the rabbits that we could recognize) and their progeny saw to it that we wouldn’t over indulge in lettuce, beans or peas.  They even ate the sunflowers, but didn’t touch the beets or carrots.  I guess I can use the carrots in a rabbit stew.

Smutty Nose and Ginger, named for their colors.



Our squirrels have been pretty well behaved, and are switching from mooching under the bird feeders to their normal diet of cones.

Balsam Fir cones. Notice how they point up.

The cone crop is pretty good this year, with all spruces and Balsam firs around the house producing pitch-oozing cones.  I don’t know why the fir cones point up instead of down like the spruces.  Intuitively, it would seem that the cones should be built to shed the rain and dust.  I know bananas are sort of the same way, but I don’t think bananas are very closely related to the firs. Our cedar ‘cones’ point upwards also.  It might have something to do with pollination, or maybe Mother Nature just gave us something else to ponder.  I wonder if the squirrels ponder that when they get their faces all pitch from eating the green cones.

Spruce cones dripping with pitch.