Messy Eater

Blood on the Snow

We’ve noted before that the berries on the native Viburnum triloba are eaten in the fall while those on the similar European species (Guelder rose) are left until well into the New Year. Obviously those of the native species are more palatable while the Guelder rose berries need to be frozen to increase their sweetness and are probably only attractive when other food resources are diminished.

For the past couple of weeks squirrels have been feasting on these berries until the only ones left are the most difficult to reach, at the ends of thin, whippy twigs. In past years we have been amused by the acrobatic antics of the squirrels trying to pluck the berries but this year we have noticed first one and then a few others use a more efficient approach: they sway out to the end of the twig but instead of staying there to eat individual berries, they nip the twig just above the cluster of berries and take the whole thing away to consume on a more stable branch.

As usual, the snow beneath the shrub is littered with the cast off flesh of the berries, staining the snow pink, as the squirrels are really after the seeds within. I don’t know if the berries are juicier this year, following a fairly wet fall, but we have watched several squirrels rubbing their fronts on the snow in an effort to remove the sticky juice. Some of the branches of the shrub have also been coated in the juice, giving them an attractive reddish tinge. The squirrel in the following photos was a particularly messy eater as can be seen from its pink front and red mouth.