A Labor of Leaves

Squirrels are industrious little creatures.

They’re famous for indefatigable filching at bird feeders. For hoarding and hiding nuts. And for building dreys, those treetop nests made of seemingly random clumps of leaves. But there’s nothing accidental about drey fabrication. The nest has multiple layers for warmth and strength. Dreys are carefully woven shelters that withstand severe winds, hail, and driving rain. Here’s a cross-section view one blogger posted.

I’ve never witnessed a drey construction project. Don’t I wish I could film that bit of creature behavior! But this spring, I watched a squirrel use leaves to great advantage in a tree cavity.

It started in late January when I was impressed by the squirrel’s ability to erect a door that kept snow from entering the cavity. She broke the door every time she left the tree, but before each nightfall, she had replenished her construction materials and rebuilt her protection.

This nest is safe from cold and snow.

Squirrels often bunk together for winter warmth in tree cavities. But I never saw more than one squirrel perched at this cavity’s entrance. I suspected a nest, and in mid-April, my hunch was confirmed. The squirrel’s leafy industry was aimed at keeping her kids warm and dry.

A leafy door
Mama takes a break.

I started to make a video showing the squirrel’s leaf-engineering skills, but I could only see her handiwork from the outside. Watching leaves as they gradually close the door gap is akin to watching paint dry. Besides, there was a more interesting story to tell.

Here’s a video, stitched from ten weeks of video snippets, that tells the squirrel’s leafy tale.

If you’ve followed my humble blog from the beginning, you may recall an early story, with video, about a squirrel mama hauling her kids out of the nest. I conclude from that family and this one that as a species, juvenile squirrels are about as interested in leaving the nest as Saturday-morning teenage humans.

2 thoughts on “A Labor of Leaves”

  1. Oh, I want to live in a cozy drey! And I love the picture of Mama taking a break. Looks just like me at the end of the day heading out front to sit on the bench for a little alone time!

    Loving these tender stories–thank you!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy the stories, Bonnie. I feel so lucky that I live in the midst of them!

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