Friday, February 24, 2012


When you’re used to walking through an area of dark barked trees, a patch of white on the tree trunk is highly noticeable.  Something has obviously been stripping the bark from this cedar.  The challenge is to find the reason for the missing bark.

It’s not unusual for large cedars to shed long strips of outer bark.  When this happens naturally, the exposed surface is normally a grayish color.  When yellows and reds show through, it means that some animal has been forcibly removing the bark.  A variety of birds and mammals use cedar bark strips as nesting material.  The number of strips taken from this tree would make a pretty bulky nest.

I began searching the surrounding tree tops for nests.  I found a couple of old squirrel nests before I spotted this new construction about 40 feet up in a neighboring cedar.  The nest is tucked up close to the tree trunk and is supported by several stout branches.  There are some old cedar branches and miscellaneous other twigs topped by a mass of fresh cedar bark.

The nest tree is not far from the collection site.  Based on my experience of nests built in this fashion, I would guess the builder to be either a Gray Squirrel or a Cooper’s Hawk.  Squirrels mate in late winter, so young could be expected in late February or early March.  This could be the beginning of a nest to be used for a new litter of squirrels.

I searched the ground route as well as all possible aerial routes that might be taken by a squirrel transporting nest material.  I figured that if it was a squirrel carrying the bark, a few scraps should be evident somewhere between the two trees.  I found nothing.

The nest is too flat topped and thin to be that of a squirrel, unless there’s going to be additional material added.  I’ve seen Cooper’s Hawks nesting on structures like this, but I’m not sure if they did the building or if they just built on top of an old squirrel nest.  It also fits the description of a Crow’s nest, but I’ve never seen a Crow nesting at Blue Jay Barrens.  I guess I’ll have to watch and see what develops.


  1. Hi Steve..Nothing like a good mystery at Blue Jay Barrens...but your a good detective and i am sure we will not have a cold case here ; }
    That is quite the structure...the Gray Squirrel nests here seem to have a lot of twigs and deeper!!
    I know you like faces in tree and such..did you see "scarface" in my post yesterday!!

  2. Hi Grace. I have indeed been following your adventures on the snowmobile trails. I got the impression that the face was imprisoned within the tree and was looking out through the holes in the bark. It appeared to be distressed.

    I was happy to see that you survived your walks without being run down by a snowmobile. I know someone who wasn't quite that lucky. The front of the snowmobile sort of plowed them off into a snowbank beside the trail. They weren't badly hurt, but were sore for a few days. The snowmobiler never stopped.