American Red Squirrels are pretty small, only 6.5-9″ long (excluding the tail) and Eastern White Pine cones are nearly as big, up to 6″. They contain a tiny seed at the base of each scale, and the squirrels love them. They prefer to dine on a lookout, like a tree stump, large rock, or in this case thirty feet up in a white pine. This video shows the tree, the large one in the center of the frame, and zooms in on the squirrel just as it irritatingly decides to descend. (When you play the two videos in this blog, they are not as dark as they look here.)
Luckily I had been watching it earlier, taking photos from ground level far below, and you can see what a humungous cone it had unearthed from the snow:
Starting at the bottom, it removed one scale at a time, and ate the one or two seeds at the base. It carefully worked its way up the cone, one scale at a time, holding on tightly to its trophy:
When it has finished, it will leave just the central spine behind, surrounded by a litter of scales:
Below is a video of the squirrel tucking in. By now he has worked his way half-way down the cone, and he reminds me of a Frenchman eating an artichoke:
American Red Squirrels, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, particularly like the cones of pine and spruce and they cache their food, sometimes underground, but not always. This squirrel had collected heaps of pine cones at the base of his special tree, and also beneath several others nearby.
I counted fifty at the base of this tree alone, and was rather impressed by the care with which they had been arranged, most of them neatly lined up, and largely pointing in the same direction, away from the tree. Perhaps it gives the squirrel the same satisfaction as reorganizing the sock drawer gives us on a grey day.
They also eat other nuts: this one had started in on a Red Oak acorn:
PS The scientific name Tamiasciurus comes from the Greek ταμίας “tamias”, meaning treasurer or steward, or one who collects. Apt.