Cheryl Kimball's Nature Talks: No such thing as boredom if you are interested in nature

By CHERYL KIMBALL November 25. 2016 6:56PM
This acorn found next to a flower Memorial on Tex's rock begs another question: Was a squirrel trying to leave a message for Tex? (Cheryl Kimball)

"THE ONLY CURE for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."

Although the pediatrician’s office sign on the highway where I read some great quotes while I cruise by never attributes the quotes, a quick search online shows this one is by Dorothy Parker, American writer. I think the quote makes it clear why anyone who is interested in nature would never be bored. Here are some of my own nature curiosities of late.

I always take my bird feeders down on tax day in April and put them back up over Thanksgiving, trying to heed Fish and Game’s warnings about bird feeding start and finish times coinciding with black bear hibernation. Bears hanging around homes is bad news for bears. But a reader emailed me saying she had put her feeders up on Nov. 1 because she wanted to be sure the birds made her place one of their regular stops as they mapped out their feeding trail for the winter. That was followed by having breakfast at a friend’s who keeps her feeders up year-round and seeing birds flitting all around the shrubs around her house. I stopped at my feed store on the way home, picked up some seed and suet, and hung two feeders late that afternoon. First thing the next morning I watched chickadees and titmice (titmouses?) snag black oil sunflower seeds, fly away, and they or their friends came back for more.

And there is where my curiosity takes over. How do they know so fast that the feeder is up? It was almost dark when I put it up, and it was barely daylight the next morning when I watched them over my first cup of coffee. And not just one chickadee who happened to stumble on the feeder by accident, but different species of birds and likely more than two individuals. Things about nature will do that.

My walks through the loop around “our” woods does the same. While the early dark means that these days I don’t get out on the loop as often as I would like, there is always something to see and wonder about. Why did the squirrel or chipmunk leave an acorn right beside the little floral tribute I put on the rock my late and beloved Tex used to jump on? Was Tex sending me a message? Was the squirrel — an animal that Tex pursued vehemently — sending Tex a message? Did the squirrel leave the acorn to cheer me up after hearing me talk to Tex while I am there and knowing how much I miss my dog? Or was this always the squirrel’s favorite acorn-eating rock and he was just glad to have it back — and, oh, aren’t those pretty flowers on it? I’ll never know.

A tiny little tree trunk with a broad expanse of limbs is growing out of the top of a glacial erratic along the edge of one of my favorite side trails. How long will this little natural bonsai last having sprouted in this crack in the rock? I watched the little tree leaf out this spring, its leaves turn color this fall, and now leafless it sports lovely little water drop ornaments in the rain. If it lasts a long, long time and grows bigger and bigger until it encompasses the rock like I see with roots of other trees around smaller rocks, I will not be around to see it. It will take decades for the little tree to embrace that Volkswagen-sized rock.

Woodpecker holes are another woods curiosity. Fresh ones are surprising. Pileated woodpecker holes are, of course, large, often rectangular, and are even more distinguished by the size of the chips on the ground beneath the hole. Sapsuckers will make a line of small round shallow holes harvesting the sap in a tree. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website All About Birds, hummingbirds and mammals like bats and porcupines also take advantage of the sapsucker’s sap holes.

On Super Moon night, sadly one of my ducks did not come back to the barn. That night and the next, I took a little walkabout with my headlamp on. I assumed it was a fox who got the hen on her way back to the barn from the pond. In the light of my headlamp I saw glowing eyes in the bushes beyond the pond where deer hang out. The eyes were too small to be that of a deer with its head lowered. Aha, I assumed I found the culprit awaiting duck dinner number two. But then I saw a second set of eyes. It could still be the culprit(s). But I didn’t think foxes tended to hunt in pairs. I thought maybe they were raccoons, but it just doesn’t seem raccoon-like to chase after a duck in the open on the run …

Nature just provides so much to be curious about!

Cheryl Kimball is a freelance writer who lives north of Rochester. You can email her at

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