Enon’s white squirrels among the secrets of the trees

Winter is here and most of the leaves are gone. Only a few of the die hard oaks in sheltered locals hold on to their brown leaves. A few of these stubborn hold outs will refuse to let go and fall to the ground until the new sprouting leaves push them off.

When the leaves are gone we notice the differences in the barks. It used to amaze me when someone could identify a tree by its bark, but as I grow older I’m more aware that some trees have smooth bark and other have varying degrees of roughness.

I’m always surprised by the whiteness and large patterns of the bark of the sycamore trees. The way their bark contrasts with the grays and browns of all the other barks is beautiful.

The secrets that the trees have hidden from us since they grew leaves in April are now revealed to entertain us during the winter months.

Now we can see why the robins guarded the west side of the maple last summer. Their nest is empty now but once it sheltered eggs then hatch-lings. There are other nests in various states of disrepair but we cannot tell what type of bird rested there.

Bright and shiny deflated Mylar balloons from birthdays and holidays celebrated months ago are revealed to be snagged on the bare tree limbs next to ripped plastic shopping bags. I used to tell my little ones that escaped helium filled balloons rose so high they became stars, but now I see they return to hide out in our trees and fence rows.

This fall’s surprise was a drone that had lost power and fallen into the clutches of one of our newer maples. This is new. Before this fall, we’ve found kites but never drones. Hopefully someone will be able to identify it or we will be able to access the camera and see where it began its disastrous journey. It could have come from miles away.

Large teardrop-shaped hornets nests are always a surprise to find when the leaves fall. How many times did we walk under that brown “pinata of pain” not knowing what danger lurked only 10 feet above our heads?

My favorite fall revelations are the locations of the summer leaf and twig nests of the squirrels, which are called dreys. For convenience and safety, each squirrel constructs as many as three dreys in neighboring trees. That is why some trees seem to host as many as four or five. In the winter they tend to nest in hollow tree trunks or people’s attics.

Roland Kankey of Enon has a boyhood memory of finding a hollow tree in Arkansas full of nesting squirrels.

It always seems like there is a squirrel population explosion in the fall when we can finally see all the dreys and see the gray squirrels moving from tree to tree.

White squirrels, however, cannot hide in any season.

Enon is known for its white squirrel population. The openness of leafless trees reveals their antics and interactions with the gray squirrels.

For many years Roland Kankey has observed a population of white squirrels in the Cimmaron and Coronado trails in Enon. They tend to move from bird feeder to bird feeder. There always seem to be three or so playing with the grays.

Ann and Bob Ingoldsby have been enjoying the antics of a white squirrel behind the 1798 long cabin up on the ridge above Enon. This one has earned the name of Snowflake.

No one knows when the first white squirrels were spotted here, but they have been here as long as anyone can remember.

In this bleak time of year when we don’t have a beautiful snow or Christmas decorations to distract us from all the dreariness, we need to look more closely at the leafless trees that surround us and learn their secrets.

Before long we will be seeing someone tapping into the maples to gather the sap to boil for maple syrup.

Then the trees will begin to bud.

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

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