Thursday, October 20, 2016

It's Been a Very Mast Year

All growing season, I've been dealing with a mystery creature (bird or mammal, I had no idea) which has been digging in my flower pots and hanging baskets.  It started in the spring, and I know that sometimes birds pester the hanging baskets.  I've had birds who tried to build nests in them.  Others will look for nesting material.  I can deal with the birds.

The damage stopped for a while, but started up again several weeks ago.  I tried everything I could think of.
Hard to see, but the damage is in that big dark area
One day, I caught the culprit in the act.  It was a squirrel, happily taking a dirt bath in a planter that used to have pansies in it until they were torn out.

Now, google "how to deal with squirrels".  I don't know how common squirrels are outside of North America, so I'll just explain they are rodents with beautiful, bushy tails and the cutest antics, until they start destroying your house or garden.  Here in the Binghamton area, they are grey and brown.  When I lived in Arkansas, I remember a lot of black squirrels.
Cute chipmunk - one of zillions at the Broome County Courthouse

We also have to deal with chipmunks, which are smaller, faster and perhaps cuter.  But they can be destructive, too.

This year, in upstate New York, there has been an overabundance of both squirrels and chipmunks.  The other day, my guest photographer told me why.  2015 was what scientists call a "mast year".  It was a year when, for reasons yet somewhat unknown, all the oak trees got together and decided to create tons and tons (and tons) of acorns.

Mast years occur between every two and every five years.  Lucky us.  Yes, oaks go through cycles with their acorns.  Some years there aren't too many.  Other years, walking in the woods is like walking on marbles.

Additionally, we had our super warm (for us) winter.  Between the mast year and the warm weather, the squirrel and chipmunk populations have exploded.  And I am ready to explode after seeing more of their damage yesterday.

Now, I have sad news for my readers in the Northeast United States.
2016 is another mast year. Yes, two in a row.  My guest photographer can testify to that. At her home in rural Broome County, acorns hit her metal roof all day long.  It sounds like an artillery attack.
It's hard to keep up.

If you are looking here for a solution to your squirrel or chipmunk problem, I'm sorry, but I don't have one.  I wish I did.

By the way, there is no connection between mast years and severity of the next winter. Mast year last year.  Warmest winter ever, as I recall.  So, who knows.  Maybe our unusually warm days this October will translate into....


Day 20 of the #Ultimate Blog Challenge.


  1. Never heard of 'mast year' before. I agree that this year has been terrible in my area. Especially for the very destructive red squirrels. Chipmunks in past years have chewed up the draft guard on the bottom of the garage door, chewed a hole in the foundation wall, and even managed to get into the air vent for the furnace, crawl through the pipe and die in the house. I will not even tell you how many rodents we have killed by different means this year. Some even committed suicide by eating the bait for the moles.

  2. Squirrels are cute creatures.Have always admired their liveliness!

  3. Pigeons in my case...terrible rats with wings. Destroying all that I have sown :( Here is to another MAST year ...maybe without squirrels for you

  4. OH NO!!! Not more squirrels in our yard (NJ)! Our squirrels just love to work mischief in the garden and the fruit trees. (Did you know they like lemons? They stole all mine off the lemon tree.)

  5. Sorry about the squirrel problem. They can multiply like mad.

  6. Interesting! A friend of mine who walks his dogs in the woods every day was just commenting about how many acorns there were. I'll share this with him!

    PS - just back from a fantastic trip to your end of the state. What weather! What foliage! What a moon!

  7. I have loads of acorns on the trees at my new house, but no squirrels. On the ranch, it was just the opposite. I miss them. Squirrels look like their life's goal is to have fun.

  8. I have noticed the Squirrels chew off the end of the branch so the nuts and branch fall to the ground. We have Black, Grey and red squirrels around here. I grew up with only red squirrels around. When I moved to the city and saw the bigger, fatter grey and black squirrels I thought it was an effect of living on the pavement.
    Judging by the way the gray squirrels get into the bird feeder, I think they are more clever than their grey cousins. The little red guys are the faster and more aggressive of them all.
    As for chipmunks, they are the ones with the racing stripes.


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