Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Squirrel Signs

The outdoor hour challenge for this month came at a perfect time: our squirrels just returned to the yard about six weeks ago.  We see them year-round, but lately they're back to hanging around all through the day--or at least whenever my littles are indoors and the yard is "safe" again. ;)  To be honest, although they're rather cute and fun to watch, I am not a squirrel fan; I consider them pests because of the destruction they tend to create on the yard and house, and I'm not too thrilled when I see them around.  But the children love observing them.  We have a row of huge black walnut trees across the street, and we sometimes see them jump from tree to tree from the front window.  Out back, they adore our plum tree, and we often see them digging up the grass to bury acorns they have brought from neighbors' yards.  

The other day, we were in the side yard, where we have a row of crepe myrtles, and the kids were admiring their peeling bark.  A close-up look led to a little discovery.

"What are these marks on the trunk?" they asked.  Neat little parallel scratch lines, in various directions, going up the trunk.
"Well, what do they look like they're from?"
"Nails.  Maybe squirrel nails?!"

They continued their investigation.  "So why are there scratches on these trees and not elsewhere?"  I heard them narrow it down to three possibilities:
:: Perhaps they only climb on this tree.  (They immediately dismissed this one since we see them on the other trees all the time.)
:: Perhaps since this trunk is smooth, they need to dig their claws in more to work their way up.  (Perhaps.)
:: Perhaps since this trunk is smooth, it shows the claw marks more obviously than the other trunks.  (They went to check the other trees but could not see any other scratches at all, no matter how closely they looked.)

So now they're itching to check the sycamores at the park around the corner, which are favorites of the squirrels there and which, obviously, have similarly peeling bark.  They also want to see whether some semi-smooth trees have obvious scratch marks, since the plum we compared it to has a particularly gnarled, rough trunk.  And a bit of wonder leads to a bit of scientific investigation...I'm interested to see what they find out! 


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your entry with the OHC. I love the way your family found something to investigate and I think they did a great job coming up with some reasons for the scratches on the one tree. This was a great study.

  2. this is awesome! this is EXACTLY the kinds of discussion encouraged in HONS! you must have done your homework! :) i'm so glad you shared it with me!

  3. What a great study! I love the way you allowed your children to think about and discuss the possibilities for the nail marks.

  4. I agree with your sentiments about squirrels (red squirrels in particular), but their antics make them particularly interesting to children. It was great to see how just a little observation led to more thoughtful nature study.


  5. What a great learning opportunity for your kids, thanks for sharing.