the walnut harvest

Walnuts drop like big chunks of hail in the backyard these days, as the gray and red squirrels begin their fall harvest of the nut crop.  A few of the nuts are shelled and eaten on the spot, which leaves a nice coating of dark brown walnut varnish on sidewalks and deck boards.  But most are carried off to their winter larder.  The strategy for this harvest is apparently to scale the tree and climb down the ends of the walnut branches, liberate a dozen or so walnuts, and then scurry to the ground and carry them off, while fending off the interlopers.

red squirrel harvesting walnuts

Walnuts ripe for harvest attract this red squirrel, who is quickly cutting off a dozen or so nuts.

red squirrel harvesting walnuts

Hanging upside down is sometimes the best tactic for removing some of the nuts.

The problem with dropping all those nuts on the ground at once is that it attracts other walnut lovers, who can then help themselves without putting in the work of harvesting them.

red squirrel harvesting walnuts

The red squirrel in the tree dropped most of the nuts in a concentrated patch, but another red squirrel made off with a few of them before the one in the tree could get down. 

gray squirrel with walnuts

A gray squirrel made off with a few of the nuts too.

red squirrel harvesting walnuts

Red squirrel in the tree is quite upset at all the thievery going on. A lot of squirrel chatter ensues.

Down the tree the squirrel came in a flash, chased away a couple of other red squirrels and took off after a much larger gray squirrel (unfortunately these guys were just too fast for me to photograph).

red squirrel chasing gray squirrel

You can just see the red squirrel (at the top of the photo) chasing the walnut thief.

red squirrel harvesting walnuts

Finally taking control of its hard-earned harvest of walnuts.

red squirrel harvesting walnuts

Off the squirrel goes to stash a nut in its larder; repeated at about 2 minute intervals until the entire pile on the ground was gone.

12 thoughts on “the walnut harvest

  1. We have a preponderance of Gray Squirrels in our west metro suburb, but some red ones have started showing up. I really enjoy their antics – they’re faster and more diligent than our grays, as well as being much bolder. You can definitely tell fall is coming with all this crazed activity!

    • It’s a good thing I never count on getting any of the walnut crop myself, because the squirrels usually get every last nut odd the trees, as well as those that fall naturally on the ground. I wonder how anyone ever harvested a walnut crop with squirrels around–maybe they shot them all and ate them for dinner.

    • The way the red squirrels chase the gray squirrels around is indeed comical. But they are soooo fast, and change direction on a dime. So, tough to photograph.

  2. The squirrels have provided me with hours of entertainment carrying walnuts around the yard… and I have no idea where they stash them. My walnut tree is resting this year. Last year the crop was huge, even the critters couldn’t eat all of them.

      • It’s only happened three times in the 25 years I’ve lived with the tree and always following an overly productive year. The squirrels haven’t gone away. This year they are climbing the sunflowers and eating the seed disks – first time they’ve ever done that.

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