Squirrels

Black, gray, and red squirrels visited Timothy Zelazo’s yard in the town of Florida all at once.

Q Beesides the flying squirrels, what kind of squirrels can we see during the fall and winter after the woodchucks go to sleep? I say four, the chipmunk and three squirrels — gray, black, and red. My friend says three.

— Edward, Adams

A: I would side with your friend because the black squirrel is not a separate species, but a color variation of the gray squirrel, even though it does look very much like a distinct species. The woodchuck is considered by some as a ground squirrel, although they can and do climb trees. And the chipmunk is regarded as a tree squirrel, although we rarely see one in a tree. Flying squirrels don’t fly but glide, and two species are found in New England, although I am not sure if both species are found in Berkshire County.

Q: I live on Old Windsor Road in Dalton and there are approximately eight dead and/or dying mature ash trees along the road in front of my property. This situation has happened over the last couple of years. I believe these particular trees are on town property and I may have to fight with the town to get them removed because, in addition to their bark falling off, large branches are falling off making it dangerous when I mow the lawn.

I just noticed a couple of large ash trees with the same problem at the bottom of my driveway. I’ve been told that this damage is caused by an insect that only attacks ash trees and that once a tree is infested there is no hope for it. Would you know if that is true? If there is anything that can be done could you suggest someone I could contact? I would appreciate your advice.

— Bob B., Dalton

A: First, I would contact John Roughley, Dalton’s tree warden, who can usually be found at the town garage; call 413-684-6115 between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

You are close to the epicenter of the invasion that is most likely the cause of your concern. The invasive emerald ash borer pest was first detected in Massachusetts in Dalton in 2012! Since its initial discovery, the pest has been discovered in at least 11 counties: Berkshire, Bristol, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk and Worcester. According to The University of Massachusetts Extension Service Landscape, Nursery, and Urban Forestry Program, “The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a non-native, invasive insect that was first discovered in North America in 2002 in Michigan. It is native to eastern Russia, northern China, Japan and Korea.”

The sad news is, “when emerald ash borer populations are high, small trees can die within 1 to 2 years of initial infestation, while larger trees may take 3 to 4 years before succumbing to this pest

For much more information, go to: ag.umass.edu/landscape/fact-sheets/emerald-ash-borer

And a map go to: ag.umass.edu/sites/ag.umass.edu/files/pdf%2Cdoc%2Cppt/eab_oct_2020.pdf

Q: I observed a chickadee and a cardinal eating snow. Is that possible?

A: Birds need water just as do other animals, and if the only source is frozen and snow is available, why not?

Q: Your column prompted me to get myself a heated bird bath, So, I did and installed it our yard. Thus far, it has not attracted any birds although I do have a feeder that gets chickadees, a nuthatch and a woodpecker. I will be patient but will accept suggestions.

— Peter, Sheffield

A: In my column I mentioned that I had few birds coming to the heated birdbath and gave up. The column inspired me to try again, so I replaced a large plastic plant tray that I converted with a few holes drilled in the bottom to allow any accumulated water to drain, and filled it with seed. It didn’t take long for the ever on-the-ball chickadees to find it. Within an hour of replacing the seed with the birdbath, a chickadee was on the rim drinking. The next morning I counted a couple chickadees and three blue jays and, later in the day, a dark-eyed junco was mimicking the chickadee and also drinking. I left the seed and its tray next to toe heated birdbath, hoping it would bring the birds close enough to the water to try it. It was a success.

READER’S COMMENTS:

Three female evening grosbeaks came today. I sent you an email a couple of days ago that a couple was here. So far, they have all been females.

— Nancy B., Stockbridge

I’m sharing my joy today. This morning, I had three evening grosbeaks (two males and a female). This is the second visit to my yard after having seen a pair on Nov. 4. I would estimate it has been 15 years since I last saw them here.

Shortly after they left, five bluebirds congregated on my platform feeder and I spied two fox sparrows scratching in my lawn. I’ve also had two very faithful red-breasted nuthatches, a Carolina wren and several pine siskins in the last couple of weeks.

Although redpolls have been reported in October Mountain State Forest, just above my house, I have yet to see any of those, but I am hopeful since they have come in previous years.

This may be a fun feeder winter!

— Susan K, Pittsfield

Thom Smith, NatureWatch columnist. Email him at Naturewatch@live.com or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.