White spruce branches are heavy with cones wherever I look: in the yard, near Rainbow Haven Beach and along the Salt Marsh Trail. It looks like a bumper crop year. The squirrels and birds must be happy.
If a plant is under stress from the weather one year, it will produce more seed the following year. The year after Hurricane Juan hit Nova Scotia was also a bumper crop year. Wind certainly helps with pollination.
Although it’s not yet understood how they do it, it’s believed that some bird species, such as finches, can locate a bumper crop of cones from half a continent away. Their ability to do this might have something to do with their highly developed sensory and nervous systems.
Balsam fir cones can also be found on the ground in the yard. There are more of these trees than any other here. The majority of them grew up shortly after Hurricane Juan took down the larger trees in 2003, allowing more light and rain to reach the seeds on the bottom of the forest floor.
While walking along the Salt Marsh Trail, it’s difficult to not take it personally when squirrels are throwing cones down from the top of trees. In their quest for the perfect cone, flawed ones fall to the ground. Perhaps this bumper crop is an indicator that I won’t have to put out as many sunflower seeds this winter. There seem to be enough cones out there to feed an army of Red Squirrels.