Cache Machine (seed stash)

sunflower seed cache in honeysuckle
cached sunflower seed

A tree-height Amur honeysuckle bush fell over in the last big snow, and while hacking at the trunk yesterday, I remembered two things: 

  1. Dad’s Boy Scout hatchet is butter-knife dull.
  2. Amur honeysuckle—exotic invasive enemy #1 of Metro Parks and Owl’s Hill (etc.)—has a hollow pith.
    Break a young branch and note the inside is a spongy tan.
    Break an old branch and note the inside is apt to be hollow.
    (Native honeysuckle is solid.)

And then I noticed something new: a stored sunflower seed.

At the tip of a old pruned branch, tucked inside the hollow pith, is a single black-oil sunflower seed.
See it?
Some hard-working creature tucked it there for winter storage. It could have been any of my seed-storing birds at the feeder, but the most likely candidates are Carolina chickadee and Tufted titmouse. They take one seed at a time, find a crevice, and hammer the seed until hidden.

I’ve read that a chickadee brain beefs up with extra neurons in the fall, so it can remember the location of hidden seeds and which caches have been discovered by competitors.

I’m a little jealous. Is neurogenesis in the adult human brain still only a theory? I’d like to believe we can beef up on brains, too.

Nuthatches also cache seeds in trees, as do some woodpeckers: in bark crevices, excavated hidey-holes, beneath house trim. Bluejays even bury them in dirt. Having a wide repertoire of seed-hiding techniques behooves tiny creatures who stay with us all winter, even the ones clever enough to pick my well-stocked yard as territory.

The best yards don’t really need feeders. The best yards will have lots of native plant material with lots of attendant native seeds and native insects for year-round foraging. Bush honeysuckle offers diddly-squat, and it crowds and poisons and shadows every other damn plant out.

I’m working on a “best yard,” but it’s going to take a much better hatchet.



Bush honeysuckle ID pics (Lonicera maackii)