It’s the first week of September. Look around, a lot is happening.

It’s the peak time for beekeepers to extract honey, American crows are seen in communal roosts again, and monarch butterflies migrate through one by one.

The acorn holds a particularly prominent place. Bur oak acorns hit the ground in August, and now acorns are falling from red, white and other oaks. Oaks, native to Minnesota, are among the best shade trees. They are of major importance to wildlife for shelter and food. Acorns rate near the top of the wildlife food list, not so much because they are preferred but because they are a good and abundantly available staple. Their greatest value: They are present in winter when food is scarce. Some years the acorn crop is way down, and wildlife suffers. The acorn crop this year looks good, at least in the metro area.

White-tailed deer are fond of them, browsing oak foliage and twigs. Squirrels and other rodents store acorns for winter use, and some of these become the seeds that grow into new trees. Black bears, raccoons and scores of birds eat acorns. Wild turkeys swallow acorns whole. A few of the other birds dependent upon acorns for food include: wood ducks and mallards, ruffed grouse and ring-necked pheasants, both red-bellied and redheaded woodpeckers, and blue jays and white-breasted nuthatches.

 

Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.