Nature on our doorsteps: Nutritious autumn nuts

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

Nuts are high in nutritious fats, proteins, and minerals. It is no wonder therefore that animals like squirrels and mice are actively collecting and eating autumn nuts right now. 

 As the days grow shorter and colder, these animals will gorge on as many fallen nuts as they can, putting on a good thick layer of fat before winter arrives. 

Hazelnuts nibbled by squirrels on left and woodmice on right 1

Hazelnuts nibbled by squirrels and wood mice

This fat layer will not only keep them warm, but it will also be an important reserve of energy that the animals can draw upon when food is in short supply in wintertime.  

By examining the empty shells of nuts like hazelnuts, we can tell who has been feasting. 

A squirrel begins by scratching a tiny hole at the top of the hard shell. It then inserts its long sharp tooth inside this hole and snaps the shell into two clean halves.

Wood mice take a little more time, gnawing a neat, circular hole in the shell until it has enough room to nibble at the nut inside.

Jackdaws were feeding on these acorns 1

Jackdaws were feeding on these acorns

 

The marks of its teeth can often be seen around the edges of the hole.

Birds like Jackdaws collect acorns and as these have thin shells, it is easy for Jackdaws to get at the nut inside.

We have it even easier though, as we can buy our nuts already shelled.

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