Seeking shagbark on a sublime autumn evening

Sunset pano of Innisfree (click photo for full size)

Three things during an incredible fall evening at Innisfree.

1. I realized I have a shagbark hickory just outside the cabin. I hadn’t noticed it previously because a massive white oak obscures it from the deck. As a bonus, I discovered the tree next to it is a mockernut hickory. I wasn’t certain on the IDs so I foraged around until I found nuts from each tree and used those to ID them. The shagbark was a bit tricky but after consulting my Identifying Trees of the East book I’m confident it’s not a shellbark hickory and it’s probably not the southern shagbark.

The shagbark hickory. I pulled off a piece of the bark and found several tiny aphides and three silk cocoons nested there, awaiting winter.
A dissected nut from the shagbark hickory.
Nuts from the mockernut hickory (a.k.a. hognut hickory).

2. The coyotes were unhinged last night. A group went off like an air raid siren just east of the cabin at sunset. They were close enough to make me doublecheck to ensure Sunny was in the house. Then a second pack started wailing in the distance to the southwest. It went on for a solid 15 minutes before they got bored and went on their way.

3. After dark I heard an odd scurrying and whirring noise at the foot of the stairs leading down into the woods. Suddenly, the ears and muzzle of a raccoon popped up and eyed me warily. He didn’t try to climb the stairs, and when he realized I saw him he ducked his head back down. Every few seconds he’d pop up again, especially if I whistled or made a clicking noise. So I started whistling “I’m in the Mood for Love,” which definitely freaked him out. Poor thing had no idea what to make of this situation, and I suspect he knew there were chunks of plum nearby that Sydney had ripped up to get at the pit. But my Nat King Cole inspired version of “Mood for Love” apparently sent him searching for a saner meal.

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