The Wonders Of A Mast Year

Oct 10, 2017

Among the many strange events 2017 hath wrought, it hath wrought a mast year for nut trees of the forest. Mast years are years that nut trees like oaks and hickories bear an abundance of fruit -- or mast, as it’s called by scientists and people who know Old English.

You can bet that, when trees behave strangely, some strange animal behavior is sure to follow. To wit: In my yard the other morning, I heard a commotion in the oaktops: the chattering and squawking of an enormous flock of sleek black birds with iridescent blue heads making mayhem on high. Linneaus called these birds gracula quiscula. We call them: grackle.

Soon I heard another clatter -- like a hailstorm, stones falling from the sky and striking the earth. But I soon realized the hailstones were, in fact, acorns.

At first I thought it must be the sheer weight of all those birds causing the acorn storm. I brought out the binocs for a better view. What I witnessed surprised me yet again. The grackles were picking the acorns, holding them in their beaks, and then dropping them to the ground. Amazing!

It was as if, when confronted with such abundance, the grackles couldn’t help but play with their food. I watched the strange pageant for some time, and never an acorn was eaten.

Suddenly I heard a great wind arise. Except it wasn’t a wind at all, but the sound of hundreds of grackles taking wing at once. If only you could have been there to witness.

I’m Chris Fink, and that’s my perspective