While the Steller’s Jay is busily exploring the oak tree canopy collecting acorns, the Black-capped Chickadee is investigating the speckled oak galls on the underside of leaves.
As it forages for these galls, you will see it acrobatically clinging to the oak leaves. Sometimes it will open the gall while hanging on to the leaf. Other times it will pluck the gall off the leaf and take it over to a nearby branch to extract the larva.
I took one of the galls over to a picnic table and cut it in half. The gall reminds me of a ping-pong ball—it is round, light and the shell is paper thin. On the inside there are white, electric fibers radiating from the center where the small larva is encased. The larva will emerge from this small encasing when it is ready and eat the inside of the gall for food.
Small groups of chickadees are roving through the landscape at Mt. Pisgah exuberantly opening these little packages and eating the yummy larva inside. To help locate them, listen for their chick-a-dee-dee-dee call. You might also hear them whistle the notes fee-bee-ee or fee-bee of their song.
Nature is an inexhaustible source of wonder. Hope to see you out there.