Sprucing up the Trail

The tall conifers with scaly bark and single, round needles are White Spruce. Nearby Balsam Fir look similar but have smooth bark and flat needles. Spruce seeds are important winter food for Red Squirrels, which cache scattered piles of cones in autumn. Their sharp incisors nip the scales off, leaving atop the snow evidence of a cache’s location. White-winged Crossbills also eat spruce seeds, using their peculiar crossed bills to pry apart the scales before inserting their long tongue to access seeds.\

Dead spruce are food for Bark Beetles, and they in turn are food for Black-backed Woodpeckers. In winter, piles of bark chips around a spruce reveal a rare visit from one of these northern birds.