It has been a cold winter in the central Highlands and I'm accustomed to stoking the log burner and wearing my full length Pajamas to bed. The native wildlife however have a range of slightly different techniques to ward of the chill of a winter’s night.
During the day it is clear to see the signs of overnight occupants in the crevices of the giant sequoias around my house. A small amount of white guano dotted underneath a rounded nook in the spongy trees bark gives this away. The impressions (larger than golf balls, smaller than tennis balls) speckle the trees and appear to have been excavated by something.
By 9:30 on a cloudy Tuesday evening, darkness had taken a hold of the woodland, accompanied by a cutting westerly wind. Wrapped up with only my eyes on show I go to inspect the sequoias on site by scanning their bark with a high powered torch. Two trees down and no sign of the culprits, the third tree however yielded a black and golden fluffy mound, eye level, on the more sheltered east side of the trunk. On closer inspection this proved to be the back of a bird, a treecreeper.
The treecreeper is a fascinating bird, its method of probing the crevices of bark on the older trees around, looking for invertebrates, is highly distinctive. This species has discovered it can sculpt the bark of a tree brought over from California by well to do Victorians roughly 160 years ago to create itself a snug fitting groove, which it seals off with feathers, trapping body heat against the tree to keep itself warm on these cold Highland nights.