J is for . . . Pale Jewelweed

Sometimes it’s worth giving wild plants a second look.

Nothing unusual here, right? It looks like a jewelweed, that plant that is a wild relative of your human impatiens. Then we squirrels looked closer.

This plant has yellow flowers, and Miz Flora figured out it’s a different one, the Pale Jewelweed, Impatiens pallida.

It’s closely related to the jewelweed with the orange flowers, Impatiens capensis, has a similar leaf and likes wet soils. These flowers are pollinated by insects that have to travel way back to the nectar spur to get their sweet sugar water.

On the way, they pass the pollen and transfer it from flower to flower. Our one plant seems to have had insect visitors, because many new seedlings are popping up around the single plant from last year.

Looks like a full garden this year!

I is for . . . stick Insect

Do you see him?

These guys are masters of camouflage, which is how they have earned the name ‘walking stick insect’. They are experts at hiding from predators, like birds, that might want to eat them, even going so far as to sway to look like a twig blowing in the wind. They are close relatives of leaf insects, which totally makes sense!

H is for Horn-faced Mason Bee

We squirrels aren’t ones for getting our noses close to bees, but these bees have one thing on their minds…

Yep, they have newly emerged and and are getting down to the business of making more bees. A closer look told us the female–on the bottom–isn’t that thrilled. See the horns she is raising? Right below here eyes. And that’s where this mason bee gets their name. Hickory also took a look at the the bee’s mouth parts–the mandibles–and decided we could avoid this back yard for a while.

These bees have been attracted to a bee house with lots of tubes in it that are the right size for laying eggs. The female uses her strong mandibles to dig tiny balls of mud that she carries in those same mandibles to make clay dividers between her eggs in the tubes. Each egg is stocked with pollen to feed the larvae when it hatches. It eats away the summer in its compartment, spins a cocoon and sleeps the winter. When the spring temperatures are nice, the bees emerge. Each female bee then finds a new tube home and starts again. In the process of gathering pollen for her larvae, she’ll visit lots of flowers and pollinate them.

That’s a lot of work that we squirrels appreciate. We like to eat!

E is for . . . Eastern Chipmunk

You humans might think we squirrels are in competition with Eastern Chipmunks. We’re both mammals, have the same body types and we both like to eat nuts, mushrooms and bugs.

But while we both live and feed on ground–oh! Yeah, Hickory reminds me we have some competition under the feeders.

But we squirrels are much more agile when it comes to climbing trees. Eastern Chipmunks pretty much stick to the ground. They have ground burrows, dig more than we do under logs for tasty grubs and worms, and leave the tree-feeding to us…

Hmmm. So maybe I’ll just leave this alone and say: enjoy seeing both of us in your suburban neighborhoods, and don’t forget that a dish of water on the ground is always welcome!

D is for…Deer

It’s spring and the deer are active–soon the fawns will come along.

Did you know that the does leave their fawns while they are little and move away to feed? The fawns have no scent–but the adult deer do. It’s safer for the fawns on their own with the parent luring predators away. So if you find a baby deer, leave it and maybe check in a few hours later, but most likely, the mother is nearby and will return.

C is for… COLD!

Brrr! Are you telling us it’s April?! Below freezing mornings do not seem like April to us squirrels.

Snugging in our warm dreys made us forget that our winter hiatus is over and we wanted to take up the “Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.” We’ve been doing it since 2012, so even though we missed April 1 & 2 (Letters A & B, for those of you who are new!) we signed up. We are #292, even this late, so it seems like many of you humans are also snugging this spring.

So here is what it looks like for us on a cold spring morning–frost.

See you tomorrow!

Closing down for winter again.

It seems appropriate after the Solstice has now passed that we close the blog for what has become our annual winter break. We’ve done this every winter since 2013.  If you’d like to look back on our squirrly thoughts from then, here’s my first closing post in 2013.

Of course the blog archives are still open for searches. If you’ve got COVID cabin fever, you can click on one of the categories in the side bar –> and have a look at a nice nature thought. Feeling quizzical? Click on ‘What is it?’ and test your smarts on a nature mystery! We still have lots to look at. We don’t want you to forget your squirrel friends!

If we aren’t too cold and sleepy this winter, we might change up our look. Just a warning for you. The theme we use is long out of date and WordPress has been bugging us to switch. Also, some of our theme colors are locked for links and such and it just bothers us not to be able to change with the seasons.

So maybe new look, maybe too hard. We aren’t sure yet. One thing we are sure of: we squirrels will continue to be alert for any humans approaching too close and avoid the risks of spreading COVID. Please, humans, do the same! We want to have our friends here to visit again in the spring

Stay socially distanced — and safe — out there!

Your friends at The Squirrel Nutwork,

Nutmeg, Hickory, Ol’ Wally and Miz Flora

Happy Winter Solstice – in the fog!

We squirrels got up early to greet the sun on this Winter Solstice…

Hmm. We weren’t far out of our leaf nests before we realized that wouldn’t happen. But up is up so we took a run on the golf course, because…fog!

It wasn’t long before we noticed the fog changing color.

Cool, huh? This was just before the sunrise!

It stayed foggy even after the sun rose, and we headed for a reliable White Oak for a morning snack!

If you’re looking for your regular Motionless Monday, here’s a fun one that the neighborhood humans have shared again this holiday.

Have a great week!