Hello ‘real’ winter!

We’re still on our winter break, especially with the dump of snow hitting our little corner of the world. But a reader sent a great photo to us and we had to share.

Squirrel feeding in snowstorm

Our normal ways of collecting food–sniffing out the acorns and hickory nuts we buried last fall–isn’t working too well with several feet of snow on the ground here in Northern Virginia. Our reader put seed in cleared area to help us out–and perhaps the birds, too. We thought we’d share her idea in case a few of you might also be able to help your neighborhood critters. Thanks, Mary Ellen!

If you aren’t a regular reader, please see our prior post explaining The Squirrel Nutwork‘s winter blogging break.

Happy Winter Solstice! …and closing down…again, again.

Hello and happy solstice!

Easter Gray Squirrel sunning

We squirrels are a little cold today, and trying to catch all the sun we can on this shortest day of the year. It seems appropriate to put the blog to bed for the winter. Hickory and I have done this the last three years, the first thinking we might not reopen. If you’d like to look back on my thoughts from then, here’s my first closing post in 2013.

Of course the blog archives are open. If you are new to visiting us, look around. You can search by month for nature items of seasonal interest, or topic (like our most popular ‘5 leaf vine’, otherwise known as Virginia Creeper) or by column, such as ‘Motionless Monday.’

A long winter break of snoozing and putting our leaf nests in order seems to do wonders for us squirrels. Also, we have completed the Blogging A to Z Challenge each year since we began blogging in 2012, and that’a hard nut to pass up. ;)

We’ve had a longer run into winter than expected, so we are around to wish you humans happy holidays! Take care of yourselves in the months to come!

From your friends at The Squirrel Nutwork,

Nutmeg, Hickory, Ol’ Wally and Ms. Flora

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

We squirrels watch in amusement as the humans in our neighborhood deck out their homes with bright colors this time of year. If you look around, we’ve got some bright colors in nature, too!

Mystery #145

Any guess what they are? I’ll be back later to check your guesses!

~~~

We had a correct guess on today’s mystery! Kalamain guessed Beautyberry, a Callicarpa genus, and it is. Purple Beautyberry, in this case Ms. Flora thinks, but there are many species. For all that it looks exotic, it is a native of North America with many medicinal uses and one we find most interesting: In the early 1800s the farmers would crush the leaves and p the mash under horse harnesses to repel mosquitos!

We squirrels like to eat these berries, but have some competition from raccoons, deer and opossums as well as birds like the American Robin, finches and Brown Thrasher. They do make a pretty planting if you’re looking to spruce up your wildlife habitat!

Purple Beautyberry

It’s a pretty little shrub, loose and open.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

These aren’t the sharpest photos, but I must admit both Nutmeg and I had to run for cover and were shaking more than a little when we nearly bounded into the path of this hawk on the golf course.

Mystery #144

Mystery #144

Mystery #144

Question is, what kind of hawk is it? Can any of you humans make out the markings well enough you have a better guess than we do?  (Yes, we’re also admitting this is a mystery for us!)

I’ll check back in later to see what guesses you have!

~~~

Well folks, we don’t have a firm identification on this one. Our best guess is the bird is a Northern Harrier. We studied Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology page on the Northern Harrier and like the match of the V-shped wings as it glides and the black wingtips. There is a hint of a white rump patch in the flight photos. Possibly this bird was a juvenile and didn’t have all his white feathers there? The male Northern Harrier does have a white underside.

Thanks for playing along!

Thirsty Thursday

While taking a stroll around the golf course, this old squirrel noticed a curb along the path. It’s a clever solution to prevent mud from sliding off the slope in a heavy rain. But then I noticed the break in the curbing and figured it had gotten damaged.

DSC09125

Upon closer inspection, Ol’ Wally here discovered the humans probably made that break, but they also decided not to make it smooth surface.

DSC09126

See those grooves? Maybe they are decorations to make this concrete look like stones, but they also redirect a trickle and disperse its energy so it doesn’t shoot across the path.

And it was handy for stopping a few acorns for a tasty snack.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Now that most of the leaves are off the trees, we’re seeing more birds.

Mystery #143

Have a guess what these fellows are?

Check back with you later!

~~~

Sorry for the delay, folks, these short days really go by quickly!

Black Vulture

As one of our readers guessed, these are vultures–Black Vultures.

Like the Turkey Vulture, these birds have a featherless head…but the skin on it is black instead of red, an easy way to tell the two apart. Both  species feed on carrion–that’s dead animal bodies–so a head with no feathers is easier to keep clean than a feathered head.

We squirrels have heard that the Black Vulture has a poor sense of smell, so can’t find those rotting bodies as easily as the Turkey Vultures can. So the Black Vultures are often seen following Turkey Vultures around in hopes of getting an easy meal.