Thirsty Thursday

The other evening I was sitting in a staring contest with that big ol’ bullfrog when Hickory dropped from a tree behind me. The frog gave a ‘meep’ of surprise and leapt into the pond.

“What’d you do that for?”

“I was waiting to see if he’d start calling, but he hasn’t.”

“No, he hasn’t. That’s because he is a she. Female bullfrogs don’t vocalize.”

“What? How did you find out it’s a girl?”

I was ready to have some fun with this brash youngster. “I looked.”

Hickory shuffled his feet.

“At her tympanic membrane. Her eardrum.”

“Oh.” He looked a little relieved. That’ll teach that boy to sneak up on an old squirrel. “Is it a special color?”

“No, it’s just small. In a male, the eardrum is bigger than the eye. Have a look at our girl.”

We waited until she came back up onto her rock.

“Okay,” he said. “She’s not gonna call. Want to come down to the golf course pond with me and listen to those frogs?”

So I followed his scampering tail on down there. Bullfrogs were chorusing their hearts out. It was lovely and I even thanked Hickory for inviting me.

I asked Nutmeg, but she doesn’t have any fancy equipment to record and play them on our website, but she looked up these links for me. The first is a great little video by and the second at Animal Diversity has a bunch of frog calls so you can figure out what you’re hearing if you can’t find the frogs like squirrels can.

White Pine

I’m still quite breathless after yesterday’s scare, so Hickory and I stuck real close to the leaf nests today and under cover of the evergreen trees in the neighborhood. That included the White Pines he showed you Sunday, so we took the liberty of dropping one of those new cones down for comparison. The green one wasn’t what you’d call ‘ripe’ yet. But that’s what we’re seeing at the tips of the upper branches. We put it next to one of last year’s open cones.

Danger on Wings

Whew. I’ve never sat so still in my life as I did this morning when I looked out the hole in my leaf nest. There on a branch above me was…that!

It’s a Barred Owl. You can tell by the barred feather pattern on his chest, which is right there in my face. He’s looking at me like I’m breakfast, which I could be, but I’m not doing him that favor. Not today. Mother always told us kits Barred Owls lived—and nested—in Reston, but I never believed her. Now I do. I sent out the danger call and I hope every squirrel in the neighborhood heard it and stays hidden.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey, Hickory here with another concrete slab. This time I’m asking you to guess what is the origin of the plant material drifted up against the curb.




What no guesses? Nearly everyone in Reston has this in their gutters because fourty-some years ago this tree species was widely planted in this planned community’s new neighborhoods–and maybe in yours, too!

White Pine! The tree is native to North America, but mainly found in cooler northern states and along the Appalachian Mountains south to Georgia. The large old trees in our neighborhood produce ‘flowers’ (Please ask Miz Flora for the explanation on how those funny brown bristles are flowers.) on the tips of their branches. After the pollen flies from them, the little flower pieces fall to the ground.

Sorry, I can’t find the name of what these are called (If anyone knows, please write us!) but I did learn a neat trick from Miz Flora for how to tell your White Pine tree from other pine species planted around here. This tree has five needles in each bundle–see how they poke out from the branch in bundles? Well, you can remember a White Pine has five needles to a bundle because there are five letters in the word white, w-h-i-t-e.

Pretty clever, huh? I love little tricks like this for remembering stuff.

And in case you’re wondering, when the flowers make cones later this summer, and the cones make seeds in the fall, yes, we squirrels will eat the ‘pine nuts.’ They aren’t a favorite food for us gray squirrels in the east like some varieties of pines are favored by squirrels in other areas of the country, but we will eat them.



Another Turtle Crossing, but a different species

We had a report from a correspondent that some people rescued a turtle from the road in our neighborhood. Hickory and I leapt branch to branch to a spot near the golf course, thinking we’d see another pond turtle. After all, we’ve had a lot of rain.

We got there just as they placed her in a safe spot in the cluster natural area.

“This one’s a box turtle,” Hickory said. “At least it belongs on land, even if the middle of the street isn’t the best spot.”

“Eww,” I said, “What’s all that orange gunk on her face?”

He got closer. “It’s slug slime,” he said just as she pulled in.

“Yuck! They eat slugs?”

“Yep. Probably why she was in the street. The rain brings out the worms and slugs. The birds and turtles go after them, but this poor gal couldn’t get back up the curb.”

“Well, despite her poor taste in food,” I said, “she’s lucky some people with sharp eyes spotted her and got her into the woods again.”


Then Hickory did something I never would have expected. He flipped the turtle on her back.

“What’d you do that for?”

“You asked why she’s called a box turtle.”

“I did not.”

“Well, you should have. Your readers what to know and this shows why. Eastern Box Turtles close up like a box for defense. Not from you or I, but so those burly raccoons don’t eat them.”

“Ah. So… you’re gonna flip her over, right?”

“Nah, she can get herself upright again. It’s not like cartoons. She’ll stick out her long neck and get upright again.”

He ran off and I followed. But only a short ways. I waited to make sure the turtle was back on her feet. But the look she gave me wasn’t a happy one.


All those itty-bitty white flowers from a few weeks ago have finally made cherries. They’re disappearing fast, so get out there!

Unfortunately, you have to dodge these!

Gack, I hate putting my paws into their webbing. And tent caterpillars aren’t even good for a quick bite with all that fur. They like cherry leaves, so we both like the same tree, but for different reasons.

Thirsty Thursday

Ol’ Wally here with your water plants update:

Appears to me the filling of that little pool is too wet for one rain garden plant. The Swamp Verbena, Verbena hastata, wilted a week ago in the deep water, then slowly crumpled up. The gardeners here moved it to a dryer location, but it looks all in.

However, Miz Flora has, as usual, decided to differ with me.

“You should have taken a closer look,” Miz Flora said. “When they dug it up, the root ball was covered by an inch of mud that slid to the bottom of the rain garden pit.”

“And why would that make any difference?” I asked her.

The roots couldn’t breath when the pool dried up.”

“They couldn’t breath if the pool didn’t dry up. That plant is supposed to be able to tolerate standing water. Swamp Verbena.”

“It’s the mud, I tell you.”

“Nope.” I chittered at her. “Defective stock. It was raised in a dry pot, so it’s only used to dry earth.”

“Then under your premise, it should revive planted on dry land,” Miz Flora said.

“Yep, it should.”

She twitched her tail and chattered, “We’ll see.”

Hold on. Did that ornery woman just turn my reasoning around on me?  I tell, you she’ll make me want to run into the street yet.

Anyhows, here’s a bloom from the iris she told me was Yellow Water Iris. Let’s see how she likes me posting that.

News to Celebrate!

Hey everyone! Here at The Squirrel Nutwork we’re celebrating our acceptance into the Nature Blog Network.

Acorns all around!

We’ve just joined and our ranking is number 86 in the ‘backyard habitat’ grouping. But that little button you see over on the right sidebar is going to start counting your visits to our site and move us up the rankings. Right?

I found The Nature Blog Network while researching what I wanted to do with The Squirrel Nutwork. From their page, they are:

“Welcome to the Nature Blog Network, a nexus for the very best nature blogs on the net. If you’re looking for outstanding blogging about birdsbugsplantsherpshikingoceansecosystems, or any other natural topic — or if you blog on those topics yourself — this is the place for you!”

There are some very inspirational sites out there. Some of my favorites are Great Stems and The Marvelous in Nature.

Join Hickory and I for some afternoon frisking and chasing in the treetops to celebrate!

A newly planted area

This little planted area between the pond and rain garden is looking good. I had Miz Flora identify the plants. “More Cardinal Flower?” I asked her.

“Close. It’s a lobelia, but notice they didn’t plant this one directly in the raingarden. Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica, can handle a dryer soil than the red species. Mixed in with it are Pink Turtleheads, Chelone lyoni.”

“This species has escaped from cultivation – the native, C. glabra is white.” She shrugged. “Well that’s what you get. It grows wild here  and does look pretty. These will bloom in late in the summer. In the back, a little beaten by the rain, is a Blue Flag Iris, Iris versicolor.”


“They did the right thing keeping it in the shady portion of the bed. It’s from farther north and can’t tolerate the heat of our afternoon sun.”

“What’s this short one around the rock?”


She sniffed. “Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum. It’s not native.”

“But it’s everywhere.”

“I know. I can’t figure it out. Don’t they know any better?”

“It’s spreading, too.”

“Yes, but at least it’s confined by the borders in this spot. We’ll see what the gardeners do over the summer.”