Storm!

Lightening was still flashing across the skies as the rain let up and I stuck my head out of my new leaf nest. It held up well through a severe storm that blew through in the middle of the night, probably because the branches are still new and flexible. But the lawn below looked like a hundred squirrels had descended and nipped all the branches they could reach. In other words, a hundred times worse than my clippings Hickory showed you yesterday. We needed the rain, but not like this!

With the human sirens sounding and all of us a little shaky from riding out the storm in swaying trees, Hickory and I did a little tour of the neighborhood. Leaves and branches littered the ground and streets.

A few trees fell, thankfully none of them ours. We’ll have to do a better check once it’s light out.

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We’re back with a daylight update. Please be careful out there – some branches–large branches that could pass for small trees–are still hanging and could fall.

Ol’ Wally told us younger squirrels humans used to call these ‘widow-makers.’

In our region, the storms mostly blow in from the west. As we scampered around we detected how that affects the trees and their branches. Of these two old spruces, the one on the western side now leans eastward.

This Red Maple branch that extended across the street got twisted backwards, but…

a neighboring oak’s dead branch in the lee of the trunk didn’t break.

The tops of several of the forty-year-old White Pines we’ve talked about snapped clean off.

This isn’t unusual Miz Flora says, because pine is a ‘softwood’. The tree grows fast, so the plant cells forming the trunk are large and well, soft. The wood breaks, is easy to cut and burns quickly.

So our neighborhood got by with minor damages, and we hope all our local neighbors fared as well.

Nest Under Construction

Chatter aloud and swish your busy tails! Nutmeg has found the perfect tree! She’s hard at work snipping off branches of leaves from the White Oak she’s chosen. They have to be just the right length and fullness of leaves.

Then before they stiffen, she carries each up and weaves the limber branch into a ball with a hollow in the center. She’s working from both the inside and outside and this is what her new leaf nest looks like so far.

Thirsty Thursday

Ol’ Wally here to talk to you humans about water. Had a mite of rain earlier this week, but it barely mattered. Plants are startin’ to dry up some and the humans over at the house with the pond had to add water from their hose. I was a bit worried about those soft-skinned frogs gettin’ burnt from the foreign chemicals, but they added a conditioner to take ‘em out. All the rest of you take note about that if you’ve got frogs, salamanders or even scaly fish in your garden ponds.

Coneflowers

Miz Flora reminded me we haven’t shown a nice flower in a week. She suggested I show the lovely stand of coneflowers planted by the humans in our neighborhood.

The Echinacea genus takes its name from the spiny ‘cone’ in the flower’s center that resembles a sea urchin.

Under each little spine a seed will develop that is quite high in protein and attractive to many birds. We’ve already seen the yellow flash of American Goldfinches checking them out.

Hunting Hollows

After finding those hawks, I decided to try for a nest site a little more secure. Hickory joined in and led me on a wild chase looking at hollows—as in hollow spots in trees.

“Here’s one we can easily dig out,” he said.

“Are you kidding? Every dog and fox in the neighborhood will be after me on the ground like that.”

“Okay, how about this one?”

“Still not high enough. Kids can poke stick in it. See.”

“Oh, yeah.” We ran paths and he found another. “It’s high, off the beaten path and already hollowed.”

“It’s also cracked through,” I told him. “Probably close to splitting.”

We ran across a nest box. “Look,” he said. “Another squirrel has already widened the opening.”

I checked it out. “It’s too cramped, even if it is just me in here. Also I feel funny taking over a box that was meant for a bluebird.”

“True. You can’t stretch. Say, how about that box where we saw the kits this spring?”

We climbed high to inspect it. I went in and out of the empty box several times to check the fit. “It’s roomy enough, but something just doesn’t feel right,” I said and couldn’t stop chittering.

He went in and came out again swishing his tail. “It’s hot.”

“That’s it! No breeze, like you get through a good leaf nest.” I felt bad about turning down the best one we’d found. “Maybe I’ll consider this one come fall.”

He shrugged and ran off down a branch. “Back to the trees?” he called over his shoulder.

I ran to catch up. “Yeah, back to tree hunting. Thanks, Hickory.”

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Okay folks, I’m jumping from branch to branch over this one. Nutmeg and I were out on the hunt for a new nest tree for her and ran down this path.

See all the white splotches, like some human dropped a paint can? But it’s not paint!  Look closely and you see it’s on the path, the tree, the ground and the vegetation in a 12 foot circle around this tree trunk. What is it? Or more correctly, what are these splotches caused by?

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Well, you’ve got to look up to solve this mystery, and even then detective work is needed. I didn’t tell you this, but we ran like the dickens when we figured out those white splotches are bird droppings—big bird droppings. We cautiously came back through the treetops and spied on stick nest of what we think is a Red-shouldered Hawk. We didn’t get too close, but you can still make out the three fuzzy heads of those nestlings.

Needless to say, Nutmeg is not going to be making her new leaf nest in that neck of the woods.

Slime mold revisited

Back at the beginning of the month, Hickory showed you a slime mold. Here is the picture from the post.

And here is what is looks like now.

Quite a change, and really not very interesting if you missed the mold in its growing and fruiting stages. This one has spread its spores and now is dying back to the mycelium–what most people would call the roots–living in and feeding off the mulch.

Bacterial Leaf Scorch

Hey, Hickory here, filling in for Nutmeg today. When she first moved here back in March, the trees hadn’t fully leafed out. The Pin Oak she chose isn’t doing so well and now many of the branches surrounding her leaf nest are dying back because the tree has Bacterial Leaf Scorch. See how thin the canopy is above her nest with many of the branches devoid of leaves.

The disease looks just like the name describes, the leaves look scorched, or brown. It’s apparently carried through the tree’s xylem system, which Nutmeg wrote about back on April 27th.

The US Forest Service has information on the disease here. It’s affecting a number of urban trees, including all of the Pin Oaks in our neighborhood. We’ve lost most of the 40 year old trees over the last eight or so years. It’s sad not only because we like to have some variety in our acorns, but also because our neighborhood isn’t as green as it used to be. Plant diseases affect wildlife, too.

So Nutmeg is out hunting a new nest site.  Keep your paws crossed she can find one in our neighborhood.

Thirsty Thursday

Water dishes are croppin’ up everywhere I see. Thanks humans.

But Ol’ Wally’s gotta let you know that those fancy ones on posts are only going to serve birds who can fly in. Even we squirrel acrobats can’t figure out a good way to land on those slick dishes.

Now here’s a nice straightforward way to serve wildlife water. A little bitty toad might not be able to get over the rim, but it gives most of us some choices. Wildlife like choices.