Our Own Praying Mantis

Yesterday we found one! Take a look at this beauty, with her distended abdomen.

We think she might be carrying eggs and will keep our eyes peeled for an egg mass. But we will definitely wait at a distance. Look at the hooks on these front feet!

Thirsty Thursday

Here is a flock of wild birds I, Ol’ Wally, see living around our Virginia ponds and lakes, despite a the name of their origins.

Canada Geese—not Canadian Geese as many folks tend to call them—used to migrate from up north before their harsh winters set in, then return. But not so these days.

I don’t know why. Climate change? More man-made lakes put in with nice tender grass to eat? Lazy? Perhaps you humans want to look it up. I just know us natives have to dodge and dive our way around these big birds—residents now—as they feed near any open fresh water.

Web Tunnels

I don’t even know if ‘tunnel spider’ is the correct name, but ever crevice seems to be coated in webbing these days, with a distinct tunnel leading to the spider’s lair. Yikes!

Maybe it’s just the spiders have had the summer to build their nests undisturbed, or maybe they’ve just had the chance to grow bigger.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Is it poison ivy or Virginia Creeper? Give me your best guess!


How about some extra pictures of this very tricky vine? From the top and from the middle of the vine.

Still confused? Poison Ivy never has more than three leaflets to a group. Virginia Creeper can have 3 to 5 to 7. This vine–all of the photos–are Virginia Creeper.

Old trees breaking down

Here’s a look at an interesting stump Hickory and I ran by yesterday. The entire center was filled with dirt crumbles…

And on closer inspection, we could see why.

Many large insects have been at work devouring the rotting wood and, er, producing…dirt.

Hickory said, “Hey, why are you bothered? All gardeners know the best dirt comes from worms. Why not insects, too?”

Afterwards, I noticed the next dead tree we ran by also had lumps of half-decomposed wood/dirt sitting near the base.

Am I going to be seeing other animals’ leftovers everywhere now?

Have you seen me?

Anyone seen any praying manitises this summer? We haven’t, and that’s surprising. Luckily over in Mayland alert reader Toni Picker sent us a photo.

Toni reports her bushes have been so full of them she has delayed pruning. I thought she was lucky, not having to deal with so many  bugs in her yard this year, but Hickory shuddered when he saw the photo.

“Are you kidding, Nutmeg? That mantis is huge. Big enough to take on a frog, a lizard, even a mouse.”


“Seriously. They will eat anything small enough to catch. If squirrel kits were born this time of year, a mantis that size could take them out.”

I thought about it for a few branch leaps, then told him, “We should have her ship a few over here then. Maybe we could train them to defend our neighborhood against those snakes you’re so scared of.”

Hickory opened and closed his mouth a few times before shaking himself. Finally he said, “I think you need a permit to transport animals over state lines. I’ll look into it for you.” Then he ran off.

Thanks for the photo, Toni! I’m having a lot of fun with it.

Thirsty Thursday

Ol Wally doesn’t get out of the neighborhood too much these days. I prefer to send those young scamps to places I know might have an interesting feature for our blog’s water day. But this week I did traipse over to a storm ditch on the golf course.

It’s amazing what kind of weeds–er, pardon me, wildflowers–you can find in a simple ditch this time of year. Sometimes it’s the only place those plants might be thrivin’ with a trickle of rainwater. Here’s one you humans might appreciate and recognize.

Miz Flora calls it a Spiderwort, the Virginia Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana. Us old-timers called it Wandering Jew. It finds a damp soil and goes crazy, growing in that angular branchy style you see all over the front edge of this ditch.

Now, it does help that this here storm ditch is smack in the sun. Lots of plants like the sun and bit ‘o water. Another old storm ditch didn’t fare so well during our last storm.


It’s shady and not much grows. The sudden burst of water carried loose soil and branches and blocked a culver. Afterwards the humans had to get in there and clean it. I’m gonna send young Hickory back some time this fall to see if it ends up recoverin’ some of its plants.

Dead Branches

Eh, dead branches in trees are a pain, even for us. It’s not that looking at them bothers us squirrels like it would a human, but the tips dry out, get poky, and then they break when you least expect it. Who wants to have your trail fall out from under your paws? Especially on a good chase, or when you might really be being chased.

But yesterday Hickory and I witnessed one of the good things about dead branches.

Did you see it? Ok, this is embarrassing, but I’ll show you a close-up, even though it’s terrible focus.

There. That’s a Downy Woodpecker. And he did not stop for a single second the entire time he travelled over that Eastern Hemlock branch. Why? He was eating the whole time. Bugs, gazillions of them, I suppose–I wasn’t going up there–covered that branch.

Or should I call it a dinner plate? It was for him. (Yes, him. Only the males have the red patch on the back of the head.)

So we’re putting our distain for dead branches aside, because as Hickory says, “Hey, everyone’s gotta eat.”