Thirsty Thursday

Of course I’ve been asked to do the next to impossible again—twice in one month. At least this time it’s a little easier: combine a post about water and trees. (See February 14th, if you are new to our little blog and have no clue what this old squirrel is complaining about.)

Anyway, my offering is the birch tree. It grows near water, sinking their roots deep to drink up lots of it, which explains why not many grow here in suburbia. I think there is a rule these days against putting houses along rivers, some concern about them getting washed away. This happens to squirrel leaf nests all the time, so we understand why you don’t want to rebuild those big places you humans sleep in.

But I got sidetracked. It’s much easier to stay on task when the topic is water. Birch trees. Miz Flora filled me in on the native one we have in this area of Virginia—the Black Birch. But as I said, no photos. You humans seem to like these fancy ones with the peeling bark.

Birch tree

This one might be a Chinese Birch, it might not. Sorry. It’s Ol’ Wally ‘s best guess.

Birch tree

They do get quite large if they have the proper water.

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Eastern Hemlock

Miz Flora has made a special request that I include Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis in our Tree Week.

Eastern Hemlock

She says, don’t let the scientific–or the sometimes common name of Canadian Hemlock–fool you. This evergreen grows naturally here in Virginia. You might find it planted in someone’s backyard, as we did, but our field correspondents report that the conifer tree grows on the cooler northern slopes of our hillsides. Down here on the plains around DC, that means the ravines near the big rivers, like the Potomac River.

Eastern Hemlock bark

It’s a very long-lived tree, so gets quite large. Remember that Big Tree list we talked about last fall? I read people like to hunt for hemlocks in remote mountain areas to try to get on the list.

Eastern Hemlock cones

These big trees start from those little cones at the tips of the branches. Hickory and I don’t even bother with the seeds from these cones. We leave them to birds like the chickadees. If you haven’t guessed why, it’s less to do with the cone size than the branches. Those skinny tips are hard to navigate, even for us squirrel acrobats.

The Virginia State Tree

Hickory has had his fun with Tree Week–

“Hey! That carved statue was popular with viewers,” he yelled.

“I’m not complaining. It’s just that ‘tree’ was dead.”

“Oh. Well, go ahead, you do better.”

“I’ll try.”

So, as I was saying, having Tree Week in the winter means–to me–we should feature a few trees that shine in this season. But I’m having a hard time bypassing our Virginia State Tree, the Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida.

bark of the Flowering Dogwood

I bet you thought I was going to show you the tree. I’m sure you’ve seen it, and–shh, I don’t want to admit this too loudly, but Hickory’s idea of showing the bark was a good one. It is what we squirrels see up close every day we visit a tree.

Flowering dogwood also has very distinct twigs. They have opposite branching, are slightly purplish and curl up at the tips of the branches.

Flowering Dogwood bark and twigs

Flowering Dogwood twigs

That’s our state tree. Do you know yours?

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey all! Nutmeg and I decided to feature a week of trees. We’re calling it Tree Week, in case that isn’t obvious. The species aren’t all going to be native, but they are found growing in our Virginia neighborhood. Those are hints for you for today’s mystery. Have at it!

Mystery #44

I’ll check in with you later!

~~~

This tree bark is from an ornamental flowering cherry. All cherries have those horizontal lines  in the bark, so they are easy to identify, even when young.

Frozen Leaves

Nandina berries

These bright red nandina berries caught my eye, but when we stopped to look at them, Hickory and I noticed the shrub’s leaves.

Nandina leaves

“The edges seem to be burnt,” I said.

“Not burnt, frozen,” Hickory said. “These leaves must have grown late in the season during our warm weather, and didn’t have time enough to get tough for winter.” He looked at me and gave a definite nod before he scampered on.

Okay. I’ll go with that I decided.

Thirsty Thursday

This isn’t our blog’s usual pretty picture, but it is a fact of suburban living. Our water is channeled.

concrete storm drain

Rainfall on the parking lot is diverted along a human-made path to a covered hole to send it to a stream off…somewhere. This kind of trail is hard for even a rat to follow, let alone a squirrel. The elder point from this old squirrel is the water is being taken away from us, instead of being left where we—wildlife—might need it.

Yet, seeing the erosion to the right side of the concrete where the water has jumped its channel makes me give a smug chitter.

concrete storm drain with erosion

Nature is hard to contain.

Sorry, if I’m feeling too grumpy for you readers today. I like those stone water channels some humans are installing. If you’ve missed my old posts of them, here’s another chance to see them: July 19  Dec 20. This seems to be a trend that I for one am going to watch out for, and I welcome any sightings you readers—squirrel or human—may have. These old bones don’t take to traveling far these days.

Loud snow

A brief snowfall here yesterday was loud. When I poked my nose outside my leaf nest, the pounding on the dry leaves confused me, until I realized the snow was mixed with sleet.

ice pellets, mixed with snow

It sounded like hail, which led me to look up why this wasn’t hail. Sleet, or ice pellets, are small and translucent. Hail has to be 5 millimeters of bigger. Considering I couldn’t get my camera to focus on these bits, I decided they were ice pellets without measuring.

Not That Cold

We feel a tad guilty about our complaints of cold weather. A regular follower of The Squirrel Nutwork told us about a little hummingbird who is out and about getting food in our Virginia weather. Have a look at the photos she shared:

Rufous Hummingbird

This Rufous Hummingbird continues to come to a feeder in a gazebo at a local horticultural park. That’s a heat lamp to keep the nectar from freezing. We did have a mild fall, but why would a bird that regularly migrates south stick around?

Rufous Hummingbird

No fur, can you imagine? It’s nice these humans are sticking with feeding this persistent bird. We hope everyone else who stocked a birdfeeding station in the fall has kept up, too! Thanks for helping us out!