Closing Down

Dear Readers,

I’m sorry to say it was time for me to make a decision to stop blogging. I don’t know if we’re closing The Squirrel Nutwork down for a short time, or permanently.

My goal at the start of blogging was to share nature in suburbia, not just for Eastern Gray Squirrels, but for all wildlife and humans who live in the suburbs of Washington D.C. I think it’s been a good conversation with my fellow squirrels, Hickory, Ol’ Wally and Miz Flora—despite her not ever actually writing a post—and you human readers. We had a few surprises with Field Correspondents volunteering to share from their different habitats—Coney the Pine Squirrel from the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and Lob the Delmarva Fox Squirrel from the Delmarva Peninsula at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. I think their contributions showed how variable squirrels’ needs are and how adaptable we can be. And it was fun!

We’ve enjoyed sharing our lives and suburban habitat with you. Thank you for being our readers.

Nutmeg

Witch Hazel

In poking around to find all our possible food sources for this winter, Miz Flora reacquainted us with Witch Hazel. She’d noticed my photos of this shrub from earlier this fall.

Witch Hazel

“Look at all those flowers,” she said. “Why don’t you go check to see if they’ve set seeds?”

We scampered out to the shrubs planted in our neighborhood—under the oaks ironically. They are just ripening and thanks to Miz Flora will make up for those lean acorns.

“Not as energy-producing as a decent acorn,” she told us, “but will fill our bellies. Now that I won’t hear any grumbling from you younger squirrels, you might say a word to your readers that I’d like a few ears of corn put out, if they have an inclination to help us. That’s good protein for squirrels.”

You head her; I’m passing that along word-for-word.

“And tell them thank you,” Miz Flora said. “I can tell from your readers there’s a lot of good humans. I’m glad I’ve come to know them better through our blog.”

Thankful Thirsty Thursday

This old squirrel has a lot to be thankful for, most of all his squirrel friends and good human neighbors around the golf course. If Ol’ Wally didn’t have you-all it’d be a lot harder for a squirrel to get what he needed in this skimpy woods. You know I prefer a good clean stream, even if it is swamped with leaves these days.

Leaves in a pond

But those just aren’t too common in suburbia, so I’m sending out a big thank you to all the humans who thoughtfully provide us wild animals with good clean water year-round.

backyard pond

Word is we’re going into semi-hibernation here on The Squirrel Nutwork. (I sure hope you humans know that’s just a turn-of-phrase; we squirrel don’t hibernate.) It’s been a real pleasure talking with you humans once a week. I hope you continue to keep wildlife in your thoughts and lives. We suburban squirrels certainly think about you when we venture out of our leaf nests each morning. Keep yourselves warm and well-watered this winter!

Hawthorn Berries

Last year Hickory and I said ‘no way’ to climbing a nearby Hawthorn tree and braving its thorns. But this year we had to give it a try because the fruits just looked too luscious and filling. We younger squirrels had not tried them, but Miz Flora told us the apple-looking fruits are edible for us—as always we DO NOT recommend humans eat the foods squirrels do.

We made a careful path up the trunk and along the limbs to the red fruits.

Hawthorn fruits

“It’ll be tricky in the winter,” Hickory said.

“Do we even know if these fruits will last that long?” I asked him.

“No idea—”

At that point we heard a squawk and looked up. Cedar Waxwings flew into the branches above.

Cedar Waxwing in Hawthorn

“Aw-aw,” Hickory chattered. “They’ve eaten most of them already.”

They had. The upper branches were bare.

Awful Autumn

This is turning out to be a difficult autumn for us squirrels. In case you humans haven’t noticed, there aren’t very many acorns dropping on your cars…or your lawns…or our woods. We’ve been searching and burying, but haven’t collected enough. 

Nutmeg searching for acorns

Fewer acorns means more competition with the other animals who also eat them—wild turkeys, deer and black bears here in Virginia. Less food for us in the suburbs, more fighting with other squirrels for it, and possibly needing to move to new territories… it’s a hard life.

acorns

 

So what does a squirrel—or a deer, a turkey or a bear—eat when the acorn levels are down?

Beechnuts! That’s a favorite we don’t see very much of here in our Reston neighborhood.

 

There’s hickory—it’s a very good year for hickory—walnut, hawthorn… and we’ll even start to gnaw on some cherry pits if we need to. Thank goodness these trees don’t have the same cycles.

Hickory nuts eaten

 

Who is to blame? Some humans say it was the cicadas ‘pruning’ the trees with their egg-laying last spring. Others say that big storm, Hurricane Sandy, weakened the oaks a year ago when they grow buds for the flowing season–this one.  Or was it because the summer was dry?

We’re not sure of the reason, just that we’re getting down from our perches for a furious search for more food sources.

This is one of the reasons I–Nutmeg–suggested to my fellow squirrels at The Squirrel Nutwork that we take a break from blogging. We hope you understand that when life gets busy, we squirrel–and humans–must shift our energies to where they are most needed.

Motionless Monday

Hey there, it’s a last wildlife statue column from your correspondent Hickory.

With our decision to suspend daily blogging, I decided to veer from our regular animal statues. Along with the fall mushrooms popping up, I’ve noticed a growing number of statues of them and thought it’d be a treat to feature them.

mushroom statue

Mushroom statue

mushroom statue

This last looks very real–but don’t sink your teeth in!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey! Here’s a good mystery for you—what is this animal?

mystery #83

And this one?

mystery #83

Are they my cousins, or not?

And while you’re pondering on that, we squirrels at The Squirrel Nutwork want to announce we’ll be suspending our regular blogging activities for the winter. Or maybe beyond. Nutmeg has decided it’s too hard to keep up the daily commitment and we can’t do it without her. She asked me to drop the nut on our readers today, but says we’ll run another week to the end of November.

~~~

If you answered, yes, these squirrels are Hickory’s cousins, you are correct. These colorful squirrels are also Eastern Gray Squirrels, Sciurus carolinensis, but have genes that make their fur a different color. I’m also related to Red Squirrels and all other ‘tree squirrels’.

In the case of the white squirrel, we need to talk proper name. If you looked closely, this squirrel doesn’t have red eyes –so he’s not ‘albino’. Instead, it’s a rare coloration from a recessive gene causing leucism, or a lack of pigment in the skin and fur.  You humans seem to be fascinated by this difference, and flock to view white squirrels. But I can assure you, they live, eat and nest the same as Nutmeg and I.

The black squirrel also  gets his color as a result of genes, but mutant ones in this case. Apparently when North America was first settled, most squirrels living in the thick eastern woods were black. But as the woods were cut and developed, gray-colored squirrels had an easier time hiding. The squirrels with the genes for black coloration died out and the grayer ones survived. This camouflaging change happened for wolves as well.

Both of these squirrels live in Northern Virginia, the same as Nutmeg, Ol’ Wally, Miz Flora and I. Seems it isn’t so hard to get along in today’s suburbia with different fur.

Thirsty Thursday

We haven’t had a clever water runoff solution shown in this column for some time–because Ol’ Wally doesn’t run across that many.

waterbar steps

 

This set of water bars doubles as a shallow stairway on this slope, and keeps the paw traffic defined as well on the edges.

If you run into any sound water runoff solutions in your neighborhood, give me a holler!