Z is for Zebra Swallowtail

Is that a beautiful butterfly, or what? So pretty we decided to feature this butterfly again this year, because insects were another lowly represented group during our A to Z Challenge. And, er, in case you haven’t noticed Z is not a commonly used letter in nature.

Zebra Swallowtails

The 2014 Blogging A to Z Challenge has come to an end for us. We hope you enjoyed it. We sure did! Thanks for joining us.

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Y is for Yellow Bird

We had a look at the other 24 letters we’ve posted in the Blogging A to Z  Challenge and tried to see where we came up short on various nature sightings. We only had one bird (J is for Junco), that is if you don’t count the two bird statues Hickory featured. So today we cheat a little. Our yellow bird, isn’t big, but he is very common right now.

American Goldfinch

And I do mean ‘he’. Only the male American Goldfinch carries the bright yellow plumage. The females, which practically blend with the ground in this feeding station, are brown.

Male and female goldfinches

That way, when they are sitting o a nest they remain hide, camouflaged.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

It’s the last Sunday off for good behavior in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Take a gander at the website, if you haven’t done so yet in April, and hop to some of the other blogs. If you’re into science, look for the ones with a ‘SC’ after their names.

And on to today’s mystery!

Mystery #87

You’re leaping along through the woods and come across a patch of these red leaves. What are they?

 

Back later for your guesses and the answer!

~~~

As one of our regular readers guessed, this plant is poison ivy!

Poison Ivy

The new leaves emerge red tinged, changing to a shiny green in a week as they grow to full size. Here, and in may  woodsy places around the east, the vines are traveling underground and sending up new shoots–everywhere! The oil in the leaves only seem to affect bare skin, not fur, like we squirrels have. But as many of you readers may have discovered, the oil can transfer from fur–ours or a dog’s–to bare skin and cause an allergic eruption.

So beware! If you see this red blush over the ground the spring, change your route! And encourage your dog to do the same.

By the way, if the vine you are seeing has five leaves, it’s Virginia Creeper. Leap back to some of our very popular posts on this other native vine, here.

W is for Weeping Willow

The Weeping Willows are past blooming in northern Virginia, but this was such a beautiful tree, we wanted to sow if off.

weeping willow

Long graceful branches. Nothing a squirrel can get some traction for leaping on, but loose and flowing and interesting if you like variety in your trees.

And we do!

V is for Violets

We squirrels leap across the lawn, landing in the cool green grass, dodging the perky purple violets.

violets in grass

“Are you kidding?” Hickory snickers. “They’re impossible to miss, even if Miz Flora doesn’t like us putting our paws on the wildflowers.”

It’s true. Violets are everywhere this time of year. Even Miz Flora doesn’t know what kinds, because there are dozens of species in her wildflower book. They are pretty, purple, white, blue, striped, blue and white, purple and white, yellow even. And frankly, like many of you humans, we just ignore them.

But it’s V day, so take a closer look for once.

Violet

“Okay,” Hickory grumbles. “Kind of pretty.”

T is for Tree Trunks

Howdy from Colorado!  Coney the Pine Squirrel

I’m Coney the Pine Squirrel, The Squirrel Nutwork’s Colorado Field Correspondent.

I have a great alphabet letter idea from Colorado that Nutmeg agreed to let me post!

I was running along our stream and spotted some tree trunks that were uncovered in our flooding last fall.

Pine tree trunks uncovered by flood waters

See how they look squeezed at the base? I had to hop all around them before I put together what happened: The soil around their bases was dumped there during a previous flood. According to my squirrel lore, that was way back in my many, many times-Great Grandsquirrel’s time! Like the flooding last September, I’m sure the humans back then couldn’t begin to remove the soil from around so many creek-side trees. So it stayed.

And these Ponderosa Pine trees didn’t die!

I’m so surprised to discover this , because trees need air like wildlife do, and they get a lot of it through their roots. As you can see, there are no roots in that uncovered fifteen inches of trunk.

Amazing! We squirrels don’t now quite what to make of this, so if any of you humans have an explanation, please shoot Nutmeg an email.

Thanks for letting me share in the A to Z Challenge!

Coney

S is for Snake

Sneaky Snake. Slithery Snake. Hisssy Snake.

Ring-necked snake

Bet you’ve heard all those. This one’s a Ring-necked snake, one of the bigger ones I’ve seen, probably ten inches…and no, I didn’t try to stretch him out to check, because Ring-necked snakes do have a venom in their back teeth, and I didn’t need it latching onto my paw. Mostly the venom comes out when the snakes get their prey well into their mouths, so you humans don’t need to worry. And they do give fair warning, flipping over their tail’s underside, which is orange, signaling danger in nature.

Ring-necked snakes eat slugs, worms and salamanders, so they’re good garden friends. But what wild species isn’t?

And on that note, Happy Earth Day! Hope you have a great day outdoors enjoying nature!

Earth Day