Migrating Monarchs

If you have a protected stand of fall-bloomers still producing nectar, you will surely attract a migrating monarch.

The numbers of these butterflies appearing in their winter feeding grounds are on an upswing – and it’s due to you nice humans planting milkweeds, the food for Monarch caterpillars, and late-blooming fall wildflowers to provide nectar for the adult on the long journey south. Read more about the change in the monarch counts in the Pismo Beach, California wintering grounds.

Keep it up nature-loving humans!

Motionless Monday

Hey there!

Most Mondays, I –Hickory Squirrel– post a wildlife garden statue that we squirrels have seen in our romps about our suburban neighborhood. It’s interesting to us that you humans love wildlife so much that you put out statues of us. Now Nutmeg and I discovered that you have a day dedicated to animals–today! Happy World Animal Day!

This is a day humans celebrate the rights and welfare of all animals on this planet. It’s been difficult for us squirrels to find one website with more information, but this veterinary nurse website has some neat history and facts about the day.

It’s also World Habitat Day, which probably doesn’t catch as much attention. But it should! Without the habitat–the food, shelter and eating places animals need–there won’t be wildlife around.

From reading our blog, we bet you know that increasing wildlife habitat is more important than ever before, particularly for insects. Many of the more charismatic insects also make it into your gardens, so we know you humans can be passionate about bugs.

Please do something to help insects this fall season. Plant native wildflowers. Leave the leaves. Don’t cut back your plant stems so the eggs laid inside them can grow throughout the winter. Dedicate a garden corner to being ‘wild.’ These are very easy tasks for the human gardener.

A little harder, but one of the best things you can do, is plant an oak tree that is native to your region. Oaks provide more insect food than any other plant. It’s a ‘keystone’ species, meaning if your local oak trees go missing, so do hundreds of other insects and wildlife–like us squirrels–on up the food chain. Read more about the importance of oaks in this interview of Doug Tallamy at the Joe Gardener website.

Have a great week!

New England Aster

Miz Flora has been astonished by these new flowers in our neighborhood. Purple ones, of course! What do you humans think?

The local neighborhood humans planted these in a garden bed so we were surprised to learn it’s a native plant! New England Aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, grows throughout eastern and central North America.

And it’s in two colors here! What’s with that?

We squirrels don’t have an answer yet, but it is the same plant. The bees don’t seem to mind! Both the honeybees above and the native Common Eastern Bumblebees were all over these fall wildflowers.

And you can see with plenty of blossoms budded on these plants, the blooms will last through November and our freezes, which is good for the bees and migrating monarchs!

Start Feeding Now!

Did you want to feed us squirrels… Um, we mean, the birds this winter?

You need to start now.

Like us–hint, hint–wintering songbirds are flitting around checking out the best food sources now. They pick quite a few sites and back-ups. If you aren’t on their list now, they won’t bother looking during the coldest part of the season. No animal has the energy to spend on searches when their stores are down. Prepare now to enjoy our–their company during your extended quarantine!

Who knew?

Sometimes you stroll through the neighborhood knowing what and where everything is. Then you skip a route for a week or two and…

Who knew these plants got this tall? Miz Flora says it’s a Tithonia sunflower. There are two and maybe the extra space and good soil allowed them to stretch farther than usual.

Anyhow, they are seven feet tall and reaching for the sky, far out of range for us squirrels.

Sadly, as they go to seed, the birds will have a treat, not us.


We squirrels know all about you humans. Watching from high up, we see many things happening. That’s how we know you don’t want to see certain plants growing in your yard.

Burdock is one of these plants. It grows huge–three feet tallied wide–and the burs get in your fur!

But then you notice that the somebody likes that plant more than you do…

and maybe it needs to stay.

Happy Pollinator Week!

Yes, pollinators have the support of a week dedicated to them, just like squirrels do! (That shows you how important they are. Squirrel Week IX was back in April when we were doing out Blogging From A to Z Challenge, so we, um, missed it.)

Pollinator Partnership sponsors this activity to coordinate events and raise awareness about the need for pollinator health.

We’ve tried to do that here, without any coordination, and we trust that our human readers are interested in keeping our natural world healthy, not just squirrels activities. We put out a bee and wasp quiz after featuring bees in 2016. This is a fun look at our most common bees and was a lot of work for Hickory to collect for a Mystery post, so we will just post that here for you to return to: One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve — Bee Quiz.

Pollinators aren’t just bees…so maybe we will get together another post–quiz?– by the end of pollinator week. But for today, we have some bee identification resources for you.

In that bee quiz, we suggested using the Native Bees of North America on Bug Guide to identify your bees. We’ve found another site specific to Bumble Bees that is more detailed in breaking down each part of the bee that you need to look at to make an accurate identification: Bumble Bee Watch. You can even submit your bumblebee photos and go through the guided key to identify your local species.

We gave it a go, because Hickory and I have pretty good photos, right? Hmm. Take this group of the same bee foraging on a Purple Turtlehead.

We know the location, the date, the plant the bee is on. We have a great view of his side and tip of his abdomen. But the bee face is missing! And so is the very top of the bee’s thorax. And we can’t see how the yellow bands merge with the black ones, which can take many, many shapes. You need to have these bee parts to identify the bee!

Bumble Bee Watch has a very clear tips on how to photograph bees for identification. We get close enough–bumble bees are focused on getting their nectar and pollen supplies when they visit a flower, so don’t worry about being stung. But in the future, we will take more photos from different angles–especially if the bee is on the flower for as long as this one was!

Bumble Bee Watch has a nice gallery of dozens of bumblebees showing their identification features, flowers, and range. So even if you don’t submit a photo, you can learn a lot!

Have you tried to identify a bee? What resources did you use? We’re sure we haven’t found them all yet!

Bluebirds Return

We squirrels may forget where we buried our acorns, but it seems like our local bluebirds haven’t forgotten where the good eats are!

The Eastern Bluebirds were chased out of nesting in the backyard nest box they used last year by a pesky House Sparrow–here’s the guilty party.

The humans decided not to let the sparrows–or the catbird!–get a foot in the door and blocked the box.

Wherever the bluebirds reared their young must be close by. The parents have brought the young by to find food!

Maybe a pair will get a chance next year!

Are you still feeding the birds?

Many humans feed birds throughout the year. Some only feed in the winter, when food is scarcer for the birds–and us squirrels, mind you! We have seen some humans stop feeding when grackle or starling flocks invade their feeding stations. Believe us, we don’t like the noise and the mess of those big, pushy flocks either.

One of our human neighbors is feeding the birds and has quite a variety of birds coming to visit.

Ms. Flora commented on the pleasant coo of the Mourning Dove, which I’ve noticed, but it’s so common it’s like a background music when we leap around the neighborhood. Mourning Doves are practically everywhere except deep woods, and we don’t have too much of that in suburbia.  Hickory and I thought we would look up a little bit about it. We didn’t realize that these birds are hunted! They are no bigger than a robin, so why would people want to eat them?

But they do, and apparently that led to uninteresting discovery: A dove shot in 1998 in Florida had been banded–in 1968 in Georgia. That made the bird at least 30 years and 4 months old! We had no idea these small birds lived that long–to us squirrels, that’s like forever, and something we would only have thought would be the lifespan of something as large as a hawk.

Mourning doves are kind of like chickens, in that they prefer to scratch and pick their food off the ground. We have sort of battle going with them under the feeders. They are round enough that they don’t seem to like perching feeders, but will eat off those tray feeders.

They’re mighty quick to land and take offer and do startle easily. If you haven’t heard their coo, here’s a link to a nice recording of it on All About Birds.