Just a quick bite!

This rose-breasted grosbeak flew in and out again, because these days no one wants to be out in the sun long. We squirrels are avoiding the streets–it’s hot on our paws, and we move fast! We’re feeling sorry for those animals who can’t and hope you humans are remembering their paws can’t take the heat. Wildlife will really appreciate it if you can put out an extra dish of water!

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And in local flower-bird relationships…

We have long admired the flowers our neighborhood humans have chosen to plant–with decided favoritism to native wildflowers!

Today, Hickory, Miz Flora and I leaped over to a new garden bed they put in this spring. Miz Flora though it was quite resourceful–though long-overdue–that they split their coneflowers and planted the splits in a new location, adding to the beds.

The plants don’t have the fullness of the original bed, but for only being in six weeks or so, they are doing well. Except…why are some of the flowers missing petals?

“Wait!” Hickory chitters. “I want to save that for mystery day.”

We squirrel-grappled with this–which meant lots of running around tree trunks–but finally I won out…mainly because Miz Flora spoke up!

The petals are being plucked off by finches as they eat the seeds on that side of the flower.

Miz Flora asked: “I want you to pose this question to our regular readers: Have you ever observed finches eat flower seeds while they are most definitely still green?”

We are confused, maybe because squirrels don’t eat green acorns.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

This plant has a symmetry thing going on. (The closer one, not the one in the background–the mystery from a week ago!) Any idea what it is?

I’ll check back for your answers later.

~~~

This five-leaved plant is a new tree–a Willow Oak. This one has just sprouted after we squirrels planted one of a neighboring tree’s acorns. Later, the leaves won’t be radiation out from one point, but will look like this.

Here’s a new Willow oak…

and here’s a mature one in our neighborhood.

We’re happy to see you humans planting them.

S is for Squirrels!

Yes, folks, squirrels.

And everything we love–

Big oak trees,

Acorns,

Leaf nests,

Birdfeeders,

Sunning on your decks

Running on the golf course.

This is our squirrel world and we love it.

 You see, today is Earth Day.

We hope you love your world, too. Maybe you’ll take care of it for all of us?

Happy Earth Day!

 

D is for Deadwood

(Sorry to be late this morning! Can you tell we’re not back into the swing of blogging yet? 😉 )

Yes, Deadwood, and not the show or the town. To us squirrels, deadwood means, dead wood, what human arborists call a ‘snag.’

Snags are many things to wildlife. Maybe a place to live!

 

Or a place to find food, because as everyone knows, bugs love to burrow!

It’s also a place for new life to begin, because that decomposing wood is really rich minerals.

In other words, what might be trash to be taken out to some humans…

is really a valuable resource in our habitat.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Ever seen one of these?

mystery #166

 

I’ll check back later for your guesses!

~~~

It is a Chestnut bur–the name for the seed covering–as one of our readers guessed, but not a Horse Chestnut. Those are only a little prickly, not covered with spines like these chestnut burs. The chestnuts themselves are protected inside the burs.

Chestnut burs with chestnuts inside

These nuts don’t look like they fully ripened, but they were all that were left when we ran across them. Probably the local squirrels found and ate the best ones, because we squirrels will eat tree nuts of any kind–that is, once they are free from spines!

Chestnut leaves and bur

The nuts had also fallen from the burs still on the tree. We admit we aren’t quite sure which kind of chestnut tree this is. Nutmeg and I looked it up on The American Chestnut Foundation website and believe the leaves are wide enough the tree was probably an American Chestnut. But we also realize that is unusual. This tree was a good 30 feet high, but it was in a human’s yard, not the forest, so it was planted. Let’s hope whatever clever mix the human scientists used to keep this Chestnut from getting the Chestnut blight keeps working!

You can read more about work to restore the American Chestnut on The American Chestnut Foundation website. It’s so nice you humans are working to bring them back!

 

Bees like composite flowers!

What are we talking about, you may ask? This!

Yellow Bumble Bee on Mexican Sunflower

Composite flowers look like one flower, but are actually many small flowers grouped as one. See the teeny little petals sticking up in the middle? Each is a flower! And if you know sunflowers, each flower makes a seed. Composite flowers actually evolved to be like this as a strategy to attract bees.

“What?” Hickory popped his head up from digging a hole. “Flowers think?”

Not really, but Mix Flora says they tend to change according to what works. Like some flowers smell a particular way–sweet, or like rotten meat–to attract insects to pollinate them, others like Lady’s Slipper make a very small passage to push pollen on the bees.

But back to composites! A flower that is really many flowers is very efficient if you’re a bee. I’m sure all you humans have heard the phrase “busy as a bee”, and it’s true. They work hard, but they also like shortcuts.

You can give bees two shortcuts in your garden:

Plant composites, like zinnias, which are easy to grow.
bee-on-a-zinnia

Group your flowers in masses of color.

agapostemon-sp-sweat-bee

This sweat bee will go from this yellow flower to the next and the next and the next. It’s like going to the biggest oak to gather acorns, instead of running around to a bunch of small ones. They see that huge patch of color and know they can collect what they need in one visit. We think you humans do this, too, when you go to stores.

Planting flowers to bloom throughout the entire growing season will help bees find nectar and pollen for the longest possible times they are active.

One of the earliest composites to bloom in the spring is–wanna make a guess?

dandelion seedhead

Dandelions! Yes, each of those seeds was a flower on a dandelion, so don’t pull them if you want to help bees! The latest composites to bloom are likely asters or goldenrod.

Goldenrod

We could give you a flower list, but other blogs have done it for us: Please visit The Peace Bee Farmer’s post on The Composite Family.

The University of Sussex’s Goulson Lab has a picture directory of The best garden flowers for bees.

Or go back to @helpthebees to see this great list they have pinned on their twitter feed.

flower list from @helpthebees