Thirsty Thursday

Well, folks, it’s been a few years since this old squirrel has seen a good stand of Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinals. But I did this week.

Is that a pretty sight, or what? This of course, was down by the pond. Cardinal Flower is one of those plants that likes its feet–well, its roots–wet.

You humans like it for the red flowers, and so do the insects and  hummingbirds. Makes it easy to spot. However, pretty much only the hummingbirds are successful at getting the nectar from a Cardinal flower–or any of the Lobelia family for that matter.

Might be hard for you to tell, but this type of flower is one Miz Flora calls ‘tubular.’ Among all those fancy bits of petal, is a backend that is so long that it takes a hummingbird tongue to reach the nectar. Some of the buds there at the top are a sample of that distance.

This is a mighty beautiful plant, so much so that it has been picked to the point of disappearing. Please, if not for your friend Ol’ Wally here but also for the  hummingbirds, admire it with photos.

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W is for Water

 

Hello, folks! Ol’ Wally stepping in here for Nutmeg. I couldn’t let her use anything but water for today’s Blogging From A to Z Challenge. First, because it’s Thursday, and our regular readers know this is the day this old squirrel runs the Thirsty Thursday column featuring water. And second, we’ve had so much rain in these parts that it’s getting a bit hard to ignore.

‘Suppose you humans know how important water is. I mean, your lives depend on it. So do ours, but we wildlife aren’t in as good a position to keep that water source clean, or even there. We are relying on you all.

That means good planning when you put in your buildings…

to where that water goes from your parking lots…

to putting in places where the smaller critters might have a damp home…

to bigger solutions for water cleaning and recycling for entire buildings…

to simply putting out water when it isn’t raining, like in the heat of summer…

or the frozen winter.

It’s not from a squirrel, but let me leave you with this wise Native American proverb:

The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Our mystery today comes to us from regular reader, Connie. Thanks, Connie!

Mystery #179

Yes, it’s those little blobs, about the size of a small acorn.

I’ll check back later for your guesses, but if you’d like a hint, scroll down:

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Hint: Connie found these on her pontoon boat.

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One brave reader guessed that these particles were the stuffing from the boat. No, but that was our first guess, too! No mice or insects were burrowing inside. This was deposited on the boat and appears nearly every morning, Connie tells us.

And every morning someone visits the boat.

Great Blue Heron on Lake Audubon Paul Hartke 2016

If the light is a bit too dim for you, here’s another photo.

Great Blue Heron on Lake Audubon

That’s a Great Blue Heron. A very old one, we believe, because his beard–the feathers trailing from his neck–is full. Now we squirrels had heard of owls regurgitating pellets of fur and bones after they eat, but not herons, so we did a bit of research. Turns out herons do as well, and it’s called “casting.”

fish bones in a Great Blue Heron casting

fish bones in a Great Blue Heron casting

If you look closely, this deposit, or regurgitation, contains small fish bones and scales!

Herons also have a throat pouch. When they have young in the nest, they swallow a fish or two and carry them back to the nest and regurgitate them for the young birds. Young birds might do the same if a predator attacks their nest to frighten it away.

Want to learn more about Great Blue Herons? The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a camera on a heron nest and answers many questions about these birds on their Bird Cam FAQ website.