Thirsty Thursday

Folks,

I headed over to the big pond today, accompanied by Miz Flora. Because of that dear, plant-loving squirrel’s presence, her–I mean, our–attention was drawn to the purple flowers of the Pickerel Weed, Pontederia cordata. Now this common pond plant has been blooming all summer, with its stalks of tiny purple flowers, and I…*ahem*…must admit, Ol’ Wally here was not inclined to include it in our weekly posts about water in nature.

Miz Flora had other ideas.

And so we leaped over to see the pickerel weed up close.

Several little skippers were fluttering over the flowers, dipping in to gather the nectar of the many flowers. Well, that is nice, I thought, something Nutmeg would certainly like for the blog. I followed along behind Miz Flora, admiring the flowers as she chattered. Then, before our eyes–WHAM!

A praying mantis darted from the stalk and grabbed a skipper. The poor thing had no chance to escape the wicked barbs of its front feet and was devoured within a minute. The body, at least, not the wings, which the mantis let flutter into the water…

I had no idea viewing flowers could be so dramatic, and said so.

“That’s nothing,” Mis Flora said with a dismissive flick of her tail. “Not for nature.”

This old squirrel will be retiring to his drey for a rest and reflection on how lucky he has been to survive all these years.

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Thirsty Thursday

Folks, It’s late summer and the rains have been good to us lately. Lots of thick vegetation around the pods in our area. Perhaps you recognize some of these water-loving plants?

Yes, you might say I’m horning in a bit on Hickory’s mystery column…but that’s okay because he won’t be posting this Sunday.

The tall pink plant is Joe Pye Weed.

The shorter but brilliant red one is Cardinal Flower.

Both are good choices if you have a bit of a wet area. Water-loving plants can pull up the extra water in a spot like that and prevent mosquitos from laying their eggs.

 

Thirsty Thursday

Folks,

You humans may not have recognized Hickory’s mystery plant on Sunday, but surely this wetland plant is familiar?

Cattails commonly grow in wet areas and that brown fuzzy thing on their stalks is their idea of a flower–which butterflies ignore. Its seeds are spread by wind like a dandelion’s and can take over with strong rhizome roots if the moisture conditions are right.

Thirsty Thursday

Folks,

This week’s water column isn’t about water per se, but about what water does.

We’ve had a lot of rain in northern Virginia the last few days. A LOT, what Miz Flora calls ‘That blasted weather’. She’s particularly miffed because the rain has brought down flowers–from trees. Notice those white patches along the roadsides?

If your nose hasn’t been tuned upward, there’s been a fragrance in the air–the sweet Black Locust blossoms.

Yes, we know that phrase is usually refers to magnolias, but trust me, black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, is sweet, or so we consider it, and it’s a favorite of the honeybees.

That’s what makes us squirrels particularly sad–huge numbers of bees collect from black locust during the week they’re blooming. These pea-shaped flowers hang in bunches, called racemes Miz Flora says, and they make for easy nectar-gathering.

Unfortunately, they’re also heavy, so after Monday’s storm, most of the flowers and many branches ended up on the ground, even though this strong wood has traditionally been used for fence posts.

Sigh. If you’re a friend of bees, you might want to slip them some extra food during our predicted week of rain. Good timing if you managed to get your planting done last week though! I see plenty of oaks sprouting from acorns we buried last fall.

Thirsty Thursday

Well folks, we’ve had some excellent weather this last week. Cool enough we squirrels leaped over to the big pond to have a poke around. Spotted a few birds relaxing, and Hickory wanted to steal this one for a Sunday mystery, but my water column fell first. Still, I’ll ask, do you recognize him?

It’s a black-crowned night heron, which as their name implies, are mainly active at night or early mornings. By the time we arrived, he was done with catching fish and crayfish and moving on to rest and preening.

There’s a look at some mighty fine feathers! Enough to make even a squirrel proud.