One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Have you seen this growing about?

Let us know in the comments, and I’ll return later with your answer!

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As one of our regular readers said, the important thing to know about this plant is you can never get rid of it! So true.

Creeping Charlie, or what Miz Flora’s wildflower guide calls Gill-Over-The Ground, Glechoma hederacea, is a member of the Mint Family. (Bet you can see the square stem!) Rather than standing upright, it creeps, putting down new roots where the nodes touch moist ground.

The blue or violet flowers bloom in spring and early summer, and because it’s a common plant, they feed bees while the other plants are getting going. The blossoms are quite small–meaning we had a really touch time getting a close photo.

But we are sure you can find one in your lawn to check them out!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Here’s a good one for you–

What’s this mulch doing at the bottom of a tree in the woods?

I’ll check back in later!

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Several of our readers guess correctly:

These chips fell from the tree as a Pileated Woodpecker chipped away at the tree. And how do we know it was a Pileated? Well, we saw him, but also the holes are squares, which is how a Pileated makes them.

This tree is skinny, so the woodpecker was after the wood-boring grubs in the tree, not trying to make a nesting cavity.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey There,

The Blogging A to Z Challenge doesn’t run on Sundays. Traditionally, we squirrels offer a nature mystery hosted by yours truly, Hickory Squirrel. I post a mystery photo in the morning, you readers make guesses and then I return in the evening with the correct answer.

Here we go…

What is this bird and why does he look so funny?

I’ll check back later!

~~~

One of our readers got it exactly right: this is an American Goldfinch, but he’s not ‘gold’ right now because he’s molting. Both the male and female goldfinches have a dull coat in the winter, and right now are molting feathers. The female won’t look too much different, but the male of course will be a bright yellow.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Nutmeg and I are signing off this coming week for our winter hiatus, so here is a last mystery for a bit.

Mystery #174

This plant has held its leaves late in the season.

If you know what it is, give us a guess in the comments.

I’ll check back later!

~~~

Arrowwood Viburnum

Spectacular leaves, aren’t they?

Arrowwood Viburnum native shrub

Arrowwood Viburnum, Viburnum dentatum, is a native shrub that produces food for wildlife, too. The drupes grow from clusters of white flowers that bloom in the spring and look like look like dark blue berries when they ripen. A variety of viburnums live from Maine down to Florida and east to Texas, and feed many types of birds, including thrushes, bluebirds, robins, catbirds, cardinals, finches and waxwings.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

As you can tell by the few posts we squirrels are managing to get out in a week, we are starting our winder slowdown. Nutmeg and I are thinking we will go on hiatus this week. We’ve done this the last few winters, if you are new to The Squirrel Nutwork.

So here’s a mystery for today, a little something we ran across on the side of a wagon:

Mystery #173

And another view:

Mystery #173

 

Who do you gathered these materials? And why?

Leave me your guesses in the comments. I’ll check back later!

~~~

We had a guess that it might be a field mouse nest. In fact, that’s what we squirrels originally thought. But then Nutmeg and I reviewed the mouse nests we’ve seen compared to bird nests. Mouse nests are almost always grass, or grass and one other material, like moss or sometimes a bit of discarded human material.

Take a look at this nest again.

Wren nest

Grass, pine needles, moss, bits of leaf, the veins of leaves, plastic, the lacy roots on top. This is quite a collection! One bird who collects many materials and really builds more of a nest than it needs, is the wren.

Carolina Wren

We aren’t sure if this was built by a Carolina Wren or a House Wren, so if any of you human readers have a firmer idea than we do, please write to us!

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.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Another shot of our changing leaves.

Mystery #171

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Any guesses for what they are?

I’ll be back later to check your answers!

~~~

Isn’t that a gorgeous tree! It’s an oak, and common, maybe more so than you humans realize.

Acorn of the Chestnut Oak

Chestnut Oak, Quercus prinus, is easily identified by its large rounded teeth along the margins of the leaves and growing in the higher, drier soils. The acorns are bigger than most oaks, and oval in shape.

And speaking of acorns… We squirrels are having a plentiful year, but as always, it’s a tiring chore preparing for winter. A regular reader asked if we’d be taking our winter hiatus again, and the answer is yes. We have some catching up to do. Nutmeg and I need to pick when, but it’ll be soon.

Get outside while the weather is good, folks!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

Staying seasonal with our mystery, what are these red leaves?

Mystery # 170

Or if you want a challenge, what are the green ones?

I’ll check back later for your guesses!

~~~

This beautiful fall color brought to you by Red Maple, Acer rubric, and Metasequoia, Metasequoia glyptostroboides. Enjoy!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

It’s fall, how about a leaf mystery?

Mystery #169

We’ll check in later!

~~~

The Black Tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica, always turns a beautiful color in our woods–though it might be reds to purples as you see here, or yellows and oranges.

Black Tupelo Blackgum tree leaves

Sometimes known as Black Gum or Blackgum, this native tree blooms in late spring and produces a berry that is high in energy for birds. You humans hardly ever see them because they are so small and get eaten very quickly.

The name ‘tupelo’ comes from the Native American Creek words “ito” for tree and “opilwa” for swamp. We don’t have many swampy areas where we live, so haven’t taken note of that. Maybe if they do live in wetter areas, the tree grows larger. Here in Northern Virginia, the Black Tupelo is a smaller, slow growing tree.

Black Tupelo tree

That’s one, in the center foreground, with the yellowish leaves, right beside the trunk of a mature Black Tupelo tree. Very pretty, and one we’d sure recommend you humans look at if you are picking out something native and helpful for wildlife!

Black Tupelo Black Gum tree leaves