Red-Backed Salamander

This little salamander matches the Motionless Monday wildlife statue that Hickory posted this week. The little amphibians curl up under rocks and logs, or maybe old boards and stepping stones in your yard. Give them those spaces to live, and you won’t see many slugs around!


One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this?

No hints this week, other than it is seasonal.

I’ll check your guesses the comments!


A wider shot…

It’s a woolly bear caterpillar! Of course, they are around all summer, growing to their full size, but you humans seem to notice them the most in the fall. Is it because they are rumored to be weather predictors?

Caterpillar bodies are formed in segments–a little hard to tell with the woolly bear’s bristles– and the number of rusty ones in the center supposedly determine how long winter will last. The more rusty ones the milder winter will be, the fewer (more black) means winter will last longer. It’s hard to tell, but there are 13 segments. According to this caterpillar, 6 rust segments( or 5.5 if you look at his back, because one segment is half rust, half black), as opposed to…black ones that are harder to count, but we guess those fuzzy head and tail ends add up to 7.5 segments. So, a middling to bad winter?

For more information the scientist who studied wooly bears in the 1940s, visit the woolly bear article in The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a classic for weather prediction!

When they grow up, woolly bears become Isabella tiger moths, Pyrrharctia isabella.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this butterfly? Top side…

Bottom side…

Give us a guess in the comments–I’ll be checking back later for your answers!


See the little white mark on the underside of the wing? The ‘comma’? This is a comma butterfly, which should certainly not be confused with this butterfly:

The question mark butterfly! Okay, honestly they look very similar, from the bottom and the top…

The undersides of both are described as being brown mottled, but the question mark we saw seems to be unusually orange. The photos we saw on Butterflies and Moths of North America vary, too, and the mottling is there.

Hope you enjoyed your nature punctuation lesson for today!

Ah, the perils of fall

See a pretty leaf, pick a pretty leaf…

Maybe not if it’s poison ivy! Its color varies from this beautiful orange-red to a duller yellow, depending on how much sun the plants got and how much sugar is left in the leaves.

And of course, these native vines may be hidden among some more appealing plants, like this berry or the late-blooming smartweed we featured as our mystery plant a few Sundays ago. Look before you touch!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Have you ever seen leaves this pretty?

Know what it is?

I’ll check in with your comments later for guesses but below is a tiny hint if you like…

Most plants we squirrels feature on The Squirrel Nutwork are native. This one is not.


Need another hint? The bark peels into speckles…

This patchy bark belongs to the kousa dogwood, Cornus kousa, a native of East Asia.

Its leaves are very similar in shape to our native flowering dogwood, but the colors tend more to red and yellow than the natives purple tones, as seen below:

The amount of yellow and red varies intriguingly vary from tree to tree. Nutmeg and I will have to make a run-around to see if this is due to the amount of shading, or if the red advances as the season progresses.

Enjoy the show of these small trees!