Signs of [Wild]Life

A blue jay feather, proof that, yes, your wild neighbors are about even if you humans haven’t crossed paths with us.


One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey There!

Stormy skies, leaves falling because of heat, and a flash of something in a tree…

Nope, it’s not a squirrel, but what is it?

Give me your guesses in the comments and I’ll check back later with the answer!


Aren’t brownish-grayish birds some of the hardest to figure out? But if you look carefully, that’s only his back…

Ok, we admit you needed a longer look. Flashes of birds in the bush rarely lead to identification. It’s the white belly that gives this bird away as an Eastern Kingbird–and a white edge across the tip of the tail, but that isn’t visible here. These fellows love catching insects on the wing, so you’ll often see them flip out of a bush, and then right back in again.

That’s during the summer. Come fall, kingbirds will start to gather into flocks for the winter, and switch over their diets to eating fruits.

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!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this LBJ? That’s shorthand for Little Brown Job, a term we squirrels finally figured out that you humans use to call birds you cannot recognize.

Give your guesses in the comments and I’ll check back later!


No guesses, but this is a tough little nut to crack!  Several woodland birds in our area have this brown back and speckled breast, so here’s another image of its back.

It has a uniform brown on the back and wings as well as the tail, which is a good identifier  along with the bit of white at the eye that this is a Swainson’s thrush. A similar thrush in size and coloring is the Hermit thrush, but he has a reddish tail, as seen here:

With this coloring, these thrushes hide very well, despite mainly feeding on the ground where they eat earthworms, snails and insects. We know that many humans find and identify them by song–and we squirrels have to agree that the Hermit thrush wins the singing contest!

Eleven different types of thrushes are found in Virginia, including two you probably know mush better: the American Robin and bluebirds! Want to see more thrushes in your yard? Here’s a great article by The Spruce on How to Attract Thrushes to Your Yard.

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.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

If you’re new to following us, I’m Hickory squirrel, and I host a fairly regular Sunday column in which I post a photo of something from nature in our suburban area around Washington, D. C., and you, our human readers, post a guess of what it is. Simple, right?

Here we go!

I’ll be back this evening to check your guesses!


This fancy-looking fellow is a Hooded Merganser, and yes, he is native to North America. This male’s ‘hood,’ or crest, with its white patch can be raised to show off during mating.

The females are less showy, and you might think it’s so they camouflage on the nest to protect themselves and their young, but these ducks next in tree cavities. Try putting up nest boxes if you live near a pond or stream, just like for a wood duck. They dive to catch fish, crayfish and aquatic insects and may be overlooked because they are a small duck, about the size of crow.

P is for Pileated Woodpecker

He’s the largest woodpecker in North America, and the loudest. Trust us squirrels, we know!

The holes one of these guys can make can turn a decent hollow tree into something even a squirrel feels exposed in.

And they are huge competition at the bird feeders. You humans are always thrilled to see one, but us…not so much.