O is for Owl

The Barred Owl, who keeps watch in our neighborhood!

And maybe O is for Oops! Sorry we’re so late this morning, but now I bet you see why we weren’t too enthused about today’s Blogging From A to Z Challenge letter. We could only thing of something dangerous!

Yet as dangerous as owls are, they are endangered themselves. You humans don’t seem too keen on keeping dead trees around, and dead trees are where many owls nest. Have you considered putting up an owl box on your property? They can be purchased or made from plans…and it seems like most of the plans we are seeing in a online search are for barn owns, which need lots of open land.

In spite of our squirrel instincts to avoid owls, we’re going to hunt down some plan sources for your humans. In the meantime, here’s a good overview of why you should want owls in your life from Rodales Organic Life.

H is for Hawk

Traditionally, Monday on The Squirrel Nutwork is reserved for a column called Motionless Monday featuring wildlife statues. Hickory Squirrel hosts it. So normally, we would show a hawk like this:

Fun, huh?

That’s how we squirrels would rather see a hawk–motionless! But instead…

It’s no fun for us squirrels when the Cooper’s Hawks come visiting!

And lately…

A pair of Red-shouldered hawks are courting in our neighborhood, so we have to watch our over our shoulders all the time.

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!

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: Guess the Gray Bird #7

Hey there!

I’ve saved one of the hardest for today. Do you know what this gray bird is?

Mystery #161

As usual for a Sunday mystery, I’ll let you guess and check back in later with the answer!

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Well folks, I must apologize. Squirrel life in the woodlands was a bit disrupted this week and I forgot to post the answer to the mystery. I think I just assumed I gave the answer like I’d been doing all week with the other gray birds. *paws over eyes*

Eastern Phoebe

This is the Eastern Phoebe, a bird you humans may hear before you see. The call is it’s name– a raspy phoebe–usually made with a wag of the tail. Phoebes are a type of flycatcher, and just as the name describes, they feed on insects while flying.