E is for Eastern Painted Turtle

The warm, sunny days of spring have brought up the Eastern Painted Turtles from their hibernation in the pond mud. Even if it cools down again–like it has here in Virginia–the turtles will be okay. They have a anti-freeze-like blood that sees them through these temperature changes.

What better ‘E’ wildlife to feature on our normal ‘water’ day, Thirsty Thursday!

 

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.

Thirsty Thursday

Walk around a pond and you’re sure to see dragonflies. Have you folks ever noticed some of them eat the smaller damselflies? Dragonflies are predators! Reminds this old squirrel of a miniature hawk.

DSCN2441This here is a favorite of mine, the Eastern Pondhawk–see, Ol’ Wally isn’t the only one thinking hawk! The male is easy to identify if you look for the blue abdomen and green face.

Eastern Pondhawk male

 

Eastern Pondhawk male

I’m sure you’ll be watching over your shoulder on your next pond stroll!

Thirsty Thursday

Down at the pond, there are a lot of insects flying on these long summer days. When its hot, this old squirrel likes to take a slow meander down to the edge and stretch out in the shade of a big tree.

Well, today, from my sycamore branch, my whiskers were buzzed by a damselfly. Don’t know if you good human readers have ever had that happen, but it’s annoying. The darned thing forced Ol’ Wally here to open his eyes.

Ebony Jewelwing female

Before me was the prettiest little blue damselfly–an Ebony Jeweling. This one was a female.

I watched. Sure enough, in a few minutes along came a male.

They’re easy to tell apart–he has white patches at the tips of his wings.

Ebony Jewelwing male

These aquatic insects are sometime called black-winged damselfly. Easy to tell why.

Well, it wasn’t long before they found each other, and started doing what bugs do.

Ebony Jewelwing damselflies mating

That’s why there are so many of them around in nature. I closed my eyes–not out of modesty, but to go back to sleep. They’d forgotten about my whiskers.

Thirsty Thursday

Ol’ Wally here was headed down to the local pond to cool off when I saw a gathering under a tree.

Canada Geese

I bounded a bit closer…then decided I best not.

Canada Geese

Geese. Canada Geese. Normally not an issue, but these adults were protecting little ones.

Canada Geese

And a goose with goslings–watch out, humans and beasts! However…these geese weren’t doing more than looking my direction…

Canada Geese

could it be they were just as hot as I was?

Canada Goose gosling

Thirsty Thursday

Well folks, this old squirrel thinks it’s hot… and look who else agrees with Ol’ Wally!

Fish in the shade

The fish are even seeking out the shade.

Had a nice visit to a local pond this week. I know you humans are seeing a lot of birds here on The Squirrel Nutwork, but they are a bit busy this time of year, and it’s not different down at the ponds.

Spotted Sandpiper

Thought you might like this Spotted Sandpiper–I suppose a muddy shoreline inland holds just as many bugs as a muddy marsh edge.

But I daresay we have prettier flowers around here.

Wild Lupine

The Wild Lupines, Lupinus perennis, grow big and lush with their roots getting proper water. While looking this one up for me, Miz Flora discovered my comment on that was rather ironic–lupines like poor sandy soil, in either part shade or sun. Doesn’t sound like our Virginia clays would be much good, but next time I’m over that way I’ll dig around a bit and see if this was a gravelly patch.

Ol’ Wally was surprised to learn the Wild Lupine is the ONLY food eaten by the Karner Blue butterfly caterpillar. (As you might guess, this is a small blue butterfly–here’s the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fact Sheet on the Karner Blue butterfly.) Huh, poor little guy. He’s on the endangered species list. We don’t see too many lupines around. Perhaps you humans would like to give a few a home in your garden?