Surprise snacks

We’ve had a lot of rain recently–and are swishing our tails in happiness that this hasn’t been a terribly dry summer. And the bonus is surprise snacks:

Yep, Hickory and I are coming across mushrooms everywhere. And some we are eating.

Can you eat them?

No. A squirrel’s digestive system is far different than our human readers’, so we caution against eating what we do. And we aren’t even going to attempt to identify mushrooms…because we aren’t good at it.

And P.S.: Hickory says to tell our regular readers he can’t do the mystery again this Sunday. Sorry!

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Hello ‘real’ winter!

We’re still on our winter break, especially with the dump of snow hitting our little corner of the world. But a reader sent a great photo to us and we had to share.

Squirrel feeding in snowstorm

Our normal ways of collecting food–sniffing out the acorns and hickory nuts we buried last fall–isn’t working too well with several feet of snow on the ground here in Northern Virginia. Our reader put seed in cleared area to help us out–and perhaps the birds, too. We thought we’d share her idea in case a few of you might also be able to help your neighborhood critters. Thanks, Mary Ellen!

If you aren’t a regular reader, please see our prior post explaining The Squirrel Nutwork‘s winter blogging break.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

We squirrels watch in amusement as the humans in our neighborhood deck out their homes with bright colors this time of year. If you look around, we’ve got some bright colors in nature, too!

Mystery #145

Any guess what they are? I’ll be back later to check your guesses!

~~~

We had a correct guess on today’s mystery! Kalamain guessed Beautyberry, a Callicarpa genus, and it is. Purple Beautyberry, in this case Ms. Flora thinks, but there are many species. For all that it looks exotic, it is a native of North America with many medicinal uses and one we find most interesting: In the early 1800s the farmers would crush the leaves and p the mash under horse harnesses to repel mosquitos!

We squirrels like to eat these berries, but have some competition from raccoons, deer and opossums as well as birds like the American Robin, finches and Brown Thrasher. They do make a pretty planting if you’re looking to spruce up your wildlife habitat!

Purple Beautyberry

It’s a pretty little shrub, loose and open.

Thirsty Thursday

It rained! For more than one day, too!

Raindrops in spider web

Spiderwebs cauth with raindrops

We at The Squirrel Nutwork are excited, but not nearly as excited as this chipmunk in our neighborhood.

Eastern Chipmunk

The rain knocked leaves and ripe acorns from this Pin Oak, making them easy gathering for a fellow mammal who isn’t as keen on climbing as we are.

Pin Oak after rain

But when it’s easy pickings, we’ll grab some of those acorns, too!

Eastern Gray Squirrel gathering acorns

And happy first of October! (Where has the year gone?)

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey,

These long, long leaves may not be too familiar to many of you…but we squirrels love them. What tree is it?

Mystery # 133

Check back with you later!

~~~

Difficult one today, huh?

These very chewed up leaves of the Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra, are compound leaves and look pretty much like Ash, Tree of Heaven and Sumac tree leaves, so we squirrels don’t blame you for your confusion. Also like the last two of these, the walnut likes sun and will grow along the edges of woods. But the thing that makes walnut trees oh so much better than those other species, is hitting the ground right now.

Eastern Black Walnut

You guessed it, walnuts!

Now the Black Walnut’s nut arrives in a pretty nasty hull. It falls, green and hard, and starts to rot on the ground, turning into a sticky black mush that will leave your paws black, too. In fact, we squirrels have heard tell that these hulls were used by humans as a dye. It doesn’t come out.

The smart thing to do is leave those walnuts on the ground–wherever they fall–until the fall rains wash off the hull.

Eastern Black walnuts collecting on ground

I did spy a clever chipmunk raiding the nut meats from the crushed walnuts that fell in the street in our neighborhood and were run over.

DSC08270

We collect them, chew through the very hard shell and devour the nut meat. It has a strong taste which isn’t for everyone.

Happily, that just means more for us squirrels!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey,

It’s been a long week, looking at…this!

Mystery # 132

Give me your guesses!

~~~

We had a great guess, a walnut with the meat missing. Close, but this is my namesake tree, the Mockernut Hickory, Carya tomentosa. You humans may not see it quite this way–this nut has been chewed open by me, Hickory Squirrel. (see my mighty tooth marks?) When they fall from the tree, the nut is covered in a thick covering that splits four ways, releasing the hard nut inside.

Mockernut Hickory

Which they are doing right now! Look for a tree with 5 to 9 leaflets arranged like in the photo below, and you will find hickory nuts.

Hickory Tree leaves

Happy foraging!