Folks, our natural world is a great place! We hope you can get outside to enjoy it today.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at The Squirrel Nutwork!
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.
I’m sure you’ll be watching over your shoulder on your next pond stroll!
Nutmeg and Hickory have both shown you humans the Common Milkweed plant. Well, Ol’ Wally here has a milkweed a mite better.
How do you like them blossoms?? ‘Pretty in pink’ as I’ve heard humans say. This is Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, which is sometimes known as Pink Milkweed–but you know how Miz Flora hates common names, so we’ll stick to the proper one.
Aside from the brighter color, this milkweed flower doesn’t form a ball like Common Milkweed, but is more like the orange Butterflyweed in shape. And I bet you readers have already guessed–since this old squirrel is featuring this plant on the water column–that Swamp Milkweed likes a wet soil. Only wet, though, it won’t grow in standing water. Like the other milkweeds, it is highly attractive to nectar feeders, and the sap in the leaves (that the caterpillars eat) even contains the same toxins as Common Milkweed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ol’ Wally here will be the first to admit storm drains aren’t the most glamorous part of a suburban neighborhood, but here’s one that is dressed up mighty fine:
Nautilus shells! What a great reminder of humans’ connection to water wildlife.
Thanks to our reader Emmett who sent this from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.
Well folks, this old squirrel thinks it’s hot… and look who else agrees with Ol’ Wally!
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.
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.
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?
Ol’ Wally here knows you humans will be thrilled to hear that we squirrels periodically see this frightening bird. Right here in Reston.
Bald Eagles hold some sort of celebrity status with you humans, and though we know they are probably hunting fish in the golf course ponds–not squirrels in the woodlands–seeing the shadow of this big bird of prey is downright unnerving. Lucky for us, they like bigger streams and lakes, ones farther from us. The older birds, the ones who appear to be bald because their head feathers are white, have laid claim to territory along our area’s best waterways, like the Potomac River.
Still, for our readers, we will feature them. After all, X is a mighty hard letter to come up with something for in nature…especially related to water…unless you consider xylem, the passages in trees that transport water from the roots to the leaves…but Nutmeg hasn’t figured out how to photograph that.