Sunday, November 29, 2009

A mama squirrel relocating her offspring?

We saw something we'd never seen before this morning - a squirrel with a largish youngster held on the scruff of its neck scampering through the foliage above us. We were on the back road in the Garden, near the nature trail through the oak-hickory forest (the Heusel Nature Trail) when we spotted her.

We had our binoculars, so had a good look as she leaped from tree to tree carrying her 'cargo.' There was lots of chattering going on nearby, perhaps fussing at the disturbance.

A web search found (LOTS of) interesting information about Eastern Gray Squirrels: mama squirrels are VERY protective of their offspring and, if feeling threatened, will move their babies to another drey. Apparently, gray squirrels have (usually) at least three dreys, and maybe a cavity or bird box, in addition.

Eastern Gray Squirrels breed twice a year, in mid-winter and in early summer. We probably saw a youngster borne in September, but one that will overwinter with Mom until spring. It takes a long time for squirrels to be weaned (10-12 weeks), and almost nine months until they're full-grown.

Of course, we just had binoculars, and no camera, this morning. But the photos of nest-building last weekend in an earlier post (on Natural Gardening) are fun, too.

(Note: this is a duplicate post: here and first to Natural Gardening, my own wildlife observation and gardening blog).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eastern chipmunks

I enjoy seeing chipmunks scamper around the Fran Hanson Discovery Center and Bob Campbell Geology Museum.

They're exceptionally active now, as they're storing up their winter food caches. Their numbers seem to be stable now, as the feral cat that used to hang around isn't here anymore.

Watch for them in your neighborhood!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sitting still

Usually when I go to the garden I am walking with dogs, children and/or friends- chatting, playing and policing. This weekend it was just me and the dog. I forced myself to be different. I lingered and tried to focus on finding birds in the canopy.

I have just finished a class to be a Master Naturalist, and because neither they, or I are, still this is one aspect of the natural world I know little about. Every time I walk in the garden with a group I point out even rows of holes on Tulip Poplars and other trees. With great flourish I say can you say "Yellow Bellied Sapsucker!" and the kids do with great zeal. However, I have a quiet moment of worry - because I have never seen a real live Yellow Bellied Sapsucker - it's such a great name but perhaps they don't exist, perhaps the holes are made by someone or something else, perhaps for 7 years I've been giving the wrong information to elementary students???

I did learn recently that Sapsuckers over winter here - so they were actually in the back of my mind as I strolled looking up in the canopy by the Hunt Cabin. There! I saw small woodpecker-shaped bodies flitting from tree to tree. I stood still and looked closer trying to concentrate on features- size, color etc. There were 5 or six birds up there but I didn't have binoculars and once I focused on them - they flitted away or went behind the tree. I think I can say I have now seen at least two real live Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers hanging out with some red headed woodpeckers.
The next challenge is to find out the difference between downy and red-headed woodpeckers, and then between Red-shoulders and Red-Tailed Hawks and then .....

I love life-long learning ...

Oh and I did actually sit still later - which is what I intended to talk about. Down the creek in the Beech Grove I sat under a huge beach tree and gazed on the beauty all around me. Now I heard woodpeckers, but couldn't see them. But was was fabulous was the color of the leaves - the carpet on the ground of golden fallen leaves and darker beech nuts. You should try it sometime.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A fall afternoon

Late afternoon on Thursday was striking. Even though many of the Garden's trees have lost most of their leaves, the color on the Cameron walk was still nice.

Click on the photo for a closer (and better) view!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gardening inspiration

You might be interested in a new post about Kathy's pathway plantings near the Hayden Conference Center and a fall view of the Hosta Garden.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Japanese Raisin Tree

Japanese Raisin Tree (Hovera dulcis)

A wonderful tree in the specialty arboretum was a treat to learn about yesterday. Japanese Raisin Tree (Hovera dulcis), in the Rhamnaceae (the Buckthorn family), has extremely interesting edible peduncles (the base of a fruit). If you're interested in the biology/ecology of this, I've written a bit more it in this post.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A wonderful pathway planting

My colleague Kathy Bridges, a horticultural staff member, works wonders in the Garden (as do all of our hort staff members, regular and student). She planted this new pathway last spring, and even in early November, it looks great.

A Salvia coccinea cultivar ('Coral Sprite', or something like that) is a highlight (click to enlarge the photo). The plants are huge; Salvia coccinea is a perennial native to the Texas Gulf Coast, so is quite marginal here over winter, so is treated as an annual.

The pink color (not evident here in the harsh light of this mid-day photograph) is lovely, connecting with a group of Encore azaleas at the end of the path.

The S. coccinea selection 'Lady in Red' is a summer stalwart in my home garden as hummingbirds love it, and it happily reseeds various places.

This pathway has had numerous positive comments over this growing season (well-deserved); I just wish I'd managed to get some photos in the early morning!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fussy squirrel

In the Garden this morning, a VERY fussy squirrel was squawking up a storm. This one was perched on one of the willow oaks next to the steps leading to the Cadet Life Garden.