An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide – maryholland505@gmail.com

Archive for October, 2021

Poplar Petiole Galls

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Adult Common Loons Molting & Migrating

At this time of year, adult Common Loons are undergoing a partial molt, during which they transition from their striking black-and-white breeding plumage into their gray-and-white winter plumage. This transition typically begins with the feathers surrounding the bill.

Many adult loons have departed from their northern freshwater breeding lakes, heading for their coastal New England wintering grounds.  Juvenile loons linger, sometimes remaining on their natal or adjacent lakes until near freeze-up.  Once they arrive on their wintering grounds, they will remain there for the next two to four years before returning to their inland breeding grounds. (Photo: adult Common Loon in foliage-reflecting water)

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Newly-hatched Bumble Bees Resting At Night Before Foraging & Mating During The Day

At this time of year bumble bee larvae develop into virgin queens and males instead of the female workers that hatch during the summer.  Chances are if you take an early morning walk when fall temperatures are starting to drop, you may come across one of the male bumble bees in an immobile state resting on a goldenrod or aster flower. Having spent the night here due to cold temperatures (their flight muscles must be above 86°F in order for them to take flight and their thorax must be maintained during flight at 86-104°F), they use their wing muscles in the morning to shiver and raise their temperature until they are capable of flight.

Young queens are visible during the day, but return to the hive for shelter during the night.  Once they have mated and are fertilized they fill their honey sacs with honey and seek shelter for the winter several inches underground.  They are the only members of the hive to overwinter; all others perish in the fall. (Photo: male bumble bee resting on New England Aster early one fall morning.)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.


Red-bellied Woodpeckers Eating & Caching Acorns

Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a wide-ranging diet consisting of nuts, fruits, frogs, minnows, nestling birds, songbird eggs, invertebrates, sap and nectar. At this time of year, acorns are a preferred food. While woodpeckers are well known for their ability to use their bills to drill into trees in order to extract insects, their use of their bills to extract the meat of nuts is less well-known.  Often they will pluck an acorn off an oak and fly with it in their bill to a tree or post where they press it into a crevice. They then crack the shell of the acorn by hammering it with their bill, after which they extract the nutmeat.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers cache food throughout the entire year, but engage in this behavior more often during the fall.  They return to their cached food throughout the winter. When you see a Red-bellied Woodpecker carrying something in its bill this time of year, follow its flight.  If the bird happens to land, see if it tries to put the item in the crack of a tree or into a crevice.  The list of items stored by this woodpecker includes acorns, nuts, seeds, fruits, fruit pulp, kernels of corn, suet, peanut butter, whole peanuts, and even insects. (Photo: male Red-bellied Woodpecker with Red Oak acorn)

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Witch Hazel Flowering & Dispersing Seeds

Long after most bird songs have ceased, summer’s flowers have turned to seed, and leaves are starting to fall, a woodland shrub, Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, brightens the landscape with its tiny, golden blossoms.  At this exact same time, Witch Hazel flowers that were pollinated a year ago and fertilized this past spring have developed capsules that are dispersing two black seeds, shooting them up to thirty feet away from the parent plant, making audible popping sounds as they open and eject the seeds.  This dual-purpose timing of both flowering and seed dispersal is a feast for both eyes and ears every autumn for those fortunate enough to locate a shrub and time their visit perfectly.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button. 


Gray Dogwood A Bird Magnet In The Fall

Due to its ability to reproduce clonally (asexually), Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa) often occurs in thickets – you rarely see one shrub all by itself.  In the fall it is the first of several species of dogwood to have its fruit ripen; as a result Gray Dogwoods are magnets for birds, including migrants, and is visited by over 100 species.  Its red fruit stems (panicles) persist long after the fruit has been eaten and leaves have fallen, providing a noticeable splash of color well into the fall.  (Photo: Red-eyed Vireo feeding on Gray Dogwood berries)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.


2022 Naturally Curious Calendar Orders Can Be Placed

Orders for the 2022 Naturally Curious Calendar can be placed now by writing to me at 505 Wake Robin Drive, Shelburne, VT  05482. The calendars are printed on heavy card stock and measure 11” x 17” when hanging. There is one full-page photograph per month. The calendars are $35.00 each (includes postage). Please specify the number of calendars you would like to order, the mailing address to which they should be sent and your email address (so I can easily let you know I received your order and can quickly contact you if I have any questions). Your check can be made out to Mary Holland.

Guaranteed orders can be placed up until November 1st. Orders placed after this date will be filled as long as my supply of extra calendars lasts. (To be candid, I have had so many last-minute requests (after the deadline) in past years that I have not been able to fill all of the orders, so if you want to be sure of having your order filled, I encourage you to place your order before November 1st. I hate to disappoint anyone.)  Calendars will arrive at your door in early December well in time for the New Year. Thank you so much! (Monthly photos: Cover-snowy owl; January-bald eagle; February-river otter; March-wood ducks; April-red foxes; May-mating cecropia moths; June-moose bog; July-dogbane beetle; August-eastern cottontail; September-eastern chipmunk & beechnuts; October-pileated woodpecker; November-beaver; December-snowy owl.