An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Mystery Photo

A True Mystery Photo

11-2-18 flying squirrel tails_U1A1190A discovery recently brought to my attention has stumped this naturalist.   What you are looking at is a collection of Flying Squirrel tails lying within a 30-square-foot patch of ground adjacent to a stand of Eastern Hemlocks. For several days in succession, additional tails appeared each morning, eventually totaling 20 or more.

Flying Squirrels, both Northern and Southern, are part of many animals’ diet.  Among the documented predators are Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls, Screech Owls, Northern Goshawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Martens, River Otters, Weasels, Fishers, Red Foxes and Bobcat.  Many of these animals can gain access to the trees where the Flying Squirrels reside.  Others take advantage of squirrels foraging on the ground.

The puzzling part of this mystery is the large number of tails.  In cold weather (usually in winter, but we’ve had below-freezing nights recently), Flying Squirrels huddle together in tree cavities in an attempt to provide themselves with added warmth.  Did a foraging Fisher discover a communal den?  How did it manage to capture so many squirrels?  Did the survivors remain in the same cavity, only to be captured in subsequent nights?  So many questions that this naturalist cannot answer. Perhaps a reader can! (Thanks to John Quimby and Michael O’Donnell, who kindly shared their fascinating discovery with me.)

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

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Mystery Photo

10-21-18 mystery photo_U1A0883Any idea what lurks under the bark of this rotting log (look through hole)? If so, go to the Naturally Curious blog (www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com ) and enter your “comment.”

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


Mystery Photo

9-26-18 mystery photo 031Can you name this 1/3-inch-long flower? If so (or even if you want to make a wild guess), go to the Naturally Curious blog (www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com), scroll down and click on “Comments” to submit your entry. Look for the answer Monday, in the next Naturally Curious post.

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

 


Mystery Photo

8-27-18 mystery photo_U1A7191

Do you recognize the spotted jelly-like blob on the lower right leaf of this Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) plant?  If so (or even if you want to make a wild guess), go to the Naturally Curious blog (www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com), scroll down and click on “Comments” to submit your entry. Look for the answer in the next Naturally Curious post.  (Hint:  Turtlehead likes its feet damp.)

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


Mystery Photo: Young Eastern Black Walnuts

7-6-18 black walnuts IMG_8342Congratulations to “Deb” – the first person to correctly identify the subject of the most recent Mystery Photo as young Eastern Black Walnuts!

Eastern Black Walnuts (Juglans nigra) produce abundant tiny male flowers on long, dangling, finger-like catkins. Female flowers, located on the same tree as male flowers, are fewer in number and are slightly larger. Being wind-pollinated, Black Walnut produces female flowers with stigmas (the top-most, pollen-receiving structures) which have a large surface area designed to catch pollen drifting in the wind. (These are the “rabbit ears.”) The stigmas often persist while the fruit matures  — they are barely visible on the left walnut in photo.

By September, the walnuts will have matured. They then fall to the ground where their outer husk slowly decays. The fruits are well-known for leaching chemicals into the soil that inhibit the growth of other plants, an interaction known as “allelopathy” (literally meaning “making your neighbor sick”).

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


Mystery Photo

7-4-18 mystery photo_U1A9838Identify these mystery objects with ¼-inch “rabbit ears” by going to the Naturally Curious blog site (www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com) and clicking on “Comments” at the bottom of this post. Answer will be posted on Friday, July 6th.


Tom Turkeys Strutting Their Stuff

3-19-18 wild turkey IMG_7081Congratulations to Penny Jessop, who submitted the first correct Mystery Photo answer!

In the Northeast, male Wild Turkeys begin gobbling and strutting in late February. Their courtship ritual usually starts before females are receptive, and continues into late March and early April, when mating typically takes place.

At this time of year males are bedecked with blue wattles (flap of skin on throat) and snoods (fleshy piece of skin that hangs over beak), and bright red major caruncles (bulbous, fleshy growths at the bottom of the turkey’s throat). Displaying these adornments while slowly gliding around a female, the male fans his tail, lowers his wings with the primaries dragging on the ground/snow (these primary wing feathers are responsible for the parallel lines either side of the trail of tracks), elevates the feathers on his back and throws his head backward the female. If she is receptive, she lowers herself and crouches on the ground, signaling to the male that he may mount her.

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