We call them Groundhugs…Meet the largest member of the squirrel family!


We prefer to call groundhogs groundhugs because they are so cute, unless you have a garden… They are also called woodchucks, as in “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” They actually are the largest members of the squirrel family, though they would prefer that squirrels be called a smaller member of the groundhug family. Like squirrels, they really do climb trees. We had one who spent the summer snoozing and enjoying the “air conditioning” in the branches of our male white mulberry tree on a cliff over the river. She hung out there until the last leaves were no longer tasty. It was amazing how she managed not to fall as she clung precariously at the very tips of the branches, seeking the last edible leaves.


(Drawing when she was still quite little, watching us watch her. Ears way too big)

We think she has a burrow hidden in the dense thorn bushes below the tree. A few days ago she ran across our deck, frantically trying to figure out what to do when heavy equipment started putting a new septic system near her winter burrow located under the neighbor’s garage.


Here’s a close up of the entrance to the den. It is just below the top of a riverside cliff, about 10 feet above the beach.


Close-up of tracks. Possibly hind feet.


Another close-up of tracks. Possibly front feet toward the top of photo. Next time you’re walking along a beach lined with eroding cliffs, watch for groundhug holes just below the cliff tops.

What animals you have been tracking recently?  Please send me suggestions for a better blog name and don’t forget to share my blog with friends!

Beetle-hunting in 2017!


Some of you may recognize the first beetle I saw 1/1/2017. It’s a Firefly enjoying the sun on a beech tree!  (Possibly a Winter Firefly, Ellychnia corrusca, per Warren Steiner.) Please note: For the next several days I will share photos of my New Year’s Day hike through Chapman Forest in Charles County, MD. I never dreamed I’d be beetle-hunting. But I had the great good fortune of hiking with Warren Steiner, one of the Smithsonian’s beetle experts. He was determined to find beetles and he did! He searched through bark, logs, mushrooms and mullein roots, sandy beaches and cliffs. He even shook branches full of leaves to see who might fall out. He found lots of tiny holes where beetle larvae had emerged earlier in 2016.beetle-click-beetle-1-1-17

Included in Warren’s many other beetle finds was a click beetle. Per Steiner, “the click beetle with orange-sided thorax is Lacon discoideus http://bugguide.net/node/view/45171/bgimage found under bark of pine stump.”

Interesting how similar the two appear at first. But if you look carefully you start to see differences. I’ve only seen black click beetles before.

Shared by Jim Long from Charles Darwin’s autobiography about another beetle walk long ago:

“I will give a proof of my zeal: one day on tearing off some old bark, I saw two rare beetles and seized one in each hand; then I saw a third and new kind, which I could not bear to lose, so that I popped the one which I held in my right hand into my mouth. Alas it ejected some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that I was forced to spit the beetle out, which was lost, as well as the third one”.

Hope you had a wonderful 1/1/17. Can you top beetle-hunting as the most unusual way to start the new year? Please let me know and please share my blog with your friends.

PS. http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2016/12/diy-paper-beetle-sculpture-kits-by-assembli/?mc_cid=d89a49a2e7&mc_eid=9fdd3a2e5b



Per Wikileaks: Even a worm will turn is an expression used to convey the message that even the meekest or most docile of creatures will retaliate or get revenge if pushed too far. The phrase was first recorded in a 1546 collection of proverbs by John Heywood, in the form “Treade a worme on the tayle, and it must turne agayne.”

This particular worme was happily crossing the road when it was discovered by a couple 70-something-year-olds on a walk.


It was stretching and scrunching its way over the scratchy blacktop, heading to the right.


So we measured it.


Because its length kept changing, we measured it again… and again, eagerly attempting to record its longest stretch.  Please note we did not bump into it nor did we ever step on its tayle.


Provoked, the worme examined the 2.25″ measuring device.


Then it changed direction and backtracked to the left. But it did not turne!  The tayle became the heade!

Gifts from the NORTH SIDE


Yesterday afternoon I explored the magic world of the north side of neighborhood trees. All good scouts can find north in the woods because moss and lichens grow on the north side of trees.northside-1

Rough bark creates wonderful footholds for furry moss tendrils.northside-2

Hummingbirds cover their invisible nests with bits of lichen the color of celadon pottery.


Sorry this photo is out of focus but the colors made me completely forget winter! On 12/15/16 the Washington Post reported that Pantone’s “Color of the Year 2017” is called Greenery, a zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring.  It is the exact same color as the bright yellow-green lichen in the photo!!!


And what to my wondering eyes did appear on the north side of one tree but a hearty chickweed plant growing in a moss garden. Speaking of moss gardens-


You can make your own moss garden in a few minutes with moss collected on your walk, a disposable plastic container and a few spoonfuls of extra dirt. If the container has a cover you have a prepackaged gift! Spray regularly and watch the magic! Please send photos of your gardens!




It’s always nice to see our tax dollars at work! Check out the top of the dead tree hanging across our road in the morning rain. At any time it might fall on a passing car so it is commonly called a ‘Widow-Maker’.  Three trucks and seven men watched the eighth  man apply a chainsaw to the trunk. Photo does not include the other truck with three men, warm and dry, inside.


Then three trucks and seven men watched as the eighth man tried to push the tree over.


Eventually the tree gave up


and was quickly gobbled up by the big red shredder. No widows were made!




Don’t worry if you missed the first frost! There will be another soon enough.


The first ones turn the weeds into sugarplum fairies!


I especially love the icy leaf edges.


Meanwhile, seek out a surviving flower and meditate on summer. This may be your last chance to thank a zinnia this year!



This is a short-winged mole cricket. It looks gross to me so I understand if you don’t want to read further… Check out the wings which are so short it can’t fly.  But boy can it burrow! You can’t see it‘s face here because it is digging rapidly into the sand to get away from the pesky photographer. It is an invasive. It shouldn’t even be this far north (the northern part of southern MD) based on what I read in Google. But you can’t believe everything you read. And I didn’t have all day to conduct research…Please let me know if you find out anything good.


Check out its powerful front legs! It eats tender plants and delicate roots and tubers.  It’s main enemy is the toad. I love toads. Please consider adding a toad house to your yard.


This is the trail the short-winged mole cricket makes in the sand. As you are probably observing right now, it looks remarkably like a baby turtle’s trail.


Here’s looking at you, kid!