Goldenrod Gall

Back in September I took a photo of a goldenrod gall. The gall was formed in response to a goldenrod gall fly having laid eggs on the stem of the goldenrod plant. The eggs hatched in about a week and a half, and at least one of the larvae burrowed into the plant’s stem. It’s saliva apparently stimulating the plant into growing the gall around itself. It’s now January and the larva is still inside the gall. The gall helpsRead more

Anole

Above: Green anole on rock wall next to rosemary shrub. There’s a fair chance I’ll see a green anole on any given warm winter day. The small lizard will most likely be basking in the sun on a rock wall in the Butterfly House’s garden next to the Cafe, close by a rosemary shrub for easy escape should a predator come by. We’ve been experiencing many warm winter days of late. Temps have even gotten into the 70’s on someRead more

Japanese Apricot

Japanese apricot (Prunus mume), or Chinese plum is once again blooming here at the museum. At about the same time last year I reported on this small tree coming into flower. At that time I didn’t know what it was. It’s obviously an early bloomer. And, as reported last year, it’s not a native species, originating in China. It’s been cultivated for some 1500 years around the world. Our little tree is alongside the path just across from the eastRead more

A Hairy Fungus

Above: Phycomyces, or pin mold, sporangiophores (stalks) and sporangia (round spore cases). A hairy mass of mold or fungus caught the attention of Museum Volunteer Sam as she was filling bird feeders. Superficially, it looked like fur. A closer look hinted at some sort of mold or fungus. At first I/we thought the stringy, filamentous fungus was growing up from the thistle or niger seed that was spilled along the ground near the bird feeders in Catch the Wind. ARead more

Snakes in Winter

(Above: Worm snake at Black Bear Overlook.) I’ve seen six different species of snakes here at the museum during winter, eastern garter snake, black rat snake, rough and smooth earth snakes, brown snake and worm snake. The snake species and quantity encountered depend on their local abundance at the time. So far this season, brown snakes and worm snakes have been most frequently observed. Worm snakes are small, maxing out at about a foot or so. They’re shiny snakes withRead more

The Beetle

(Top photo credit: Andy Ross) I was told to “Stop, don’t step on the beetle!” by a young man, hand up, traffic cop style, kneeling on the pavement in Explore the Wild. It was a late fall day in December (meteorological winter) with temperatures in the high 40s, though a dry northerly wind made it feel colder. The young naturalist spotted a beetle and he and his family were watching it make its way across the path. As I gotRead more

Another Mushroom

Poronidulus conchifer is a polypore fungus. Polypores are mushrooms found mainly on dead or living trees, which play an important part in wood decay, as you can imagine. I first saw the ones pictured somewhere along the path in Explore the Wild. At the time, I didn’t know what they were. They looked very much like bird’s nest mushrooms, sans eggs, but as I later found out, are not related. They were about 1/4” – 3/8” across. Bird’s nests areRead more

Turtles in Winter

While most species of aquatic turtles are inactive, tucked-away on the bottom of a pond in the leaf litter and mud, our resident sliders tend to become active throughout the colder months. All it takes is a few bright sunny days. Among the local turtles, yellow-bellied and red-eared sliders, eastern painted turtle, common musk turtle, and common snapping turtle, it’s the sliders that are most often seen out basking in late fall and winter. The water is shallow in ourRead more

Something To Get Excited About

Near the end of the day, while searching in the woods for browse for the insects in the Butterfly House Insectarium, Insectarium Manager Leon discovered a rather large mushroom growing on a sweetgum tree. He, very excitedly, called me on the radio to invite me to come have a look at it. I swiftly called Ranger Martha to do the same. I had to run off to take care of other duties, but Ranger Martha, our resident mycologist, met withRead more

A Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s hawks are not uncommon here in Durham. Even so, I was surprised to see one perched in a willow 15 – 20 feet off the path in a black willow. The hawk watched intently as a dozen or so butter-butts flitted around the nearby wax myrtle bushes. Cooper’s hawks are almost exclusively bird eaters. When the warblers moved on, the hawk settled in for a bit of preening. Cooper’s hawks are one of three accipiters (long-tailed, forest hunting hawks)Read more