Taken For Granted

(Above: red-shouldered hawk wipes bill on railing after eating red swamp crayfish, on post behind hawk) I recently spent a few days at a coastal Virginia hawk watch witnessing hundreds of hawks passing overhead on their migratory treks south. Osprey, sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, harriers, bald eagles, merlins and kestrels made up the bulk of the cast. And, of course, there were lesser birds as palm warblers, parula, kinglets, flickers, as well various butterflies, like monarch, buckeye, and fiery andRead more

What’s to Eat

The grasshopper in the above photo is being disassembled by a yellowjacket. The meaty parts of the hopper will be transported back to the hive where it’ll be placed in cells containing larvae within the hive. The female wasps are busy this time of year as the hive is perhaps at its largest of the season. I found the parts of a red swamp crayfish on the railing of the boardwalk leading to the Black Bear Overlook. It too hadRead more

Snapping Turtle Roll

As I walked on the boardwalk past the entrance to the Black Bear Exhibit I heard splashing noises and low hissing sounds beneath me. Looking over the railing I could see two snapping turtles rolling in the water below the walkway. Common in our wetland and any other water habitat in the area, common snapping turtles typically breed in the spring to early summer. I’ve seen what appears to be mating attempts once in August and again this month (September).Read more

Early Fall

The bullfrog in the top photo was one a four spotted yesterday at the end of the boardwalk in Explore the Wild. Bullfrogs can sit very still while waiting for prey to come along then spring forth with lightning speed to capture and swallow that prey. They eat just about anything that comes close enough to snatch, insects, fish, smaller frogs, crawfish, even birds. Up until this week I’d only seen two snakes in our wetlands the past season, anRead more

Spider Wasp

The spider in the above photo is immobile. It’s not moving. It’s not dead, but it can’t move. It’s been stung by a spider wasp and is now paralyzed. The spider is one of two different spiders I’ve found in the past two weeks on the path that winds through Catch the Wind and Explore the Wild. Both spiders, fairly large arachnids, were in the center of the paved path, or nearly so. In the first instance, the wasp wasRead more

Great Egret

Great egrets are not rare in our area, a trip to one of the nearby reservoirs should turn up several. Green herons and great blue herons nest locally. Great egrets do not. Any great egret you see in this area is probably part of a post breeding dispersal from further south. In fact, that’s true for most of the other species of heron or egret seen here in summer like, little blue heron, reddish egret, snowy egret, tri-colored heron, orRead more

A Caterpillar and a Salamander

Walking down the boardwalk, I noticed a dozen or so pieces of frass ahead of me on the boards. There was a branch of sweet gum tree overhanging the boardwalk directly above the frass. Several leaves had been chewed to mere skeletons. A search through the leaves revealed a large green caterpillar with red spots along its sides. It was a luna moth caterpillar and it was munching away on the leaves of the tree. I see lots of lunaRead more

First Argiope of the Season.

Whatever you call it, golden orb weaver, yellow and black garden spider, yellow and black argiope, writing spider, or zig-zag spider this large, common orb weaver is known binomially as Argiope aurantia. The one pictured has stationed itself at the Black Bear Overlook in Explore the Wild. Its a bit early in the season for this species. I usually don’t see them until fall has arrived. They’re here all summer long, just smaller and more hidden, but fall is whenRead more

Summer Pics

A sampling of sights you may witness while strolling through Catch the Wind, Explore the Wild, Hideaway Woods and the Dinosaur Trail. Ranger Martha discovered the following fungi. When perched, hairstreaks slowly rub their hind wings back and forth. This may be a way to attract attention to the rear of the butterfly to fool predators into thinking it’s the head of the insect. Note long, modified scales (false antennae) and red spot (head/eye). The butterfly pictured has damage toRead more

Another Mocha Please

The photos here are of a mocha emerald (Somatochlora linearis). It’s a dragonfly of the forest, near small shady streams. They seem to be more common near streams which dry up during summer. That habitat does occur here at the museum. I’ve only encountered mocha emeralds here on two other occasions. The first was in July of 2008 when I found a partially eaten individual on the path in Catch the Wind. I saw a live mocha in June ofRead more