Cardinal and Pandora, Tortoise Beetle, and Annual Caterpillar Feast

Top Photo: Male cardinal wrestles with large green caterpillar. The cardinal flopped to the ground no more than a dozen feet from us on the Dinosaur Trail. It had a large green caterpillar under its control. Two months earlier, just feet away from where we now stood, I photographed a male cardinal tearing apart two luna moths. May was a busy month for luna moths, mating and laying eggs. Could this big caterpillar which was now committed to being eatenRead more

Sand Wasps

Top Photo: Sand wasp hovers above concealed burrow. I just assumed the sand wasps I was looking at were Bembix species of wasps. The wasps were buzzing low over sections of the large, empty sandbox area of Gateway Park which has been closed since the start of the Pandemic (I’ve been told the area will re-open in the near future, but until that time it’s home to various insects including the always fun to watch sand wasps). The 20 someRead more

The Bold and the Brash

Top Photo: Red swamp crawfish stands its ground when confronted. On a morning following a very wet night, I encountered a crawfish hiking its way across the path adjacent to our wetlands. In typical red swamp crawfish fashion the decapod reared up and challenged me. Red swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii) are bold creatures, but over the years I’ve seen that boldness get them into trouble. They get eaten by frogs, snatched up by red-shouldered hawks and barred owls, nabbed byRead more

Red Tails Overhead

Top Photo: Immature plumaged red-tailed hawk soars over museum. If you’ve visited the museum in the past several months you’re probably aware of the red-shouldered hawks that have nested here this season, like just about every other year since I’ve been here. Their loud vocalizations as they soar above the outdoor loop make them quite noticeable to even casual observers. You may not have known, however, about the red-tailed hawks that nested alongside the parking lot on the south sideRead more

Anoles in Trees

Top Photo: Green anoles engaged in mating. The sharp eye of Ranger Dakota spotted the two lizards on the trunk of a small cherry tree outside the door leading from the main museum building to Gateway Park near the bells, drums, metal tubes, wooden sound boards and other music and noise making devices that make up Sound Garden. What he saw were two green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) engaged in mating. I’ve been familiar with green anoles since childhood, though IRead more

Bonus Features

Top Photo: A green heron contemplates its next move. While making the rounds on my weekly bluebird trail nest box inspections I often come across other creatures besides the bluebirds, chickadees, and wrens that use the nest boxes on the trail. Red-shouldered hawks nest in the woods next to the train tunnel as they have been off-and-on for years. The one pictured is a product of this year’s effort. I have to pass by the parking deck on the southRead more

Nest Box Update for June 2021

We have six nest boxes on our bluebird trail. I inspect the nest boxes once per week following the same sequence each week; Cow Pasture, Explore the Wild, Into the Mist, Parking Deck East, Parking Deck West, and Butterfly House. This is a compilation of the nest box inspections for the month of June. June 9 There are two active nest, one with incubating house wrens and the other with hatchling bluebirds. The Cow Pasture nest box contains a houseRead more

Something to Look At

Top Photo: Bumble bee takes nectar and transfers pollen in the process. Here, I have a quick list of photos of what you might see on a walk around the outdoor trails here at the museum. Last year we had at least three bald-faced hornet hives on the campus. One was in a dawn redwood tree over the boardwalk, another in a pine along one of the service roads, and the third was in a small maple hanging over EllerbeRead more

Ducklings in the Wetlands

Top Photo: Mallard duck with two of her six ducklings. Ranger Molly informed me she saw a mallard duck and six ducklings in our wetlands over the weekend. On my next trip into the wetlands, I spotted the family in the swamp across from the Main Wetlands Overlook. A pair of mallards had been hanging around the wetlands the entire spring, had disappeared for a while early on, but had returned. Sometime later in the season they had again goneRead more

The Color of the Name

Top Photo: A green anole shows off its dewlap on fence in Butterfly House Garden. Certain animals are named for their color, or at least the color of a prominent feature of their feathers, scales, or fur. Here’s several local birds and a lizard which meet the criterion. It’s obvious why the green anole is called what it’s called, it’s green. But check out the pink dewlap this lizard sometimes displays as a territorial warning to other male anoles orRead more