If you keep your eyes and ears opened while hiking the Explore the Wild and Catch the Wind Loop you’re likely to see and hear all sorts of wonderful sights and sounds. Birds that have spent the winter in the tropics are back home and full of song. Insects that have spent the last few months or longer in pupal or larval states are entering the next phase of their lives. Reptiles are taking advantage of locally plentiful food and can be seen, seemingly, everywhere you look. And, ripening fruit on the trees is attracting unexpected wildlife.
Wood thrush are migrants who spend the winter in Central America. Their flute-like calls are a welcomed sound each spring here in the temperate zone.
Red-shouldered hawks have young in the nest. Patient and intent, their hunting has become even more intense and urgent, they’re now hunting for more than just themselves.
There are various trees listed as host plants (plants that butterflies lay eggs on and their caterpillars eat) for mourning cloak butterflies. I most often see the caterpillars on elm here at the Museum. The adults lay masses of eggs on the host and the caterpillars feed on the leaves together, en mass.
You can sometimes spot the caterpillars in the trees by the large amount of frass (caterpillar poop) on the ground beneath the host tree. Looking up you may see twigs and branches devoid of leaves above you, and of course, the black and red highlighted caterpillars munching away on the leaves that remain.
When the caterpillars have fed to the point where they’re ready to pupate, they crawl down out of the tree and search for a safe place to form a chrysalis. Masses of them can sometimes be seen heading out in all directions from the host tree.
As the days roll along, more and more species of odonata emerge from the water of the Wetlands, like the azure bluet below.
Turtles and snakes are easy finds here at the Museum. Some turtles, though, like the eastern musk turtle below are not seen as often as the ubiquitous yellow-bellied sliders.
From the top of the boardwalk, between the sycamore leaves, a partially submerged, large water snake was waiting patiently for fish to swim nearby. Judging by the snake’s girth, this strategy has been working for the snake.
Mulberries are beginning to ripen. The mulberry trees here at the Museum are sometimes full of birds devouring the dark, sweet berries. But, don’t be surprised to see a groundhog in a mulberry tree feasting away. Who doesn’t like mulberries?
What have you been seeing?