Oddly Red

Top Photo: Redbud beginning to bloom in the last week of October. Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a March bloomer in Durham County and surrounding areas. It was odd, but not totally surprising, to see buds about to open up on a redbud tree on the Dinosaur Trail this past week. Not surprising because, after all, we’ve been experiencing very mild weather with not a hint of frost. Even so, many of the leaves on this particular tree had turned toRead 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

A Large Pellet

Our resident great blue heron left an interesting object on the railing of the deck at the Main Wetlands Overlook. It was a pellet. As you may know, pellets are undigested pieces of what a bird eats like bones, fur, exoskeletons, feathers and other indigestibles. The bird regurgitates these objects in the form of a pellet ranging from perhaps a quarter inch to many times that, depending on the size of the bird doing the regurgitating and the material containedRead more

Pairing Up

Top Photo: Two males strut their stuff in the wetlands.. Hooded mergansers are with us from November to April. Soon after they arrive for the winter they begin the pair bond process, finding a mate. The mergansers won’t actually be mating at this time, but instead are forming pair bonds with future mates (I have, though, witnessed copulatory behavior here in our Wetlands). Once the bond is formed the pair may reinforce the bond during the remainder of the winter. This makesRead more

Bill Shape and Feather Shape

  This post was prompted by a comment/question in a previous post about a green heron preening in our Wetlands. The question concerns the existence of a relationship between bill shape and feather shape, “I only thought about beak shape in terms of feeding, but I wonder if there’s a beak shape/feather shape relationship too?” The short answer is, no. But read on. Any question that stimulates the thought process is a good question. This question started me thinking long and hard.Read more

Spring Rolls Along

Spring continues to move along and the flora and fauna here at the Museum rolls along with it. Thousands, no, millions of neotropical migrant birds are moving through our area, flowers are inviting insects to pollinate themselves, tadpoles are becoming frogs, fish eggs have hatched, and an old friend showed up in the Wetlands. Warblers, thrushes, cuckoos, swallows, and many other birds are migrating north at this time. Most migrate at night (less likely to be seen by hungry hawkRead more

Around the Wetlands

Top Photo: Banded tussock moth caterpillar dangling from a silken thread as it lowers itself to the ground. On any random day in the Wetlands, if you keep your eyes opened wide, you’re likely to see many things. Here’s just a few of the sights that I witnessed during the second half of October.     I was standing near the Main Black Bear Overlook when I noticed a caterpillar on one of the leaves of a winged elm tree.Read more

A Fishing Expedition

At the lower terminus of the Boardwalk in Explore the Wild I noticed a small snake (perhaps 18 inches at best) coiled in the smartweed that grows there. The snake’s head stuck out of the water, ready to pounce, its tongue flashing out to smell the air. There were also many minnows splashing about the shallow water. Some of the fish were in large groups feeding, a feeding frenzy. Others were in small groups swimming in and out of theRead more

A Field Guide to Whatever it is You’re Looking at

There seems to be a guide to just about anything and everything. Whatever it is you happen to be looking at someone has put together a guide to help you figure out what it is, and often, how it relates to the world. There are field guides to birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians, plants and trees. Bird guides are further broken down into eastern birds, western birds, and even groups of birds: sparrows, shorebirds, raptors, warblers, owls. There areRead more

The Pellet

Back from the weekend and on my first walk around the Outdoor Exhibit Loop I noticed three gray masses of debris on one of the copper-topped posts of the boardwalk in Explore the Wild. It was obviously a pellet. What’s a pellet? Basically it’s a regurgitated mass of animal parts, bones, fur, or feathers which can not be digested by whatever it was that ate the animal, typically a hawk, owl, or perhaps a heron. These birds swallow small preyRead more