Eight Lobe-leaved Plant of Japan

Top Photo: Fatsia japonica on Dinosaur Trail. An evergreen shrub, Fatsia japonica is native to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Here, it’s a common and popular landscape plant which does well in full and partial shade. At the museum, its white umbel flowers bloom in November when it attracts many late season insects. Everything from ants to butterflies come to the flowers for their nectar. But there are other posts about the insects that are attracted to the fall blooming flowerRead more

A Hooded Surprise

Top Photo: A whir of wings and slap, slap, slap of webbed feet on the water as the birds take off. If you’re the first person of the day to descend the boardwalk leading to Explore the Wild you may see the mergansers in close to or under the boardwalk rousting out any mosquitofish, aquatic insects or crayfish that may be hanging out in the shadows. The birds are shy. If the birds see you coming they may simply swimRead more

Bees, Butterflies et al. of the Day

Top Photo: Honeybees at Fatsia Japonica on the Dino Trail. Today’s unusually mild temperatures have activated insects like it was a day in May. Look in the the vicinity of blooming flowers, you’ll see them. The honeybees above were very busy taking nectar and whatever pollen they could from the simple umbel flowers of fatsia. Everywhere I turned today I saw insects going about their business. Fly species, wasps, and of course, bees and butterflies were literally buzzing about anyRead more

Three Hives

Top Photo: One of three known bald-faced hornet’s nests at museum this year. There have been at least three active bald-faced hornet nests on our 84 acre campus this year. It’s likely there were more, but only three were discovered. Two of the hives were found by the sharp eye of Ranger Martha who is always on the lookout for mycelium. As is often the case when searching for one thing, you’re often surprised by the serendipitous discovery of somethingRead more

Mantid, Frog and an Odd Fruit in Mid-November

Top Photo: Butterfly House volunteer and insect lover Daniel holds mantid which, itself, had just captured a cabbage white butterfly. It’s mid-November and insects are still active. In fact, Butterfly House Volunteer Daniel was out exploring the Butterfly House Outdoor Garden here at the museum when he came across three on-the-prowl mantids. One of them had just captured a cabbage white butterfly (above photo). Volunteer Sam reveled in letting one of the mantids crawl up her arm. I’ve seen bullfrogsRead more

Crayfish Revisited

Top Photo: One red swamp crayfish jets away as another approaches it. I’m frequently asked about the creatures that live in our wetlands. Inevitably, the subject of crayfish, red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), enters the conversation. I ask whoever it is I’m talking to if they’ve read my blog postings on the crayfish. If not, I urge them to do so as soon as they get the chance. The following was first published in October of 2011 under the titleRead more

What You Might See

Top Photo: Mystery bird in red maple. If you identified the bird in the top photo, you did well. It’s a blue-headed vireo. It was formerly know as solitary vireo, a name which I prefer over blue-headed. It’s not a rare migrant here in the Piedmont, but I haven’t seen one at the museum in several years so I thought it noteworthy. Occasionally they’re seen in the area during December, January, or even February. Fatsia Japonica is in bloom onRead more

Birds

The red-shouldered hawk above was hunting from a perch just a dozen feet or so from the boardwalk leading to Explore the Wild. The red-shoulders here are quite used to people and are not bothered by human passers-by. The hawk is local and is present most days throughout the year. The same morning I also saw a pine siskin, three purple finches, red-breasted nuthatches, a Copper’s hawk (another local), there were seventeen hooded mergansers floating in the water below theRead more

November

Top Photo: Panaeolus sp. mushroom. These attractive mushrooms (Panaeolus sp.) sprouted under a fern at the entrance to the Dinosaur Trail. Boxelder, also known as ashleaf maple is a common tree here at the museum, but none reach their maximum height of about 60 feet. The name ashleaf maple comes from the tree’s compound leaves resemblance to ash leaves. It usually has five leaflets per leaf but may also have as little as three leaflets, which is the reason forRead more

Mergansers Arrive!

The first fall migrants have arrived. Today (10/28), I spotted three hooded mergansers, two female and one male, on the far side of the wetlands. One or two typically show up during the last week in October, sometimes a week or so earlier, but certainly by the first week in November. As in other years, the mergs usually get right down to the business of pair bonding upon arrival in their winter quarters. As other males arrive, and should theyRead more