The Robins of Winter

Top Photo: One of dozens of American robins pilfering holly berries in Gateway Park. It’s that time of year again when flocks of robins descend on all available remaining fruit bearing trees and shrubs. Fact is, they flock together all winter long looking for foodstuffs. Apparently, “the more eyes the better to spot food sources,” and the “safety in numbers” theories come into play with these wintering flocks. They group together in fall and break up in spring to breed.Read more

Mahonia

Top Photo: Mahonia buds, blossoms, and leaves on Dinosaur Trail. Mahonia goes by the names Oregon grape, grape holly, mountain grape or just plain Mahonia among others. Grape because the ripe fruit has a visual similarity to grapes. Holly, because the leaves resemble holly leaves. The name Mahonia is the binomial genus name of this and several other west coast broadleaved plants. It’s derived from Bernard McMahon (Mahon-ia) horticulturist, author, and one of the stewards of the Lewis and ClarkRead more

The Bag

Top Photo: Christian slogging across wetlands after successful mission to Goose Island. It’d been bugging me for more than a week, a plastic bag hung up on a tree just off the boardwalk, I’ve been throwing sticks at it, trying to spear it, whatever I could think of to get rid if it. It was just far enough away, and protected by branches, that I couldn’t reach it with whatever object I tossed at it. It was an eyesore. ItRead more

It’s all About the Snout

Top Photo: An older photo of three of our bears. Our three adult black bears can each be identified by muzzle only, though it may take a little practice. But first, how do you tell male from female in the Black Bear Exhibit? Male black bears (we have one, Gus) have longer, straighter legs, bigger heads and longer necks, and a more angular body shape. Females tend to be more rounded or rotund. Even though the photo above is tenRead more

How Many Holes Would a Woodpecker Peck

Top Photo: Wood chips expelled from under-construction hole in willow. I first noticed the wood chips scattered about on the ground. I then heard the unmistakable sound of a wood-pecking bird hard at work, rap, tap, tap…rap, tap, tap. Could it be a woodpecker? a nuthatch? At first, I couldn’t see what was rapping and tapping away above me, that is, until the noisemaker stuck its head out of a hole twenty feet up in a willow snag on theRead more

The Weather and The Squirrels

Top Photo: Gray squirrel nest (center) high in loblolly pine. The week leading up to New Years was warm. Daytime temps reached into the 60s and 70s, heck, the lows were in the sixties towards the end of the week. During that period I saw many squirrels out and about. They all seemed to be chasing around looking for an easy meal, a pecan, a hickory nut, black oil sunflower seeds from the bird feeders. I got the distinct feelingRead more

Creepers

Top Photo: Brown creeper from (February 2015). Though they’re members of different families, brown creepers are often depicted in bird field guides on the same page as are the nuthatches. Let’s face it, their behavior is similar. While nuthatches, especially white-breasted nuthatches, work their way down tree limbs and trunks in search of insects and their larvae and eggs, creepers climb up and out on trunks and limbs doing pretty much the same thing. They’re gleaning food from under barkRead more

Winter Flycatcher

Top Photo: Eastern phoebe sits atop finial on umbrella at Main Wetlands Overlook. It’s a common sight on the museum outdoor loop, a phoebe perched atop a twig, branch, light post, railing, or just about any other object which affords a clear view of passing airborne insects. Eastern phoebes eat insects and catch the vast majority of them on the wing. They’ve been observed eating fruit when available, like mulberries in spring and wax myrtle, holly, and even poison ivyRead more

A Few Winter Sightings

Top Photo: Bullfrog tadpoles react to disturbance in the water. In our area, bullfrogs may take 9 to 12 months to mature and become frogs. It may take much longer, perhaps two or even three years, in areas with cooler temperatures and shorter growing seasons. But here, in central North Carolina the bullfrogs that hatched from eggs this summer will become frogs next summer. During winter the bullfrogs tend to congregate in the shallow, muddy water on the north sideRead more