Turtles in Winter

While most species of aquatic turtles are inactive, tucked-away on the bottom of a pond in the leaf litter and mud, our resident sliders tend to become active throughout the colder months. All it takes is a few bright sunny days. Among the local turtles, yellow-bellied and red-eared sliders, eastern painted turtle, common musk turtle, and common snapping turtle, it’s the sliders that are most often seen out basking in late fall and winter. The water is shallow in ourRead more

Something To Get Excited About

Near the end of the day, while searching in the woods for browse for the insects in the Butterfly House Insectarium, Insectarium Manager Leon discovered a rather large mushroom growing on a sweetgum tree. He, very excitedly, called me on the radio to invite me to come have a look at it. I swiftly called Ranger Martha to do the same. I had to run off to take care of other duties, but Ranger Martha, our resident mycologist, met withRead more

A Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s hawks are not uncommon here in Durham. Even so, I was surprised to see one perched in a willow 15 – 20 feet off the path in a black willow. The hawk watched intently as a dozen or so butter-butts flitted around the nearby wax myrtle bushes. Cooper’s hawks are almost exclusively bird eaters. When the warblers moved on, the hawk settled in for a bit of preening. Cooper’s hawks are one of three accipiters (long-tailed, forest hunting hawks)Read more

The Howling

Top: Father and three of his sons from this year’s liter enjoy a group howl. Our ten red wolves howl regularly. We don’t howl at them, but their howling has become a nearly daily routine. The museum happens to be located within a quarter mile of a hospital. We hear a lot of sirens. Most are off in the distance, but our wolves hear them just the same, and they react to the sirens by howling. It’s quite an experienceRead more

Drop-In Ducks

Above: common goldeneye (top center) with hooded mergansers. Hooded mergansers are regular winter waterfowl visitors to the museum. But, we occasionally have other waterfowl drop in. On Thursday, November 7, I spotted a female common goldeneye mixed in with the regulars. Goldeneyes are not common here on the Piedmont. In fact, they’re listed as rare to uncommon in our area at this time of year, which means some goldeneyes may be in the area, but you may or may notRead more

Spring (almost)

The theme and mood here is decidedly spring-like. The red maple is in bloom, Canada geese are staking out nesting locations, and the wolves, well, our resident female is in estrus and the male is behaving the way he should at this time of year, following the female’s every move, keeping his two ten-month old sons at a distance from his mate, and it’s raining, not snowing. Red maple is one of the earliest trees to bloom. Its tiny redRead more

Hunting in Winter

Can you see the bird in the above photo? It’s a red-shouldered hawk. As mentioned in the previous post, Herps (reptiles and amphibians), there’s been lizard, snake, and frog activity lately. This red shoulder is hunting those creatures. It’s also keeping an eye out for any incautious bird, shrew or rodent. Looking high and low, left and right, the hawk keeps a sharp eye on it’s environment for the slightest movement, ready to pounce. After many minutes (at least anRead more

Herps (reptiles and amphibians)

The seventies and eighties are behind us, for now. It’s back to more normal temps, forties and fifties. But, while the atypically high temps lasted, I was able to find some out and about reptiles and amphibians. It’s not unusual to see a brown snake in winter unless the temps are extreme, on the low side. I saw the northern brown snake, or Dekay’s brown snake, pictured here slowly making its way across the path just uphill from the LemurRead more

Turtles!

If you like turtles, aquatic turtles, you’ll like our wetlands right about now! Turtles galore are out basking in this crazy warm February sunshine! But you better hurry, this 70, and yes, 80 degree weather won’t last long. Highs are expected to be in the forties on Saturday.Read more