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

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

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

The Laugher and a Few Birds

Top Photo: The laugher moth caterpillar (Charadra deridens). The name “The Laugher” given to a moth with the scientific name of Charadra deridens is named for the adult moth which supposedly has, on its folded wings, the likeness of a man laughing. I don’t have a photo of the adult moth, but there are many on the internet. If you wish to have a peek yourself here’s a link to some of those pictures at BugGuide.Net. When looking at theRead more

Mimosa and the Web

Top Photo: Mimosa leaves with mimosa webworm infestation. Both mimosa the tree and the webworm are non-native and considered invasive species. The tree was introduced into the United Sates during the mid 18th century. Most sources quote 1745 as the year of introduction as an ornamental. Mimosa is a legume and produces copious amounts of long, seed containing pods. The seeds are very hardy and stay viable for years. New trees pop up all around the mother tree, even sproutingRead more

A Few Fall Encounters

Top Photo: Eastern Phoebe. Eastern phoebes can be seen in every month of the year in central North Carolina. Here at the museum, they nest under the boardwalk each spring/summer and are present in all but the coldest months of the year, although some years I see them regularly throughout the four seasons. The phoebe above is in fresh fall plumage. You can see the distinctive greenish belly and chin on this newly molted bird. The green tint will soonRead more

Three Birds

Top Photo: Gray catbird. If the catbird in the photos looks a bit disheveled, it’s because it’s molting. By the time it’s ready to migrate south it’ll be neat and trim. Catbirds arrive at the museum by mid April each year. By mid October, most are gone. I’ve seen catbirds on campus in mid winter, but it’s the exception, not the rule. In the photo below you can see the rust colored feathers under the tail which are often overlookedRead more