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

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

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

You Had to Be There

Top Photo: Hermit thrush surveys its winter quarters near red wolf enclosure at museum. A hermit thrush can be difficult to spot when sitting motionless amongst branches, twigs, and leaves of trees. Even while it calls out with a chup…chup…chup or slowly repeats a slurry, whistled tone, it can be hard to pin down. Perseverance sometimes pays off when the bird switches perch, the movement catching your eye, and you got him. While walking along a service road out ofRead more

GBH and more Fall Colors

Top Photo: Great blue heron with fluffed out neck feathers. Great blue herons (GBHs) are not as regular visitors as they once were, so it’s nice to see one in our wetlands. Things are changing rapidly. Seasonal colors peak and fall. Don’t miss it. Don’t miss a minute of it.Read more

Groundhogs, a Little Bear, and a Hawk

Top Photo: Oak stump and resident groundhog. Strolling through Wander Away in Catch the Wind, I noticed a gray, furry head poking out from the side of a large oak stump on the side of the path. I immediately stopped and reached for my camera. Inching forward, I was able to get a few shots of the young groundhog whose head was posed at the entrance to its burrow, its nose twitching for scent. Groundhogs are fairly common sights hereRead more