February

Despite the 70 degree temps we’re experiencing, it’s February. And, what happens every February here at the Museum of Life and Science? Hazel alder blooms. The golden flecks of wind-borne pollen sail through the air from the male catkins to the upright reddish female flowers (photo above). Look for the alders on the north side of the wetlands in Explore the Wild. Each February, brown-headed nuthatches pound away on the soft wood of some recently expired black willow in ourRead more

Mystery Tree

Always on the lookout for new or unusual flora and fauna here at the museum, Ranger Martha spotted a small tree or shrub growing along the path across from the Farmyard. What caught her eye were the numerous pink buds and flowers (about 1”) on the plant. Not knowing what the plant was she took several photos and started asking questions. Martha showed the photos to me. I was of little help, even after examining the plant in person. It seemed,Read more

Winter Continues

We’ve had both warm and cold weather so far this season, mostly warm. Regardless of the temperature, things are rolling along as always; sunny days bring out turtles to bask, ducks feed, court, and rest in our wetland, and Mahonia blooms as it always does this time of year on the Dinosaur Trail and elsewhere around the campus. There seems to have been an unusual amount of fungi this fall and winter, perhaps due to the significant rain we’ve experienced.Read more

Woodpecker vs Window

Chances are, you’ve been sitting quietly at your kitchen table or lounging on your living room couch and heard a loud thump at your sliding glass door or living room window. Upon inspection, you noticed a bird sprawled out on your deck or lawn. Or, the bird may have been standing there below the door or window motionless, dazed and confused. The chances of this happening are greatly increased if you have a bird feeder in your yard. Even so,Read more

Early Winter

The photos on this page were taken on December 11 following an early season snowstorm. It doesn’t typically snow in central North Carolina until January or February. This storm came early and left over a foot of snow in some areas. The spider in the photos is a marbled orb weaver (Araneus marmoreus). Spiders can and do produce a type of antifreeze and they can survive cold while living in the leaf liter, crevices in trees or rocks, or evenRead more

Seeds

Airborne seed dispersal is an efficient way to get the next generation off to a good start far from the original. Considering an acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, that’s quite a feat for a stationary plant (acorns may be carried miles from the mother tree by birds, such as bluejays, but that’s another story). In both photos above and below groundsel tree (a shrub) lets loose its seeds via the wind. A puff of wind is all youRead more

Winter

Hiking around the outdoor loops here at the museum can be rewarding, you never know what you’ll come across. Even though I’ve walked these trails for some eleven years now I and my fellow rangers are still finding new things to discover. A few weeks ago, Ranger Martha discovered a group of earthstar mushrooms on the Dinosaur Trail. Initially, earthstars look like onions. Eventually the outer “onion” layer splits open creating a star-shaped platform on which sits a small ball-shapedRead more

Falling Into Winter

We’re on the back side of fall and sliding into winter. There’s still much going on out-of-doors with lots to see if you keep an eye open to it. Here’s some of what I’ve been seeing. Asters are late summer and fall blooming flowers. They’re still blooming in the garden in front of our Butterfly House. Red buckeye fruit have already burst open spilling their large brown seeds (buckeyes) to the ground. Several common snapping turtle hatchlings were spotted bothRead more

Questionmark Pears

There are more than a few Bradford pear trees on our 84 acre campus. One, a volunteer that sprouted next to our north parking lot has been dropping fruit. The rotting fruit is attracting flies, bees, and butterflies. One butterfly in particular is the question mark. It belongs to a group of butterflies known as anglewings, referring to the angular edges of the wings. Question marks are named for small whitish markings on the underwings, a “c” and a dot.Read more

Season Changes and The Wolves

Migration has been underway for several months. Most of the northern insectivorous birds have passed us by for warmer climates. The majority of our local insect-eating birds have long since departed. Some still linger, like catbird, but they’re on their way out. Granivores like juncos, white-throated sparrows and others will arrive soon. It can’t be long before the butter-butts (yellow-rumped warblers) come in. I heard a yellow-bellied sapsucker the other day. Our winter visiting hooded mergansers should arrive next month.Read more