Have a Look Around

Top Photo: American robin on privet. Here’s some things to look for while you stroll around our Outdoor Loop Trail. American robins flock together in winter searching for food sources such as berry laden trees and shrubs. By this date last year Japanese apricot, or Chinese plum (Prunus mume) had been in bloom for two weeks. At this time in 2019 it had blossoms a week prior. It’s just now starting to come into flower this year. Hermit thrushes areRead more

The Hermit and The Hole

Top Photo: Hermit thrush perches on vine in Explore the Wild. There are three thrushes which regularly spend the winter at the museum, eastern bluebird, American robin, and hermit thrush. All are migratory to some extent, though our local robins and bluebirds stay put. Only one is exclusively a winter visitor. Hermit thrushes arrive in our area late September to October. By the middle of May they’re gone. Mostly insectivorous, they consume many berries during the colder, insect deficient winterRead more

Red-shouldered, Stinkhorn, and Mistletoe

Top Photo: Red-shouldered hawk quietly perched in wooded swamp. Every now and then one of our resident red-shouldered hawks displays its complete lack of concern for we humans here at the museum. The red-shoulder in these photos was perched perhaps thirty feet from the walkway in the wooded swamp on the north side of our outdoor loop trail. This past week I noticed two of our adult red-shoulders performing courtship flight maneuvers and even gathering nesting material. One hawk wasRead more

Bears, Burls, and Butter-butts

Top Photo: Mimi bear (right) and Gus bear. After grazing on some winter grass, Mimi bear seemed to be headed for the culvert pipe attraction in her enclosure to slip inside for a nap. Gus bear was already engaged. With a sidelong glance at the slumbering male bear, Mimi slinked off to greener pastures. Recently, Ranger Brooke found a small piece of pine branch with a growth attached. She asked me what I thought it was. I reasoned it aRead more

A Four Hawk Week

Top Photo: A hawk passes over. This past week I saw four hawk species pass overhead here at the museum. In case you would like to have a try at identifying the hawks yourself, I’ll wait several days before filling in the captions with the correct species names. The hawks pictured are not to scale.Read more

Ilex

Top Photo: The red fruit and evergreen leaves of Ilex. Ilex is a genus of largely evergreen flowering plants which are very familiar to most people. Some Ilex have spiked leaves but, surprisingly, most varieties do not. After spring and summer pollination of their tiny white flowers, the plants produce red berries, more correctly called drupes, which persist throughout the fall and winter. The plants in the genus Ilex are more commonly known as hollies. The native holly, American hollyRead more

Eight Lobe-leaved Plant of Japan

Top Photo: Fatsia japonica on Dinosaur Trail. An evergreen shrub, Fatsia japonica is native to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Here, it’s a common and popular landscape plant which does well in full and partial shade. At the museum, its white umbel flowers bloom in November when it attracts many late season insects. Everything from ants to butterflies come to the flowers for their nectar. But there are other posts about the insects that are attracted to the fall blooming flowerRead 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