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

Black Swallowtail and Apiaceae

Top Photo: Black swallowtail caterpillar on carrot. Along with the monarch butterfly caterpillar, the black swallowtail is one of the most familiar butterfly caterpillars. Anyone who has grown carrots, parsley, fennel, or any other plant in the Apiaceae family of plants has, at one time or another, had the black, yellow, and green caterpillars happily devouring the plants before their eyes. Many people, myself included, plant parsley or fennel specifically to attract the butterflies and watch them go through theirRead more

Transitions, Variations, and Life & Death

Top Photo: Tobacco hornworm on tomato plant. The tobacco hornworm, or Carolina sphinx, and tomato hornworm, or five-spotted hawk moth, both use nightshade as a food plant including tomato and tobacco plants. And, they’re both subjected to attack by a tiny parasitoid wasp called a braconid wasp. With the help of her ovipositor, the minuscule wasp lays eggs just under the skin of the caterpillar. The eggs hatch and the larvae begin eating the caterpillar from within. When the timeRead more

Hummingbird Bird and Moth

Top Photo: Juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird, rapidly beating wings blurred to near invisibility, hovers in front of trumpet vine’s tubular flowers. There are 16 species of hummingbird that breed in the United States. There’s only one species in the eastern states, ruby-throated hummingbird. If you see a hummingbird in North Carolina in summer, it’s a ruby-throated. From October into winter it’s most likely a different species that you see at your feeder, unless you’re on the Gulf Coast or ourRead more

New and Old Things Emerging

Top Photo: Tiny yellow flower of Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumber. The fruit of the Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumber is about an inch long. They look more like tiny watermelons but have the taste of a cucumber with a lemony tang. These vines grow in many locations throughout our campus, wherever they’re not supposed to grow. I intended to plant this vegetable in my own personal garden at home this year but was sidetracked by other matters. I’ll make sure toRead more

Bees, Leaf-footed Bugs, Luna Moths and More

Top Photo: Eastern tiger swallowtail nectars on coreopsis. Though they’re more obvious during spring when the white-faced males emerge to patrol areas around suitable nest sites for females, carpenter bees are active all season long. Spring, though, is when you’re most likely to run into one and perhaps be buzzed by the harmless males. Later in the summer they’re much less noticeable, but still around. You’ll probably see more females at this time of year and they’ll be more passiveRead more

What’s Out There

Top Photo: Mushrooms rise up through fresh mulch. The small, gilled mushrooms pictured here all emerged from mulch in Explore the Wild on the same day. The following day, they had disappeared. All that remained were a few stragglers. I’m not sure of the identity of these fungi. If you have an opinion, it’s welcomed. If you’re headed out to Earth Moves in Catch the Wind, you’ll probably run into a cloud of mist on your way. We’ve installed mistersRead more

Secret Spot

Top Photo: The view from the Secondary Wetlands Overlook. When you find a nice quiet “secret” spot to sit and rest, think, or meditate, it’s a good idea not to tell all of your friends, it will soon become a not-so-secret spot. I feel compelled, though, to tell you about this one. You’ll find out on your own anyway, sooner or later. It’s the Secondary Wetlands Overlook. It’s been “done-over” and remade into a shady rest stop for weary walkers.Read more

What’s Out There?

Top Photo: Great blue skimmer with prey. In one rather quick trip around the outdoor loop here at the museum I came upon a good bunch of interesting sights. In no particular order, here’s some of them. There are banana trees planted at several locations throughout the museum’s outdoor areas. The one pictured is in the garden next to Sprouts Cafe. Pomegranate is growing next to the bananas. Along the edge of that same garden I spotted a banded longhornRead more

A Poke, a Grab, and a Click

Top Photo: pokeweed raceme with flowers and unripe fruit. Pokeweed is a native, eastern North American plant. It grows in undisturbed areas. Its main stalk, stems and even flower racemes are shades of purple-red, boysenberry to magenta in color. It can grow more than six feet in height. It’s one of my favorite weeds. The entire plant is listed as toxic. But, I’ve read where the deep purple berries can be made into jam after the seeds are removed. InRead more