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

Some Sights From the Wild

Hearts a bursting or strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus) is showing off its namesake fruit. There are a dozen or so of these plants across the campus. The easiest to see and photograph is on the Dinosaur Trail, on the right side of the path just past the Albertosaurus. While on the Dino Trail, keep an eye out for a flatworm or land planarian, especially on warm, rainy days. Most people are familiar with planarian worms from biology lab back inRead more

Brief Wetland Look

There’s little doubt that the Wetlands is the most outstanding feature of the Explore the Wild section of our outdoor adventure loop. Fall’s approaching quickly so here’s a very brief glimpse of the summertime wetlands which includes a few subjects you may have to look more closely to see. The most abundant tree of the wetlands is the black willow. Here, it doesn’t reach a height of more than fifteen feet of so. Yellow-bellied sliders are the most common aquaticRead more

July, gone but not forgotten

On its way to the ocean via the Eno River, Falls Lake and Neuse River, Ellerbe Creek runs through our 84 acre campus. Before it reaches us, it flows under an interstate highway (twice), through a golf course, through quiet neighborhoods and under and through a mall, mostly unseen by the local human population. There are a handful of preserves along its 20 mile meander through Durham but for the most part, I’d wager, most folks don’t know it exists.Read more

Mountain Mint

  These large, black wasps are specialist in orthoptera. They provision their underground burrows, or nests, with grasshoppers and katydids. Thread-waisted wasps of the ammophila variety provision their burrow nests with caterpillars or sawfly larvae. Great-golden digger wasps (Sphex ichneumoneus), like the great black wasp above, is an orthopteran specialist. It too uses grasshoppers and katydids to stock the chambers of its burrow nest. Both bees and wasps seem mesmerized by the diminutive flowers. Indirectly attracted to the flowers, thereRead more

June Sightings in The Wild

It’s near the end of June. Below (and above) are photos of some of the creatures I’ve seen during the month. They’re arranged in no particular order. The top photo is of one of the milkweeds, butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). It attracts many insects to it’s flowers, leaves, and seed pods throughout the summer season. Here, you can see new flower buds on the left and older flowers to the right. Some insects go out of their way to attractRead more