A Caterpillar and a Salamander

Walking down the boardwalk, I noticed a dozen or so pieces of frass ahead of me on the boards. There was a branch of sweet gum tree overhanging the boardwalk directly above the frass. Several leaves had been chewed to mere skeletons. A search through the leaves revealed a large green caterpillar with red spots along its sides. It was a luna moth caterpillar and it was munching away on the leaves of the tree. I see lots of lunaRead more

Summer Pics

A sampling of sights you may witness while strolling through Catch the Wind, Explore the Wild, Hideaway Woods and the Dinosaur Trail. Ranger Martha discovered the following fungi. When perched, hairstreaks slowly rub their hind wings back and forth. This may be a way to attract attention to the rear of the butterfly to fool predators into thinking it’s the head of the insect. Note long, modified scales (false antennae) and red spot (head/eye). The butterfly pictured has damage toRead more

Another Mocha Please

The photos here are of a mocha emerald (Somatochlora linearis). It’s a dragonfly of the forest, near small shady streams. They seem to be more common near streams which dry up during summer. That habitat does occur here at the museum. I’ve only encountered mocha emeralds here on two other occasions. The first was in July of 2008 when I found a partially eaten individual on the path in Catch the Wind. I saw a live mocha in June ofRead more

Catalpa Worms

I’d been waiting for them to appear since the first leaves of the catalpa tree began to sprout earlier in the season. I finally noticed their handiwork on the 18th of June. The large, long-stalked, heart-shaped leaves of the tree were becoming mere skeletons (top photo, 6/18). When I discovered the caterpillars they were about 1/2” long and feeding gregariously with their siblings. They had the potential of reaching 3” in length. They were the larvae of the catalpa sphinxRead more

What’s Happening in the Wild

Above, during a downpour, northern rough-winged swallows take a break from swirling, diving and capturing airborne insects over the wetlands. If, while visiting the museum you park at the parking deck, stop and have a look at the flowers blooming along the path leading to the deck, you may see some interesting insects, including several species of butterfly. Over the past week I’ve been seeing dogbane beetles on their namesake plant along the path of the outdoor loop through ExploreRead more

The Week in Pictures

A quick pictorial trip back to the past week. Flowering dogwood is in bloom (above). Over the past week I began to see aquatic turtles very near the shoreline of our wetlands, peeking up from the water to the shore. I suspected they were searching for safe places to come ashore and lay eggs. The next day I saw two yellow-bellied sliders walking along the path. It’s nesting time. The tadpoles, products of the American toad breeding spree of March,Read more

News from the Outdoor Loop

Many things have occurred over the last week, wildflowers blooming, ducks coming of age, insects emerging and mating, and warmer, more permanent weather has arrived. In a somewhat quiet out-of-the-way location here on our 84 acre campus native wildflowers, like dutchman’s breeches and bloodroot, from an old wildflower trail, have managed to survive amongst various non-natives like English ivy and Japanese honeysuckle. Toothwart’s clusters of white flowers, with a hint of pink or violet, are now blooming (top photo). It’sRead 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