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

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

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

Mergansers, Kingfishers, Shiners, and Gambusia (mosquitofish)

Last week, I posted that hooded mergansers, annual visitors from the north, have arrived in our wetlands for the season. They’re busily forming pair-bonds as I write. Over the years I’ve counted as many as 41 mergs at one time floating on our wetland’s water here at the museum. Early in the season it’s not unusual to see larger numbers until the fish-eating diving birds disperse, pairs and small groups choosing their favorite ponds and lakes at which to rest,Read more

Strange Goings On

The photos above and below are of glowworm beetles. The light colored areas of the beetle glow in the dark. They eat millipedes, which may explain why I’ve seen so many of these strange beetles. Millipedes are plentiful this year. So, whatever eats them should do well too. I’ve seen more glowworms this year than my previous nine seasons here at the museum. The beetles pictured are either adult females or larvae. The females carry certain larval characteristics into adulthoodRead 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

Potter Wasp

A hot, humid, and quiet day and a potter wasp has secured a looper caterpillar for its “pot” nest chamber. The wasp descended on the caterpillar as it was looping along the path in front of Into The Mist in Catch the Wind. I was lucky to be there when it happened. Potter wasps are solitary wasps, which means they nest alone, not in colonial gatherings as do some burrowing wasps or in collective hives as do yellowjackets, paper wasps, orRead more

August Has Gone By

August is over and we’re sliding into fall. Here’s a small sampling of sights I witnessed this past month above and beyond what I’ve previously posted. At the top and below are pictures of Bembix wasps. The various, rather gentle, non-aggressive wasp species in the Bembix genus burrow into sand to house and feed their young. They feed the larvae flies. They’re often called sand wasps. The picture above is of a Bembix wasp standing at the entrance to itsRead more