Turtles in Winter

While most species of aquatic turtles are inactive, tucked-away on the bottom of a pond in the leaf litter and mud, our resident sliders tend to become active throughout the colder months. All it takes is a few bright sunny days. Among the local turtles, yellow-bellied and red-eared sliders, eastern painted turtle, common musk turtle, and common snapping turtle, it’s the sliders that are most often seen out basking in late fall and winter. The water is shallow in ourRead more

Snapping Turtle Roll

As I walked on the boardwalk past the entrance to the Black Bear Exhibit I heard splashing noises and low hissing sounds beneath me. Looking over the railing I could see two snapping turtles rolling in the water below the walkway. Common in our wetland and any other water habitat in the area, common snapping turtles typically breed in the spring to early summer. I’ve seen what appears to be mating attempts once in August and again this month (September).Read more

Early Fall

The bullfrog in the top photo was one a four spotted yesterday at the end of the boardwalk in Explore the Wild. Bullfrogs can sit very still while waiting for prey to come along then spring forth with lightning speed to capture and swallow that prey. They eat just about anything that comes close enough to snatch, insects, fish, smaller frogs, crawfish, even birds. Up until this week I’d only seen two snakes in our wetlands the past season, anRead more

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

Blind Snake

While walking along the path on the Dino Trail the other day, a small brown snake entered the path in front of me from the banana trees and palms that line the paved walkway. The pattern on the back of the approximately 10″ – 11″ snake immediately identified it as a copperhead. According to the literature, copperheads are born live in late summer or early fall. They’re 8” – 9” at birth. This snake was born last year. There wasRead 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

Due to the Revolution…

Frogs and toads are breeding, butterflies flying, groundhogs foraging, birds migrating and early season flowers are blooming. The white common blue violet in the above picture has been blooming for over a week on the path leading away from the Lemur House. There are also many of the blue form of violet along the same stretch of path. American toads and pickerel frogs were vigorously calling and mating on the warm afternoons of the second full week of March. ManyRead more

Hunting in Winter

Can you see the bird in the above photo? It’s a red-shouldered hawk. As mentioned in the previous post, Herps (reptiles and amphibians), there’s been lizard, snake, and frog activity lately. This red shoulder is hunting those creatures. It’s also keeping an eye out for any incautious bird, shrew or rodent. Looking high and low, left and right, the hawk keeps a sharp eye on it’s environment for the slightest movement, ready to pounce. After many minutes (at least anRead more