Spring Happenings

Happenings over the past few weeks have been a bit overwhelming. Insects that have been held back from emergence by cooler than normal temperatures are doing so now, snakes and other reptiles have been performing their springtime rituals, neotropical migrants are moving through, and local nesters are doing just that, nesting. Some have already fledged their first broods.

It’s been difficult for me to keep up with all of the biological happenings in terms of posting them to this Journal. That being said, here’s a series of photos to keep you informed of some of what I’ve been seeing and experiencing.

Butterfly numbers have been on the increase. Besides the usual early season butterflies, I’ve also seen Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Red-spotted Purples, and even Monarchs over the past few weeks.

A Red-spotted Purple spreads its wings on the gravel road across from Into the Mist in Catch the Wind.
A Red-spotted Purple spreads its wings on the gravel road across from Into the Mist in Catch the Wind.

Dragonflies are emerging and beginning to make ready for next season’s emergence. Common Baskettails, Common Whitetails, Swamp Darners, and several species of damselfly are out and winging about the wetlands and paths of the outdoor areas.

A female Common Whitetail oviposits. She hovers above (left) then dips down into the water depositing her eggs as she does so.
A female Common Whitetail oviposits. She hovers above (left) then dips down into the water depositing her eggs as she goes.

Snakes seem to be everywhere. Worm Snakes, black rat, racers, and of course, water snakes the most noteworthy.

Not often seen out in the open, a Worm Snake slides across the path in Catch the Wind (about 11"in length).
Not often seen out in the open, a Worm Snake slides across the path in Catch the Wind (about 11″ in length).

 

A closer look at this wom-like, in appearance, snake.
A closer look at this worm-like, in appearance, snake.

 

A rat snake on the railing leading to the Black bear Enclosure.
A rat snake on the railing leading to the Black Bear Enclosure.

 

The snake intended to cross, rather than go under, the boardwalk, and it did.
The snake intended to cross, rather than go under, the boardwalk, and it did.

 

The snake's passage held a captive audience at bay.
The snake’s passage held a captive audience at bay.
Do you see what=s about to happen here?
Do you see what’s about to happen here?

Northern Water Snakes have been the most obvious serpentine entertainers in the Wild. They have been openly engaged in feeding and mating, showing little concern for those humans who have been observing them.

Water snakes eat fish, frogs, small turtles, insects, and most anything else that they come across that will fit into their expanding jaws. Tadpoles are certainly on the menu, even those as large as the one in the photo at right.

Considering all of the activity in regard to the seeking and securing of mates that goes on in the spring, these water snakes need nourishment, and there are very many tadpoles and other prey in our Wetlands. The snakes do not go hungry.

The females tend to be the larger sex in water snakes, the males typically thinner and shorter. So if you see two snakes side by side, the smaller of the two is probably a male.

It doesn't seem as though this going to end well for this very large bullfrog tadpole.
It doesn’t seem as though this is going to end well for this very large bullfrog tadpole. Can you see the legs forming on the tadpole? To have come so far ….

You may come across a group of water snakes with one or two large individuals and several smaller ones. The smaller ones are males seeking to mate with the larger snake or snakes.

Three snakes at the bottom right of the log.
Three snakes at the bottom right of the log.

 

Two males and one female.
Two males and one female.

 

Here are five individuals (two females/three males) trying sort out the details.
Here are five individuals (two females/three males) trying sort out the details.

I’ve made much mention of late about the young turtles that I’ve seen emerging from their nests. The total is now at 17 individuals so far this spring. And, as I’ve said here before, there’s no way to tell exactly how many young turtles have made their way into the Wetlands, but I’m confident, positive, that seventeen of them made it at least that far.

With front legs tucked in and hind legs fully extend this little guy soaks up the sun in the Wetlands.
With front legs tucked in and hind legs fully extend this little guy soaks up the sun in the Wetlands.

Migrant birds have arrived, some only temporarily. Have you seen all of the loopers (inch worms) hanging from the trees lately? Most of our migrant bird visitors eat those caterpillars to help fuel them on their journeys north.

Just passing through, this Scarlet tanager searches for food in the canopy.
Just passing through, this Scarlet Tanager searches for food in the canopy.

 

I keep hoping for one of these beauties to nest here (habitat's right), but so far no takers. (Prothonotary Warbler).
I keep hoping for one of these beauties to nest here (habitat’s right), but so far no takers. (Prothonotary Warbler).

 

Black-throated Blue Warblers nest further north as well as in our moutains to the west.
Black-throated Blue Warblers nest further north as well as in our mountains to the west.

 

Scanning the skies for flying insects, this Eastern Kingbird is one of a group of four kingbirds that briefly stopped in last week.
Scanning the skies for flying insects, this Eastern Kingbird is one of a group of four kingbirds that briefly stopped in last week.

 

Looking over its shoulder at perhaps a dragonfly, this tyrant flycatcher is one of my favorite species.
Looking over its shoulder at perhaps a dragonfly, this tyrant flycatcher is one of my favorite species.

 

Another large flycacther, Great-crested Flycatcher does nest here at the Museum.
Another large flycacther, Great-crested Flycatcher, does nest here at the Museum.

 

This great-crested insoects one of our duck nest boxes for suitability (these myarchis flycatchers are cavity nesters.
This great-crested inspects one of our duck nest boxes for suitability (these myiarchus flycatchers are cavity nesters).

 

Another local nester, Gray catbird have been singing their squeaky songs across the campus for the past two weeks.
Another local nester, Gray Catbirds have been singing their squeaky songs across the campus for the past two weeks.

 

I thought this Fish crow up to no good when I first spied it on the Dino Trail, they're known to rob nest of eggs/young.
I thought this Fish Crow up to no good when I first spied it on the Dino Trail, they’re known to rob nests of eggs/young.

 

The same bird calling out from the Albertosaurus.
The same bird calling out from the back of the Albertosaurus.

 

It turns out the crow was only looking for nesting material for its own nest.
It turns out the crow was only looking for nesting material for its own nest.

Green Herons nested in our Wetlands last year, two nests in fact. They raised seven young between them. I saw a heron carrying nesting material this spring but have yet to find a nest.

This male Green Heron is on station in the Wetlands.
This male Green Heron is on station in the Wetlands.

 

A Canada Goose shares a boulder with a painted turtle.
A Canada Goose shares a boulder with a painted turtle.

And finally, a mammal.

This groundhog resides in the Black Bear Enclosure. Look for him there, just to the right and behind the water feature.
This groundhog resides in the Black Bear Enclosure. Look for him there, just to the right and behind the water feature.

See you out and about!

———-Addendum———-

I mentioned above that I had seen Monarch butterflies over the past few weeks. I must admit I was surprised to see as many of them as I had. The source of those Monarchs, however, was not the migrants that I had imagined or expected, they were released at a wedding here at the Museum.

3 responses to Spring Happenings

  1. Avatar
    Joanna says:

    Greg, I just want to tell you that I really enjoy your blog and the stories you tell of all the nature happenings at the museum. I grew up in the country, and feel right at home seeing the many pictures you post of birds, snakes and the like. Next weekend I am bringing my toddler to the museum for the first time, and I look forward to showing him all that the museum holds!

    • Greg Dodge
      Greg Dodge says:

      Thank you Joanna. Stop and say hello on your visit!

  2. Avatar
    richard says:

    Nice butterfly shot! We’re starting to get caterpillars from those Monarchs; look on the milkweeds in the old Pavilion space.
    Perhaps those snake pictures are best reserved for mature audiences!

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