Spring just keeps on rollin’ along, and the pace is quickening. Many insects are emerging, flowers blooming, and birds migrating, whether returning to the local habitats or just passing through on their way further north.
Here’s some of what’s been happening over the last week or so here at the Museum, in no particular order.
An early season dragonfly.
The blue corporal is named for the mature male’s blue color and the two stripes on the insect’s “shoulders,” one on each shoulder (the rank of corporal in the military is represented as two stripes or chevrons).
One of several butterflies that overwinter as adults but are active on warm days is the comma.
A native (almost) shrub or small tree, buckeye is in bloom.
The native buckeye here on the piedmont is yellow or painted buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica). It has yellowish flowers. Red buckeye is common on the coastal plain.
Below, a distinctly non-native shrub, autumn olive. It produces small reddish fruit with tiny silver dots that are edible. They taste like a sweet tart. They have very large seeds relative to the size of the fruit. The flowers are exceptionally fragrant.
A tree from China, dawn redwood. Thought to be extinct until rediscovered in China in 1944, dawn redwood is the smallest of the redwoods, although it can get to more than 160 feet in height. They are deciduous conifers.
A native tree and North Carolina’s state flower, flowering dogwood.
An unfortunate encounter with a hawk? The feathers below belonged to a northern flicker, a woodpecker. I don’t know what the cause of death was. It may have been a window strike (it was next to the Sprout Cafe here at the museum) and an animal, perhaps feral cat or gray fox, picked it up and carried it to a nearby picnic area to be eaten. It may also have been a hawk which subdued the woodpecker. There were many more feathers nearby.
A small native shrub with several odd names, American Strawberry-Bush, Hearts-a-Burstin’, Bursting Heart, Brook Euonymus…is about to bloom. Whatever you call it, it’s easy to bypass at this time of year. The flowers are inconspicuous to say the least. The one pictured below is just now budding. Its latin name is Euonymus americanus (u-ON-uh-mus)
A small tree with very hard wood and at least two names, ironwood or hop hornbeam is a small tree which likes shade. It’s an understory tree.
A non-native shrub, mahonia produces purple berries which are bitter but edible. Jam can be made from the fruit.
A year-round resident, pine warblers can sometimes be heard singing throughout the winter season. The song is a somewhat flat rolling trill. The bird below, along with several yellow-rumped warblers (winter visitors here at the museum) was on the pavement pecking at some undetermined food item.
A cultivated viburnum, well represented here at the museum, is in bloom.
Waxmyrtle, a draw for the above mentioned winter visiting yellow-rumped warbler, has indistinct yellowish flowers.
Although we do have the native wisteria on the property, the variety below is of Asian origin.
Leaving our area in October, gray catbirds typically return in April. They announce their return with a squeaky yet sweet song.
I thought I was seeing the swarming of ants when I noticed the insects below taking flight from a pine stump on the Dinosaur trail. A closer look revealed they were termites. The wings, twice the size of the bodies, and straight antennae gave it away.
A small tree which produces edible fruit, serviceberry is now in bloom.
Preferring cherries to other trees, tent caterpillars are building their silken tents on our resident cherries.
A Virginia pine borer or sculptured pine borer (Chalcophora virginiensis) was on the path on the Dinosaur Trail. This beetle is one of the metallic woodboring beetles. The larvae of these beetles feed on pines. The life cycle may last two years.
Year round residents, brown thrashers are related to the catbird above, they’re both mimic thrushes. The thrashers have a more melodious song.
As I mentioned, things are moving along swiftly. If you don’t get out there and have a look around you’ll miss all of this and probably more.