Oddly Red

Top Photo: Redbud beginning to bloom in the last week of October. Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a March bloomer in Durham County and surrounding areas. It was odd, but not totally surprising, to see buds about to open up on a redbud tree on the Dinosaur Trail this past week. Not surprising because, after all, we’ve been experiencing very mild weather with not a hint of frost. Even so, many of the leaves on this particular tree had turned toRead more

A Hooded Surprise

Top Photo: A whir of wings and slap, slap, slap of webbed feet on the water as the birds take off. If you’re the first person of the day to descend the boardwalk leading to Explore the Wild you may see the mergansers in close to or under the boardwalk rousting out any mosquitofish, aquatic insects or crayfish that may be hanging out in the shadows. The birds are shy. If the birds see you coming they may simply swimRead more

Photo Ops

There are many opportunities to capture interesting photogrpaphic images while on a walk around Explore the Wild and Catch the Wind. Timing and luck play their parts, and of course the amount of time one spends on the outdoor loop here at the Museum helps expose one to more opportunities, but one thing is for sure, you have to be there in person to photographic whatever it is that’s happening. Here’s some of the images I captured last week. TheRead more

Lost Dinner

As I walked down the boardwalk into Explore the Wild, I noticed nine or so mergansers fishing for bullfrog tadpoles next to the boardwalk at the point where in goes to pavement. One of the birds was violently shaking something in its bill. I thought it a tadpole and tried to capture an image of the bird swallowing the amphibian. I watched as the bird shook the object and then drop it in the water, apparently to reposition it forRead more

Giant Waterbug w/eggs

I was on a mission to secure aquatic invertebrates from the Wetlands for Nancy Dragotta-Muhl (Learning Communities). It was Magic Wings Festival time and she wanted to have some insects on display at her table outside of the Butterfly House for folks to see as they wandered around the area listening to the rhythms of global music in the plaza. One haul of the net from the brown water of the Wetlands yielded two Giant Waterbugs, insects in the familyRead more

The Crayfish Among Us: Part I

During a Wetlands program for a school group last week, Master Teacher Courtney captured a crayfish which had strange growths on its head. Immediately upon seeing the crustacean, I suspected mites. I took a few photos of the crayfish and at the end of the program the decapod was released into the water along with all the other specimens used for the program. That was that, or so I thought. I became skeptical of the mites explanation after looking at theRead more

Walking Crawfish

It has rained the past two weekends. After a rainfall the Wetlands’ crawfish get up and have a walkabout. I’m not quite sure what the reason is for these expeditions, although I believe it to be a search for new areas to colonize by the crawfish. Since their gills need to stay wet in order to function (The gills are attached to the walking legs) the animals can walk around in the wet grass following the rain as long asRead more

Mergs Return, Heron Fishing Strategy

Having been absent from the Wetlands since the third week of March, Hooded Mergansers have returned. Three males and two females were first seen swimming and diving in the Wetlands on 12 November. If you’re not exactly sure of what a Hooded Merganser is, there’s a photo at left. To see a brief video of both a male and female of this attractive fish eating duck, go to: http://grdodge.com/gdonline.htm and click on “Hooded Merganser.” With the arrival of the mergansers,Read more

Some Most Unusual Beetles and other Goodies

While watching a small Northern Water Snake stalk frogs from the Wetlands Overlook, I happened to see something wiggling amongst the dense plants in the water. A quick look through my binoculars revealed two large Predaceous Diving Beetle larvae locked in mortal combat, one had a death grip on the other. These larvae were quite large. Depending upon the species, Predacious Diving Beetle larvae, or Water Tigers as they’re sometimes called, can get to 70 mm (2.75”). They have largeRead more