What’s Happening in the Wild

Above, during a downpour, northern rough-winged swallows take a break from swirling, diving and capturing airborne insects over the wetlands. If, while visiting the museum you park at the parking deck, stop and have a look at the flowers blooming along the path leading to the deck, you may see some interesting insects, including several species of butterfly. Over the past week I’ve been seeing dogbane beetles on their namesake plant along the path of the outdoor loop through ExploreRead more


No, TACO Week doesn’t mean we here at the museum will be making, serving, or eating tacos, although you can eat tacos that week if you desire. TACO Week is short for Take A Child Outdoors Week. You should already be doing that, taking your kids out of doors, as often as you can. But, this is just a reminder, an excuse, in case it slipped your mind. This year, TACO Week is from 24 thru 30 September. Though we’reRead 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

A Butterfly, a Flycatcher, and an Intro to Trig

By all accounts this has been a slow year for Monarchs. I’ve seen five flying over the Museum’s airspace this fall on their way south to Mexico. The numbers of Monarchs seen here are never great, but five is particularly disapointing. It may be wishful thinking to say that the weather has not been conducive to a good Monarch flight here in the Piedmont. I hope that’s all it is. While photogrpahing the Monarch above, two phoebes were calling fromRead more


The butterfly in the above image is a Viceroy. It’s sometimes confused with a Monarch butterfly because of its coloration, orange background with black and white markings. Some key differences in the two are that Viceroys are smaller than Monarchs, have a more rapid wing beat, and the Viceroy has a transverse bar across its rear wings which the Monarch lacks. The host food of Monarchs is milkweed. Viceroys prefer willows, so your chances of seeing a Viceroy are increasedRead more

Two Ladies and a Monarch

About a week and a half ago there were several Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies in the flower garden out in front of the Butterfly House. Painted Ladies don’t breed in this area so it was a bit unusual to see them. The butterflies were pointed out to me by Richard Stickney (Butterfly House Conservatory), but I had seen them the day before at the close of the day. However, I had passed them off as American Ladies (Vanessa virginiensis),Read more

Migrants, Avian and Lepidopteran

The first White-throated Sparrow of the season showed up at the feeders at Flying Birds in Catch the Wind on Thursday, 14 October. Although I’ve been predicting an eagle for the past few weeks (wishful thinking), I really expected one yesterday (10/15) as the winds and timing were conducive to the passage of the big birds. It didn’t happen, or at least I didn’t see one. I did happen to see an American Kestrel moving through, flapping and gliding directlyRead more

The Monarch and the Skiff

The Monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) that I’ve been monitoring on the Butterfly Weed in Catch the Wind has disappeared. The larva was last seen on 25 September. The next opportunity that I had to check the caterpillar’s whereabouts was the twenty-eighth, three days later. The caterpillar has apparently gone off to pupate. I searched, and searched, and searched, but could not find a chrysalis. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a chrysalis, but that I couldn’t find one. Hopefully, the caterpillarRead more