Taken For Granted

(Above: red-shouldered hawk wipes bill on railing after eating red swamp crayfish, on post behind hawk) I recently spent a few days at a coastal Virginia hawk watch witnessing hundreds of hawks passing overhead on their migratory treks south. Osprey, sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, harriers, bald eagles, merlins and kestrels made up the bulk of the cast. And, of course, there were lesser birds as palm warblers, parula, kinglets, flickers, as well various butterflies, like monarch, buckeye, and fiery andRead more

What’s to Eat

The grasshopper in the above photo is being disassembled by a yellowjacket. The meaty parts of the hopper will be transported back to the hive where it’ll be placed in cells containing larvae within the hive. The female wasps are busy this time of year as the hive is perhaps at its largest of the season. I found the parts of a red swamp crayfish on the railing of the boardwalk leading to the Black Bear Overlook. It too hadRead more

Red Shoulders and Red Tails

As I walked past the last shrub in the line of hazel alders and into the clearing I was a bit startled by a red-shouldered hawk no more than four feet distance from me, at eye level. The hawk seemed just as surprised as I as we stared wide-eyed at one another on the north edge of the wetland. The hawk’s stare briefly intensified, then relaxed. I slowly backed up so as not to force the hawk to flight. ItRead more

Nest Box Update 4.23.19

There’ve been additional eggs, hatchlings and a change in occupancy since the last nest box inspection. Bluebirds, chickadees and house wrens are all involved. Yes, house wrens have returned from their winter quarters and have very loudly made their presence known. I heard the rolling warble of a house wren as I approached the nest box at the Cow Pasture and immediately started to wonder, ”Had the wrens taken over the chickadee nest inside the box, the chickadee nest whichRead 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

Familiar Faces

If you’ve spent any time walking the paths at the Museum of Life and Science, the following faces may be familiar to you. All of them, save one, are residents in some form. Above (banner photo) is one of our ring-tailed lemurs (Satyrus). Snakes are always a possibilty, even in winter. If you do see a snake during winter it’s probably a brown snake or possibly a garter snake. Everyone has seen one or more of our four black bearsRead more

Spring Happenings

Last week started cool, temperature-wise, but ended with a warmth that brought out all manner of creatures and plants that had been lying in wait for just that moment to arrive. There are a lot of photos to show and things to discuss, so let’s start with the snake above. It was pointed out to me that someone here at the museum had seen a water snake back at the end of February or in early March. We had someRead more

Hunting Hawk

Keep and eye out for the red-shouldered hawk pictured here while you stroll through our outdoor exhibits, especially near the wetlands and the wooded area on the far side of the outdoor loop. This hawk has been actively hunting frogs (mostly pickerel frogs) from low perches, often very close to the path. The hawk is very people tolerant and will allow a close approach. All its attention seems focused on the task, catching food. Don’t push your luck though, itRead more

Red-shouldered Hawk

A common sight here on the museum’s campus is the red-shouldered hawk. This one is fluffed up against the cold as it perches on a branch while surveying the swamp below for movement. Birds often fluff themselves up in cold weather, trapping air between the feathers effectively raising their R-value. Our resident red-shoulders are fairly tame, that is, they’re quite used to people. I’ve walked past them at a distance of less than ten feet without causing alarm. You couldRead more