From Hummingbirds to Mushrooms

Top Photo: A lichen “pipe.” What appears at first to be some sort of corn-cobish kind of smoking pipe is actually a ruby-throated hummingbird nest. Ranger Dakota noticed it lying in the leaf litter adjacent to the Farmyard. As soon as I saw the object I knew it was a hummers nest, about 1 3/4” high, 1 1/2” across and covered with lichen. The nest must have fallen from a loblolly pine above us on the path. The delicate lookingRead more

Eastern Phoebe – Quick ID

Top Photo: Eastern phoebe. The same bird in different light. Eastern phoebes are locally nesting residents who can be seen in and around our wetlands during every month of the year. They’re easy to identify due to their plainness. They’re brownish-green on their upperparts and not-quite-white on their underparts. They frequently vocalize, “ Fee-be, Fee-be,” and they have a persistent habit of pumping their tail up and down. Young birds are often greenish below. Don’t be surprised if you seeRead more

A Disturbance in the Wetlands

Top Photo: Ripples in the water. Near the end of the day, two museum visitors coming up from the wetlands in Explore the Wild stopped me to ask a question, “Are there otters in the wetlands?” Apparently, they’d seen something that “looked very much like an otter.” I thought perhaps they’d seen a mink. I’ve seen mink fairly often down in the wetlands. But when our guests mentioned there were two of them, a picture of frolicking otters flashed acrossRead more

More Fall Sights

Top Photo: Hearts-a-bursting on the Dinosaur Trail. The second week of fall brought even more new sights than the first. Read on to find out what. Euonymus may be known to gardeners by various names, burning bush, golden euonymus, winter creeper, and others, all non-native plants in the genus Euonymus. However, hearts-a-busting, or bursting hearts (Euonymus americanus) is a native understory shrub which can be seen at various places along our outdoor trail loop. It’s also know as strawberry bushRead more

Northern Water Snake vs Copperhead (rerun)

Top Photo: Copperhead Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten several emails with attached photos requesting the identification of the snake in the pictures (copperhead). With that in mind, and the fact that fall is upon us, and copperheads will be moving about more, I offer a link to a previous post on distinguishing copperhead from northern water snake, both locally common on the North Carolina Piedmont. The following first appeared in May of 2013 Click here > Northern WaterRead more

Meteorologically, Fall

Top Photo: Green heron works the “turtle logs” in the wetlands. It is, according to climatologists and meteorologists, fall. I agree. Days are getting shorter. Trees that’ve been pumping water and nutrients from their roots to their leaves have slowed down production. And although it’s still mighty hot outside during the day, the night time temps seem to be moderating. Here’s some of the things that have been going on during the first week of Fall. Though they’ll be leavingRead more

The Squirrel at the Train Station

Top Photo: Gray squirrel enjoying bird seed. If you’ve ever ridden the Ellerbe Creek Railroad at the museum you may have seen this or another squirrel at the bird feeders. The rodent has no fear of people, feeds at its own leisure, and is quite plainly entertaining to watch. We have “squirrel proof” feeders at our official bird feeding site, Bird Viewing, in Catch the Wind. The feeder at the Train Station is more or less a freebie. Oh, andRead more

Eggs, Caterpillars, Stinkbugs and Laternflies

Top Photo: Hummingbird moth (Hemaris thysbe) egg on viburnum flower buds (shiny, round, green object). Hummingbird moth eggs are very small, about 1mm – 1.5mm. To see one of those swift flying, diurnal moths lay an egg requires being in the right place at the right time. Standing next to a viburnum (frequent host plant for this species) is a good place to be. I’m not sure of the right time, though a bright sunny summer’s day seems about right.Read more

Hackberry

Top Photo: Hackberry emperor caterpillar. Sometimes things just present themselves to you. While walking through Catch the Wind, a small green caterpillar dropped out of the sky and onto the pavement at my feet. I couldn’t quite place the caterpillar at first. Due to the “forked tail” on the caterpillar I assumed it was one of the prominents, a family of moths (Notodontidae) which consist of 60 some species of eastern forest moths. After searching through a most helpful guideRead more

Treefrog Encounter

Top Photo: Freshly morphed green treefrog clings to rush stem at edge of wetlands. While making the first round of the day through the Outdoor Loop at the museum, we rangers discovered a group of juvenile green and gray treefrogs in Explore the Wild. The frogs were clinging to the vegetation next to the sandstone steps at Water’s Edge. Most of the treefrogs were green treefrogs, a few were Cope’s gray. The frogs are clearly making use of the duckRead more