Brown Snake Babies

Top Photo: Juvenile northern, or DeKay’s, brown snake. Brown snakes are common here at the museum. They can be seen in any month of the year but are most frequently observed in late winter to early spring. They’re most often seen crossing the open pavement from one favored habitat to another, forest floor or grassy areas. It’s not uncommon to see one hanging from the talons or bill of a red-shouldered hawk during that period when the hawk’s nesting isRead more

Mid July Check-in

Top Photo: Eastern rat snake, or black rat snake, smells its way across the path in Explore the Wild. Black rat snakes are known by many different names, chicken snake, alleghany snake, pilot snake with variations on those names and more. Though it may be confusing to consider the various names of the snake, the only other snake you’d likely mistake it for is the black racer. But, racers have smooth scales, all black undersides (except for the chin andRead more

Some Outdoor Goings-on

Top Photo: Two adult red-tailed hawks silhouetted against the clouds as they soar above Butterfly House. Note that each bird is molting. The two red-tailed hawks above successfully nested on the museum grounds. They’re regular nesters. I rarely see eastern cottontails on our 84 acre campus, until this year. I’ve seen more this spring and summer than I have in perhaps the last 14 years of hiking the museum’s trails. Predator numbers must be down. Besides the red-tailed hawks above,Read more

GBH

Top Photo: Great blue heron searching the wetlands. What is the great blue heron searching for when it slowly stalks through the belly deep water of our wetlands? The answer is, whatever it can catch? It eats whatever animal it can snag with its long pointed bill. What does the heron catch? Well, currently in our wetland there’s not that many choices. The resident mosquito fish are quite small. There’re some aquatic insects that might suit the tall, long-legged, wadingRead more

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

The Bold and the Brash

Top Photo: Red swamp crawfish stands its ground when confronted. On a morning following a very wet night, I encountered a crawfish hiking its way across the path adjacent to our wetlands. In typical red swamp crawfish fashion the decapod reared up and challenged me. Red swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii) are bold creatures, but over the years I’ve seen that boldness get them into trouble. They get eaten by frogs, snatched up by red-shouldered hawks and barred owls, nabbed byRead more

A Large Pellet

Our resident great blue heron left an interesting object on the railing of the deck at the Main Wetlands Overlook. It was a pellet. As you may know, pellets are undigested pieces of what a bird eats like bones, fur, exoskeletons, feathers and other indigestibles. The bird regurgitates these objects in the form of a pellet ranging from perhaps a quarter inch to many times that, depending on the size of the bird doing the regurgitating and the material containedRead more

Pairing Up

Top Photo: Two males strut their stuff in the wetlands.. Hooded mergansers are with us from November to April. Soon after they arrive for the winter they begin the pair bond process, finding a mate. The mergansers won’t actually be mating at this time, but instead are forming pair bonds with future mates (I have, though, witnessed copulatory behavior here in our Wetlands). Once the bond is formed the pair may reinforce the bond during the remainder of the winter. This makesRead more

Bill Shape and Feather Shape

  This post was prompted by a comment/question in a previous post about a green heron preening in our Wetlands. The question concerns the existence of a relationship between bill shape and feather shape, “I only thought about beak shape in terms of feeding, but I wonder if there’s a beak shape/feather shape relationship too?” The short answer is, no. But read on. Any question that stimulates the thought process is a good question. This question started me thinking long and hard.Read more

Spring Rolls Along

Spring continues to move along and the flora and fauna here at the Museum rolls along with it. Thousands, no, millions of neotropical migrant birds are moving through our area, flowers are inviting insects to pollinate themselves, tadpoles are becoming frogs, fish eggs have hatched, and an old friend showed up in the Wetlands. Warblers, thrushes, cuckoos, swallows, and many other birds are migrating north at this time. Most migrate at night (less likely to be seen by hungry hawkRead more