Comings and Goings

Top Photo: Tree swallow rests on a snag between nesting duties. Tree swallows have chosen to nest in the oversized (for them) wood duck nest box in our wetlands. We’ve hosted wood ducks, great-crested flycatchers, raccoons, European hornets and tree swallows as well as some creatures I may not be aware of. All are welcome. This is the third year in a row for the swallows. Mulberries are having a bumper year at the museum and the birds are lovingRead more

More Spring Sightings and a Red Wolf Observation

Top Photo: Male common whitetail. Common whitetails are everywhere. Ponds, lakes, even slow moving rivers and streams are home to this ubiquitous skimmer. The standout white/blue abdomen and dark marks on the wings lend to the easy recognizability of the male. The female too, is easily recognized by the three dark markings on each of her four wings. They both tend to perch low to, or directly on, the ground. Another early season dragonfly making an appearance is the blueRead more

Caterpillars Galore, a Mushroom, and a Broken Heart

Top Photo: Virginia tiger moth caterpillar. For those who appreciate lepidopteran larvae, last week was caterpillar paradise. Collectively, we rangers found several Virginia tiger moth caterpillars (above and below), a dozen banded sphinx moth caterpillars, a couple of smartweed or smeared dagger moth caterpillars, a southern flannel moth caterpillar and a camouflaged looper. And, thanks to Landscape Tech Jenn we got to see a couple of cauliflower mushrooms. Virginia tiger moth (Spilosoma virginica), also known as yellow bear caterpillar, canRead more

Early Fall Things To Discover

Top Photo: Yellowjacket picking over annual cicada. The yellowjacket in the images above and below is scavenging protein from a dead cicada on the path. Yellowjacket larvae back in the hive are fed protein in the form of whole insects or chunks of meat harvested from caterpillars and other larger animals, even from a picnicker’s ham sandwich. The yellowjackets take the meat back to the hive and feed it directly to larvae in cells within the hive after it’s beenRead more

A Moon Moth and a Monarch

Top Photo: Luna moth waits out the day clinging to a conifer. It’s always exciting to see a luna moth, whether its clinging to vegetation or gracefully fluttering though the trees. Though nocturnal, they’re quite often seen during the day. Males can be told from females by much broader, feathery antennae. The female’s antennae are feathery, but much less so. The added material on the male’s antennae assists in picking up the scent of pheromones given off by the females.Read more

Dazzling Sights on the MLS Outdoor Loop

Top Photo: Rat snake crosses path in front of me. A walk around our outdoor loop through the Dinosaur Trail, Explore the Wild, and Catch the Wind can be relaxing and rewarding. You never know what you’re going to run into. Anything from snakes to folded-wing skippers is possible, and frankly, expected. Here’s some of the things I bumped into this past week. The photos above and below are of a common local resident, rat snake. The individual above isRead more

A Change in the Air

Top Photo: Yona (right) approaches Little Bear at pool in Black Bear Enclosure. Its wasn’t long ago that Yona Bear was a loner among loners, always off by herself. She was aggressive towards the other bears in the enclosure. It seemed, she had a chip on her shoulder. Black bears by nature are solitary creatures, but Yona, our second youngest bear of the four in the enclosure, was even more of an isolationist. She was habitually off on her own,Read more

Polyphemus

Top Photo: Polyphemus (pol-uh-FEE-muhs) moth cocoon hanging from twig in Earth Moves. Some silk moths spend the winter in cocoons in the leaf liter. Some burrow underground. At least some Polyphemus moths winter as pupa wrapped up and hanging from a twig or branch of their host tree via a peduncle. The further south Polyphemus moths live, the more likely this behavior. Occasionally, though, these hanging cocoons drop off into the leaf liter. The one pictured here was found hangingRead more

October

Top Photo: Thorny olive flowers. If you happen to be strolling past the Farmyard and sense something powerfully fragrant invading your nose, it’s probably thorny olive (Elaeagnus pungens). It’s related to autumn olive and Russian olive, two invasive shrub species from Asia. We have much autumn olive on our campus, no Russian olive that I’m aware of and just a few locations overgrown with thorny olive which tends to ascend trees and nearby structures when it can. Thorny olive, unlikeRead more