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

New Arrivals in Wetlands

Top Photo: Paddling out in the wetlands (new wetlands structure coming). If you’ve been out in Explore the Wild lately you may have noticed several new arrivals in and around the Wetlands, a floating walkway, geese, ducks, and a snake. First, the walkway. A new floating walkway across at least part of our wetlands has arrived in sections and is now in the process of being bolted together in Explore the Wild. If you stroll through the area, you mostRead more

Herons

Top Photo: Great blue heron. Great blue herons (GBHs) are by far the most often observed heron in our wetlands. They, along with green herons, nest locally. Though green herons tend to move either to the coast or to the south after mid October, great blue herons may be seen at any time of the year. A thick layer of ice on the pond is the only deterrent to a great blue heron showing up. Frogs, fish, in fact, anyRead more

Gall Midges

Top Photo: Cypress flower midge galls on bald cypress needles (November). When female cypress flower gall midges emerge in the spring they mate and immediately lay eggs on fresh green needles of bald cypress trees. The feeding larvae which hatch from the eggs stimulate the needles into forming flower shaped galls on their surfaces. The galls look very much like tiny fungi, but inside each one of the little “mushrooms” is a larva of a cypress flower gall midge. TheRead more

You Had to Be There

Top Photo: Hermit thrush surveys its winter quarters near red wolf enclosure at museum. A hermit thrush can be difficult to spot when sitting motionless amongst branches, twigs, and leaves of trees. Even while it calls out with a chup…chup…chup or slowly repeats a slurry, whistled tone, it can be hard to pin down. Perseverance sometimes pays off when the bird switches perch, the movement catching your eye, and you got him. While walking along a service road out ofRead more