Moon (just a phase its going through)

Top Photo: Nearly full waxing gibbous moon with “V” of double-crested cormorants passing over various lunar mares.* You can’t see it now, it’s heavily overcast and raining, but as I write this, the moon is nearly full, waxing gibbous. On December 7 it will be full and thereafter begins the waning side of its phases until the new moon on the 23rd of the month. Here’s a handful of shots of various phases. Enjoy! *Both cormorants and eagle were photoshoppedRead more

The Hermit at the Wolves

Top Photo: Looking down at wintering thrush. Of all the spot-breasted, brown-backed thrushes in North America, the hermit thrush is the one that winters furthest north. If you see a spot-breasted thrush at the museum in winter it most surely is a hermit thrush. Hermit thrushes can switch their diet from insects and small invertebrates to berries in winter, which allows them to spend their winters further north than their relatives. The other thrushes spend their winters in Central andRead more

Mid-November

Top Photo: Two of six hooded mergansers circle wetlands. As in every year since I’ve been working at the museum, hooded mergansers have arrived in our wetlands by mid November. This year, six were spotted on the early date of November 9, though only two of them actually dropped in. Four birds were seen making a pass at the museum’s wetlands but continued on elsewhere. Since that day, they’ve been seen on the 12th and again on the 15th whenRead more

Yellowjacket, Green Anole, Winter Wren, and Marbled Spider

Top Photo: A worker yellowjacket enters the tunnel to its subterranean hive. Yellowjackets nest underground, though they may construct a hive in a hollowed out log, under the siding of your house, or in other seemingly vacant and unattended cavities. The ground, however, is the most frequent site chosen by a queen in spring. A single queen constructs the below-ground hive and tends to the initial eggs, larvae and pupae. Once workers emerge from pupation they take over all dutiesRead more

The Warblers and The Aphids

Top Photo: Northern Parula on river birch. The other day while down in Explore the Wild on a cool October morning there was an active group of migrant songbirds working the trees along the shoreline. The group was composed of mostly yellow-rumped warblers, a few northern parulas and some kinglets. While the yellow-rumped warblers (butter-butts) were attracted to the wax myrtle fruit, which is in abundance this year, a river birch tree held the attention of the other birds inRead 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

A Dropped Feather

Top Photo: What bird’s feather? I found the feather (above) on the path, not far from the Dinosaur Trail. I knew it was a primary feather, one of the last primaries, furthest out on the wing. The outer primaries tend to be long and narrow in comparison to the inner primaries and secondaries. This feather was about 87 mm long. A primary feather that long would probably belong to a bird about the same size of a robin, or aRead more

Time to Get Outside

Top Photo: Banded sphinx moth caterpillar. A banded sphinx moth caterpillar is an impressive sight. The one shown here is munching away on wing-leaved primrose-willow in our wetlands. Banded sphinx moth caterpillars are variable and may be nearly all green, much like its relatives the tobacco hornworm and tomato hornworm, mostly green with black, red and yellow markings or like the one pictured, which is marked with red, black, and yellow. Regardless, they all have the white diagonal stripes characteristicRead more

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