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

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

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

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

Bullfrog Offal

Top Photo: American bullfrog. It’s a well known fact that red-shouldered hawks take crawfish from our wetlands. Besides actually being observed eating the crawfish, the hawks leave the claws of the arthropods on the railings of the boardwalk when they’re done. The evidence is clear. Frogs are also on the menu. The hawks, though, don’t typically leave frog parts on the boardwalk as a record of their passing. Last week, I was confronted by a mystery while walking down the boardwalkRead 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

Frog For Lunch

Top Photo: Green heron hunts from perch in wetlands. Green herons are in attendance more than they’re seen in our wetlands. Though they occasionally give out a loud KEEYER call, they’re more often silently perched or stalking prey in the shallow water of our wetland. Here, in a series of photos, a green heron has captured a frog and attempts to dispatch its victim. It tries to turn the amphibian so as to swallow the animal head-first, while being carefulRead more

And Along Came Summer

Top Photo: Eight-spotted forester and dogbane. Summer’s here and the time is right for checking out nature. Sure it’s a little hot, but you might just as well accept it and get out there. You’ll be missing a lot of interesting sights if you don’t. Here’s some photos of some of what you might see. There’s a patch of dogbane in front of the Butterfly House which attracts numerous flying insects to its tiny flower’s nectar. One such insect isRead more