Early Fall

The bullfrog in the top photo was one a four spotted yesterday at the end of the boardwalk in Explore the Wild. Bullfrogs can sit very still while waiting for prey to come along then spring forth with lightning speed to capture and swallow that prey. They eat just about anything that comes close enough to snatch, insects, fish, smaller frogs, crawfish, even birds.

Up until this week I’d only seen two snakes in our wetlands the past season, an adult and a juvenile northern water snake during spring. The water snake in the following photos was the third. For such a small snake, a bit over a foot, it had big aspirarions.

Snake (bottom right) catches scent of frog (top left).

After a minute or so of being probed, the frog quickly turned on the snake. The snake made a hasty retreat.

Snake sniffing the air behind frog.
Frog jumps around to face snake who quickly disappeared into the murky water of the wetlands.

The frog could easily have eaten the snake.

Chinese mantids can be found wherever you travel in the eastern states.

Chinese mantid awaits prey.

Goldenrod is a plant of the fall. Its tiny yellow flowers blowing in the fall breeze in bunches near the top of the plant can bee seen in just about any field, roadside ditch or even garden across the east. If you see a stand of Salidago take a closer look. You’re likely to see one, or many, round bulb-like growths on individual plant stems, a goldenrod gall.

Goldenrod gall.

The gall was formed in response to a goldenrod gall fly, who, laid one to several eggs on the plant. The eggs hatched in about 10 days and at least one of the larvae burrowed into the stem of the plant. The galls were formed through the action of the gall fly larvae’s saliva which apparently stimulates the plant to grow the gall around the intruder.

The gall provides food for and protects the larvae throughout the fall and winter from predators. The protection is not guaranteed. Over the years, I’ve seen many a chickadee or downy woodpecker pounding away at goldenrod galls to get at the larvae within.

Green herons are still here, though they should depart by the end of the month. Turtles, like the yellow-bellied sliders below, will be with us throughout the fall and winter.

Green heron and yellow-bellied sliders share the September afternoon sun.

The local bursting heart (Euonymus americanus) is currently busting out. The plant grows throughout our 84 acre campus.


A female mallard flew in for a brief two day visit. I tried to make the duck into another species to fatten up the bird species list for the museum, but couldn’t. A mallard is a mallard, and nothing else. But maybe not.

Mallard duck.

Mallards are said to be the ancestor of most domestic ducks. The mallard you see on your local pond may be more feral than wild since mallards can and do mate with domestic ducks.  They also breed with other close relative duck species such as American black duck and mottled duck. So, what you see may not be all mallard and nothing else.

Many insects that are attracted to milkweed species are brightly colored. The bright red or orange colors displayed by these insects may warn of toxic chemicals ingested by the insect while eating the milkweed which may harm a potential predator. At the very least, they’d have a bad taste.

Swamp milkweed leaf beetle.

The gall in the photo below is a hackberry petiole gall. It, like the goldenrod fly gall above, was caused by an insect. This time is was a petiole gall psyllid, a tiny (adults – about 5.5 mm), cicada/aphid/leaf hopper relative. The eggs are laid on the leaf stem (petiole) of the hackberry tree. Hackberry is also called sugarberry.

Hackberry petiole gall.

There’s more than one kind of dogwood. We have many silky dogwoods growing on the museum grounds.

Silky dogwood berries.

And finally, if you hadn’t noticed, our newest exhibit, Earth Moves is open. Yes, you can explore a sandstone cave, stand under a waterfall, play in a stream, build archways, stack rocks, play in a sand box, several sandboxes, with and without water, and do much much more.

The water flows and the Earth Moves.

Have fun!

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