More Stuff You Might See

Top Photo: On a cool fall morning, Eno, one of our red wolves on display, yawns deeply before resting his weary head.

Bald cypress, carpenter bees, musk turtles, ground hogs and others headline Nature Watch this week.

Bald cypress has put out an impressive amount of cones this year.

Bald cypress cones (tree at base of Main Wetlands Overlook).

Carpenter bee activity is far greater in the spring when over-wintering adults emerge and vie for territories and nest sites. However, they’re still active now.

Carpenter bee warming in morning sunshine.

The bees drill nice, neat 3/8” – 1/2” holes an inch or so into wood. They then make a 90 degree turn and continue drilling 6” or 8” with the grain, creating multiple chambers as they go. Next, they lay eggs inside the multi-chambered hole. Upon hatching, the larvae consume a mixture of pollen and nectar left in each individual chamber by the female until the insects pupate and emerge as adults.

They don’t all make it to adulthood. Many of the nest chambers are discovered by woodpeckers which have little problem pecking through the wood to get at the larvae, or grubs, within.

Drill holes made by woodpecker to get at carpenter bee larvae.
The holes follow the course of carpenter bee drillings into wood. Holes approximate where nest chambers were constructed and segmented.
The culprit. Downy woodpecker removing grub from cavity.

While in Hideaway Woods with Exhibits Tech Jill, she noticed a fairly large beetle climbing up a tree stump in front of us. Not knowing what species it was I quickly snapped off a few photos of the coleopteran before it flew off. The ID shouldn’t be too difficult given the distinctive antennae.

It was indeed fairly easy to discover the beetle’s identity. It was a cedar beetle (Sandalus niger). They’re about 3/4” – 1” in length with the males slightly smaller than the females.

The adult females reportedly lay eggs under tree bark. The hatched larvae burrow into the ground in search of cicadas, attach themselves to the nymphal cicadas and feed on them. The adults are most frequently seen in September and October in our region.

Male cedar beetle.

I’ve encountered two hatchling common musk turtles in the past week. Each was placed near or in the water of the wetlands here at the museum. Once in the water, the turtles are not often seen again, excepting an occasional basking adult. However, once every so often you may see an adult foraging in the shallows at water’s edge.

Adult musk turtle. Note identifying yellow lines on face. Also note algal growth on shell.

The two yellow lines on the small turtle’s face separate it from other similar looking species like stripe-necked musk turtle and either eastern or striped mud turtles, none of which I’ve seen in our wetlands.

Our black bear enclosure houses the largest, healthiest and safest groundhog on our 84 acres. Ignored by the bears, protected from outside predators, and fed with sweet potatoes, corn, carrots and other veggies tossed into the enclosure for the bears, the woodchuck is thriving.

A well-off groundhog with what looks like a piece of sweet potato in hand.

You all are surely aware that passerine migration is well underway. In fact, a fair amount of butter-butts (yellow-rumped warblers) have moved into the area in the last couple of days. Their arrival typically indicates the beginning of the end of warbler migration in fall.

First time south for this yellow-rumped warbler (butter-butt).
The reason behind the name.

Migration is not over though, seed eaters and species less dependent on insects for food are on the way now.

Always plentiful throughout the campus at any time of year, northern cardinals, like the male shown, can be seen around every turn.

If you don’t see a cardinal on a trip around the campus you weren’t looking.

Well, get out there and have a look around!

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