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, unlike the other two, blooms in the fall, the fruit ripening in late winter or spring.
At least one each American lady (Vanessa vriginiensis) and painted lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies spent a few days nectaring on Buddleia and “verbena on a stick” in the Butterfly House’s Garden.
A few green tree frogs are still hanging around. Peek into one of our frog pipes at the Troodon Exhibit on the Dinosaur Trail, Water’s Edge in Explore the Wild, or the retention pond in Earth Moves in Catch the Wind and you may see one yourself.
Some of our white oaks are producing a bumper crop of acorns this fall. The gray squirrels appreciate the offering.
Little bear, our youngest black bear is growing larger. Her gait is becoming noticeably slower and heavier. She’s now closer to two years of age than one. I’m beginning to hear comments from visitors about her name not quite fitting her size. But no matter how large she gets, to us, she’ll always be Little Bear.
A male monarch spent several days with us in the Butterfly House Garden. How do I know it was the same butterfly? It was missing a piece of its left forewing.
A bat showed up in the wetlands during the past week. The winged mammal flew several laps around the wetlands before landing in a birch tree next to the boardwalk. At first, I thought it a red bat. My experience has shown that you’re more likely to see a migrating red bat flying about in the daylight hours in fall or winter than you would any other eastern species of bat. After some consideration, I believe it was actually an southeastern myotis bat due to the pink skin on its face, and hint of a lighter, nearly white, belly.
Any chiropterologists out there with affirming or refuting IDs are welcomed to offer their opinions.
It’s not unusual to see a red-shouldered hawk on campus. In fact, I’d be worried if I didn’t see or hear one each day as I walk the boards here at the museum. But, the sighting of one last week had me more concerned with its presence than its absence. It was perched in one location for half of the day, at one point a gray squirrel snuck past the hawk, within two feet or less, with nary a reaction from the raptor.
Most of the prey I see our hawks secure are small items, frogs, small snakes, crawfish, and even golden shiner from the wetland’s water. Gray squirrels may be a tad large for our red-shouldered hawk, but I think it doable. The squirrel scampered past the hawk stopping every so often to look around the tree’s trunk at the hawk. The hawk showed no interest in the squirrel.
The hawk was first seen at approximately 10:00 AM and thereafter within fifteen feet of its original position throughout the day until 4:45 PM when I left the area. I speculate as to whether the hawk was ill or somehow injured.
White-marked tussock moth caterpillars are not uncommon at this time of year. The one pictured here was preparing to form a cocoon on a black willow leave. The whole sequence was approximately 19 days.
After about two weeks an adult will emerge, mate, and lay eggs which will overwinter, hatching in early spring.