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

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

A Few Winter Sightings

Top Photo: Bullfrog tadpoles react to disturbance in the water. In our area, bullfrogs may take 9 to 12 months to mature and become frogs. It may take much longer, perhaps two or even three years, in areas with cooler temperatures and shorter growing seasons. But here, in central North Carolina the bullfrogs that hatched from eggs this summer will become frogs next summer. During winter the bullfrogs tend to congregate in the shallow, muddy water on the north sideRead more

The Littlest Lizard

Top Photo: Ground skink with regenerated tail. Ground skinks are the smallest lizard found on the museum’s grounds. In fact, they’re the smallest lizard found anywhere in the state (about 3” – 6” of mostly tail). The tail is as long as, or longer than, the body. They have short legs. They tend to wriggle snake-like, more than run, when fleeing. Perhaps more often heard slithering off through the dried leaf liter than seen, they were, until this past year,Read more

Garden Watch

Top Photo: Goldenrod in bloom at Wander Away. Visiting a garden at this time of year can be very rewarding. Goldenrod likes to wait until September or later to bloom, and like boneset mentioned in the previous post, has tiny blossoms which attract big crowds. Butterflies, bees and wasps are too busy sucking up nectar to pay much attention to naturalists who stare at them while they refuel. If you’re patient, and you’re taking pictures, you may end up withRead more

Fall

Top Photo: A female monarch butterfly sips nectar from sunflower. Fall is here. It’s September and fall is all around us. Birds and butterflies are migrating, late season flowers are blooming, seeds are nearly ready to cut loose into the wind, and fruit is on the vine. It’s even a bit cooler outside than it’s been the past few weeks. Here’s a group of photos of what’s going on outside, in case you missed it because of the heat. AnRead more

The Color of the Name

Top Photo: A green anole shows off its dewlap on fence in Butterfly House Garden. Certain animals are named for their color, or at least the color of a prominent feature of their feathers, scales, or fur. Here’s several local birds and a lizard which meet the criterion. It’s obvious why the green anole is called what it’s called, it’s green. But check out the pink dewlap this lizard sometimes displays as a territorial warning to other male anoles orRead more

Herps (reptiles and amphibians)

The seventies and eighties are behind us, for now. It’s back to more normal temps, forties and fifties. But, while the atypically high temps lasted, I was able to find some out and about reptiles and amphibians. It’s not unusual to see a brown snake in winter unless the temps are extreme, on the low side. I saw the northern brown snake, or Dekay’s brown snake, pictured here slowly making its way across the path just uphill from the LemurRead more

Winter Continues

We’ve had both warm and cold weather so far this season, mostly warm. Regardless of the temperature, things are rolling along as always; sunny days bring out turtles to bask, ducks feed, court, and rest in our wetland, and Mahonia blooms as it always does this time of year on the Dinosaur Trail and elsewhere around the campus. There seems to have been an unusual amount of fungi this fall and winter, perhaps due to the significant rain we’ve experienced.Read more