Otters in the Midst

Top Photo: Otter latrine. I’ve been documenting the occurrence of otters in our wetlands since before 2010 when I saw tracks of one of the mustelids on snow covered ice in the wetlands. On one occasion during that time period I saw a large golden shiner, about 10” (they can reach 12”) floating in the water next to the Main Wetlands Overlook. It had a u-shaped mark on the middle portion of its body, as if something had grasped theRead 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

Oddly Red

Top Photo: Redbud beginning to bloom in the last week of October. Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a March bloomer in Durham County and surrounding areas. It was odd, but not totally surprising, to see buds about to open up on a redbud tree on the Dinosaur Trail this past week. Not surprising because, after all, we’ve been experiencing very mild weather with not a hint of frost. Even so, many of the leaves on this particular tree had turned toRead more

The Bold and the Brash

Top Photo: Red swamp crawfish stands its ground when confronted. On a morning following a very wet night, I encountered a crawfish hiking its way across the path adjacent to our wetlands. In typical red swamp crawfish fashion the decapod reared up and challenged me. Red swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii) are bold creatures, but over the years I’ve seen that boldness get them into trouble. They get eaten by frogs, snatched up by red-shouldered hawks and barred owls, nabbed byRead more

What’s to Eat

The grasshopper in the above photo is being disassembled by a yellowjacket. The meaty parts of the hopper will be transported back to the hive where it’ll be placed in cells containing larvae within the hive. The female wasps are busy this time of year as the hive is perhaps at its largest of the season. I found the parts of a red swamp crayfish on the railing of the boardwalk leading to the Black Bear Overlook. It too hadRead more

Taking a Bite Out of the Crawfish Population

About a month ago I decided to watch our local great blue heron more carefully. The heron can been seen daily stalking across the water, sometimes belly deep, step by calculated step. Every few minutes the heron splashes its head down into the water after some unseen (by me) prey beneath the surface. I wanted to see just what he was catching and eating out there in our little wetland. Ever since I began to see red swamp crawfish inRead more

A Large Pellet

Our resident great blue heron left an interesting object on the railing of the deck at the Main Wetlands Overlook. It was a pellet. As you may know, pellets are undigested pieces of what a bird eats like bones, fur, exoskeletons, feathers and other indigestibles. The bird regurgitates these objects in the form of a pellet ranging from perhaps a quarter inch to many times that, depending on the size of the bird doing the regurgitating and the material containedRead more

Is that Orzo?

I know that this is the middle of August, but I’ve been sitting on this way too long. Back in March, I noticed a pinkish blob at the edge of the pavement as I drove down into Explore the Wild. It was morning and it had rained heavily the night before. As I passed the pink blob I slowed to have a closer at it. The blob appeared as though it might be a small pile of some sort of wetRead more

Walking Crawfish

It has rained the past two weekends. After a rainfall the Wetlands’ crawfish get up and have a walkabout. I’m not quite sure what the reason is for these expeditions, although I believe it to be a search for new areas to colonize by the crawfish. Since their gills need to stay wet in order to function (The gills are attached to the walking legs) the animals can walk around in the wet grass following the rain as long asRead more

Gulp!

It was just after noon on the first Friday of August. It was hot and humid. Earlier that morning Wayne, Camp Counselor, had reported seeing a large crawfish walking across the pavement in Explore the Wild. Over the past couple of months many of these large arthropods have been observed walking the paths of both Explore the Wild and Catch the Wind. Today was no different, or so I thought. I was just about to make the turn out of theRead more