Early Fall Sightings.

Out and about now, are a diverse group of fauna and flora. In no particular order, here’s some of the collection. Nettle is most often listed as the host plant for red admirals. The presence of nettle greatly increases your chances of seeing these colorful brush-footed butterflies. But, you may also see them at various locations during vernal and autumnal migrations. Not as noticeable and certainly not as well known as the monarch butterfly’s migrations, these butterflies do move northRead more

A Tale of Two Tails

As I walked towards the Butterfly House on my way to my office, I noticed a small group of young children looking down at the ground and laughing, there must be something interesting over there. I approached. Lying on ground in the center of a circle of four or five squatting children, was a small U-shaped object. The object moved, wiggled. It was the tail of a skink. A few feet away was the skink itself, the lower third ofRead more

It’s all happening so fast…

Last year the dogwood was in bloom too early and a cold snap ruined the fruit crop the following fall. There were very few berries on the trees. Another Ground Skink. Ground Skinks, like many lizards, have the ability to regrow a tail that was lost due to predation or careless behavior. The tail usually doesn’t grow back as long or attractive as the original, and it is energy expensive, but it may save the lizards life. A predator isRead more

Herpetological Happenings: Toads, Skinks, and Snakes!

Toads. American Toads (Bufo americanus) were out mating on Saturday (3/19/11). I’d seen their eggs previously but they were out in force this past weekend! There were at least 6 toads swimming around in the filter that cleans the water in the pond at the Black Bear Exhibit. The toads were oblivious to where they were, concerned only with passing on their genes. Skinks. Snakes.   More to come!!Read more


I’ve seen three snakes since last Saturday (10/23), a Black Rat Snake, a Northern Water Snake, and a Brown Snake. The rat snake was on an overturned stump near the head of the Dinosaur Trail on Saturday. It was still there Wednesday (10/27). The water snake was on the path next to the Wetlands Overlook. It was a young snake, about 9 inches in length. I didn’t have my camera strapped to my hip as usual, so I hurried off toRead more

May Herpetological Happenings

Above: After successfully laying eggs, a yellow-bellied slider heads back into the pond. At this time of year many turtles are moving up to dry land to lay eggs. They turn up in the most peculiar of places in their quest for the perfect spot in which to dig a hole and lay their eggs (According to Ornithopter Operator, John Hammons, a Yellow-bellied Slider was found on the Ornithopter one May morning). Museum staff often encounter Yellow-bellied Turtles walking downRead more

Looking back: Herps

With the closing of the year it’s perhaps time to look back and see what we’ve observed on the Explore the Wild/Catch the Wind Loop. Below, in the appropriate segments, I give totals for some of the species seen since January of last year. Following a week of relatively warm, cloudy, misty, and drizzly weather, a Yellow-bellied Turtle was seduced by the bright sunshine of December 21 into basking on a rock in the Wetlands. Unfortunately for the turtle, theRead more

Sleepy Skink and a Very Small Toad

A Ground Skink’s presence is most often betrayed by a rustle in the leaves as the unseen lizard scurries away, leaving the passerby scratching his or her head wondering what made the noise. The skink in the photo on the left was basking in the sun. It must have been enjoying itself too much to give way to the big bipedal intruder clomping down the path, me. As you can see, I was able to get a photo of itRead more