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

Northern Water Snake vs Copperhead (rerun)

Top Photo: Copperhead Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten several emails with attached photos requesting the identification of the snake in the pictures (copperhead). With that in mind, and the fact that fall is upon us, and copperheads will be moving about more, I offer a link to a previous post on distinguishing copperhead from northern water snake, both locally common on the North Carolina Piedmont. The following first appeared in May of 2013 Click here > Northern WaterRead more

Brown Snake Babies

Top Photo: Juvenile northern, or DeKay’s, brown snake. Brown snakes are common here at the museum. They can be seen in any month of the year but are most frequently observed in late winter to early spring. They’re most often seen crossing the open pavement from one favored habitat to another, forest floor or grassy areas. It’s not uncommon to see one hanging from the talons or bill of a red-shouldered hawk during that period when the hawk’s nesting isRead more

Bullfrog Offal

Top Photo: American bullfrog. It’s a well known fact that red-shouldered hawks take crawfish from our wetlands. Besides actually being observed eating the crawfish, the hawks leave the claws of the arthropods on the railings of the boardwalk when they’re done. The evidence is clear. Frogs are also on the menu. The hawks, though, don’t typically leave frog parts on the boardwalk as a record of their passing. Last week, I was confronted by a mystery while walking down the boardwalkRead more

A Garter and a Thrasher

Top Photo: Eastern garter snake enjoys sun on chilly spring morning. A garter snake was seen for four (probably still there) consecutive days sunning under a wax myrtle just a few feet from the path in Explore the Wild. The snake may be the same female which was spotted in February sunning among the sandstone slab steps at Water’s Edge some fifty yards or so to the west. Garter snakes bear live young from June through September, depending upon when theyRead more

Spring Happenings and Aquatic Turtle Update

Top Photo: Upper surface of American snout. Things happen very quickly in spring, flowers bloom and fade, plants shoot out new leaves, insects emerge, birds who’ve been absent half a year, reappear. Here’s some of those things and more of what has occurred over the past week. Daffodils are early season flowers that last but briefly. Bees emerge with little on their agenda but food and reproduction. It’s time to get a new nest started. Northern, or Dekay’s brown snakes,Read more

Anoles in Trees

Top Photo: Green anoles engaged in mating. The sharp eye of Ranger Dakota spotted the two lizards on the trunk of a small cherry tree outside the door leading from the main museum building to Gateway Park near the bells, drums, metal tubes, wooden sound boards and other music and noise making devices that make up Sound Garden. What he saw were two green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) engaged in mating. I’ve been familiar with green anoles since childhood, though IRead more

Box Turtle

I don’t see many box turtles at the museum. The habitat’s right but I can remember seeing only one or two of these terrestrial turtles in the twelve plus years I’ve walked the outdoor loop at the museum. Perhaps their scarcity is due to the fact that our 84 acre campus is surrounded by suburbia and ever increasing traffic on the roads around and through the area. These turtles have a bad track record in face-to-face encounters with cars. BoxRead more

Racer

While walking through Catch the Wind, I caught a glimpse of a black snake in the grass on the side of the path. It was a black racer.     There are two species of snake here at the Museum which are black, the black rat snake and the racer. Rat snakes average about five feet, maxing out at little over seven. The racer averages about four feet in length, maxing at just under six. The racer is black throughout except under the chin andRead more

Opportunist

The Animal Keepers cleaned the bear pool this week. The pools of water at the base of the Main Black Bear Overlook need to be cleaned every six months. The ponds collect much debris and algae and need cleaning. The cleaning often exposes all sorts of creatures, from crayfish to frogs. This exposition sometimes attracts opportunistic predators. It’s well known here at the Museum that red-shouldered hawks wait silently on perches along the edges of the Wetlands or in the swampRead more