Four Serendipitous Encounters

Top Photo: Centipede crosses path in front of me.

At the end of the day while doing my routine walkabout to insure there was no one left behind as we closed for the day, a large centipede crossed the dimly lit path in front of me. The long, thin, multi-legged creature seemed in a hurry to get to the other side of the path. Then again, most centipedes discovered out in the open are in a hurry to get somewhere.

I readied my camera, turned on the flash (the sun was going down fast), and snapped a handful of shots. I hadn’t seen one of these on campus before and didn’t know the species.

Back at the computer the following morning, with clear photos in front of me, I counted the legs. I tallied 23 pairs. I didn’t measure the animal, but would guess it to be about 3 inches in length. That might seem large but there’s a centipede in the southwestern states which may get to nine or ten inches, the giant desert centipede (Scolopendra heros). The largest of all centipedes lives in South America, the Amazonian giant centipede (Scolopendra gigantea) about a foot long.

About three inches long with almost two dozen pairs of legs.

Considering the overall length, color, and number of legs on the centipede, I believe it to be Scolopocryptops sexspinosus. I am not, however, 100% committed to that identification.

Centipedes, despite their name literally meaning 100 feet (centi = 100, pedis = foot) may have anywhere from fifteen to well over a hundred pairs of legs, depending on the species. Strangely, they always have an odd number of pairs.

Earlier that day, as I walked up the boardwalk, I heard a soft but deliberate pounding on wood somewhere close by. There, to my right was a male downy woodpecker working on a dead loblolly pine tree a dozen feet or more off the walkway. The bird paid little attention to me as I shot frame after frame of the little Picidae laboring away.

Excavating, or extricating insects?

I’m not sure if the bird was excavating or extricating, but he was in and out of the hole, carefully surveying as he went.

A look inside to make sure all is going as planned.
Chips fly as he pecks away.
Here he holds what looks like a piece of inner bark.

Nearby, a white-breasted nuthatch foraged on a river birch next to the wetlands. White-breasted nuthatches are one of two nuthatch species common year round at the museum. The other, the smaller brown-headed nuthatch.

White-breasted nuthatch forages amongst river birch bark.

Finally, eastern bluebirds are another local bird which can be seen in all seasons. The bird here was with a group of other bluebirds foraging on a nearby eastern red cedar’s fruit next to the Red Wolf Enclosure.

Eastern bluebird waits his turn at cedar tree.

Keep your eyes and ears open.

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