Top Photo: Rat snake crossing path near Bird Viewing Exhibit.
Rat snakes are common in our area so it’s not unusual to see one crossing the path at the museum, especially during spring when so much of the local wildlife is engaged in activities which make them vulnerable to predation. Birds are busy with nesting activities, frogs and toads are perhaps a little less cautious when in breeding mode, and if you have a chicken coop, you may have noticed recent increased egg laying activity.
Rat snakes like to eat eggs, birds, and amphibians as well as other small living creatures. In spring, they are resolute in their quest for the first meal of the season.
Crossing the path opens the snakes themselves to predation, or at the very least harassment by birds and even humans.
The same feeding behavior attributes applies to water snakes, though the water snake pictured may have already had her first of the season meal.
True to the calendar, eastern tiger swallowtails are flying. Look for them flying along streams and rivers, country roads, and open paths here at the museum.
Much smaller than any swallowtail, red-banded hairstreaks can sometimes be difficult to locate because of their small size and gray coloration. But once you locate the little lepidopteran and zoom in on it, it’s always a treat. The red-bordered white markings and orange and blue eyespots are a pleasant surprise, even if you’ve seen them many times over.
Sometimes the markings are missing.
If you’ve read this blog before you know there’s a new wood duck nest box in our wetlands. It’s placement was originally conceived to attract hooded mergansers to nest in our pond, though circumstances have never been optimal for that to happen. Mergansers will and do nest in tree cavities as do wood ducks, and therefore artificial cavities like nest boxes.
Wood ducks have used one of our nest boxes in previous years as have great-crested flycatchers, tree swallows and even raccoons. This year tree swallows are again making a go of it. Over the past week the female has been spotted coming and going from the nest box gathering up grasses and other plant fibers to add to her nest. The male mostly waits and watches as the female labors away.
Tree swallows are just one species of bird prepping a nest at the museum. I spotted, what looked like, two fish crows stripping the bark off a bald cypress tree, apparently to use as nest material.
Both members of the pair were activity engaged in the gathering of nest material.
All of these things and more can be seen out of doors here at the museum. But, you have to be out there to see them!