Two Herps, Two Leps, Two Swallows, and Two Crows

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.

This rat snake is some four feet or more in length.

Crossing the path opens the snakes themselves to predation, or at the very least harassment by birds and even humans.

Safely out of the way.

The same feeding behavior attributes applies to water snakes, though the water snake pictured may have already had her first of the season meal.

Northern water snake suns on branch overhanging water in Explore the Wild.

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.

Eastern tiger swallowtail nectars on invasive autumn olive.

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.

Tiny but impressive red-banded hairstreak.

Sometimes the markings are missing.

Arrows point to missing portion of hindwing.

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.

Swallow departs nest box to collect nesting material.
Floating plant platforms in wetlands – swallow’s destination.
Female takes flight back to nest box with grass stems.
She arrives with new material to add to nest as turtle watches.

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.

Crow strips bark from cypress tree.
Crow with mouth full of cypress bark.

Both members of the pair were activity engaged in the gathering of nest material.

The pair of crows worked together.

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!

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