What’s Going On Outside

If you’re walking the paths on a regular basis here at the Museum, you’re likely to see all manner of creature, winter, spring, summer, or fall. All of the creatures pictured below were photographed within the last few weeks.

Brown snakes are common in this area. They attain lengths of approximately 12 inches, although the record is just over 19 inches. The individual in the photos above and below is a young one and is 6 to 7 inches. It was moving very slowly across the pavement. It’s not unusual to see them in winter.

Although it was 61º at the time, this brown snake was in low gear.

At the same time the snake was crawling along the pavement, down in the Wetlands, a yellow-bellied slider was out basking in the early winter sunshine.

Basking in the winter sun (12/22).

I reported a single bufflehead on the 17th of December. The following week another showed up.

Two buffleheads (hooded mergansers in background).

Walking past the Bird Viewing Exhibit I spied a dark, finch-sized bird on one of the feeders. In the backlit low sun of afternoon I could see a red cast to its head. Could be a house finch.

The red was too bright for house finch, and it had a hint of a crest on top of its head. I walked a little closer. The bird flew up to a small tree and peered back over its shoulder at me through the branches. That’s a purple finch.

Male purple finch.

As I sat down in one of the adirondack chairs in front of the feeders, the bird turned to get a better look at me. I could now see the clear, washed with raspberry, unstreaked breast. No doubt about it, purple finch.

This is not a house finch.

After several minutes of checking me out, the bird flew down to the feeder to continue its meal of black oil sunflower seeds.

Enjoying a black oil sunflower seed.

This is not the first purple finch I’ve seen at the Museum, but it’s been a long time between sightings of this boreal forest dwelling visitor from the north. The bird sat and ate for five more minutes, eventually taking off or parts unknown.

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