Winter’s Here!

The calendar says that winter has arrived. What’s been going on in Explore the Wild?

The still, quiet, and mostly frozen Wetlands.
Some of the local wildlife are taking advantage of the frozen water to hike across the Wetlands instead of around it on their nightly foraging runs (tracks from top right to bottom left).
The mushy track of a rear foot reveals the nocturnal wanderings of a raccoon on the ice of the Wetlands.

Raccoons make nightly sorties around the Wetlands in search of food, which can be anything from persimmons to tadpoles, or a raid on the trash receptacles along the paths of the Museum (the trash bins are emptied each day before closing so the pickings are slim there).

Raccoons are not the only animals roaming Explore the Wild. The tracks below were left in the snow a few days after the raccoon tracks appeared.

What beast left these tracks?

The question in the caption above is a trick question. It was one of the bears in the Black Bear Enclosure that laid down those tracks.

Both the front (right) and rear feet are quite clear in this close view of the bear tracks.
The left foot of a female human after walking through a wet spot on the path.

All types of animals were out and about in the cold air of the past several days leading to this, the second day of winter.

Despite the cold, there were even a few people who braved the cold to come out hiking through the outdoor exhibits. The bears, wolves and lemurs are there regardless of the weather, although the lemurs are snug behind glass. All are worth the trek. But, if you enjoy experiencing the out-of-doors in relative solitude, this is an excellent time to visit Explore the Wild and Catch the Wind.

The birds that frequent the woods along the trails of Explore the Wild are easier to locate when its cold outside as they pick up their foraging routine. The very common Yellow-rumped Warblers are busily scoffing up the wax myrtle berries, indifferent to human passersby.

A Red-shouldered Hawk surveys the woods for a meal.

The Red Shouldered Hawk still hunts among the trees for small birds, mammals, and even frogs at this time of year. With no leaves on the trees it’s often easy to spot them as they sit quietly peering down at what’s below them.

On the other hand, the local Great Blue Heron, doesn’t seem to be doing much hunting, at least not here at the Museum. There have actually been two blue herons coming in to roost in the Wetlands, but I haven’t seen either of them actively hunting. I hope that they’re finding food elsewhere.

One of the two Great Blue Herons comes in to rest on its favorite perch, a boulder in the Wetlands.
The heron frequently sits atop this boulder, apparently waiting for the ice to melt.

As mentioned before, passerines are often easier to locate during cold weather as they scramble to find sustenance. They are often more concerned with finding food than being food, so they’re less wary of you watching them.

A Hermit Thrush stares back over its shoulder at another Hermit Thrush (out of view) which was trying to chase the young bird off its claim.

Hermit Thrushes stake out winter feeding areas, usually near a source of berries, and can often be found in the same location with some consistency. The one pictured above looks to be a young bird (HY) and was in the process of being driven off one of those feeding areas by another of its kind.

There is always something going on out in Explore the Wild and Catch the Wind, so come on out and see what you can find!

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