Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Peace on Earth

Suspended from ceiling of the main building of our Museum is a giant globe of the earth.  It's 6 feet in diameter, tilted on its axis 23.5 degrees just like the real earth, and if you watch it for a couple of minutes you'll realize that it slowly rotates.  And a bit of trivia--it's like a giant inflated beach ball--it's not solid!
It overhangs the main stairwell that connects the upper and lower levels.  The stairwell is a double spiral modeled after the shape of a DNA molecule (pretty cool, huh?)  At the bottom of the stairwell is a sculpture of what some dinosaurs in Virginia may have looked like.  More trivia:  to date, no fossil dinosaur bones have been found in Virginia, but we do have fossil footprints:
Anyway, back to the huge globe--it makes a great centerpiece for the entire upper level, and is a constant reminder that no matter what our many differences, we as people all have one thing in common--we share the same home, our beautiful planet earth.  There's a quote on a sign right below the globe that sums it up the best:  "There are no passengers on spaceship Earth, we are all crew."
Since I started this blog about a year and a half ago, I've had readers from 115 countries.  Thank you so much for reading this blog...it has been an honor to share my photos with you!  So, to all of you I wish you much happiness and good health in the coming year, but most of all I wish for "peace on earth" where ever you may be:
Best wishes to you all.  More off the beaten path in two weeks....
Cheers, Lisa

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Whose Tail?" Again

Since people seem to like it, here's the third installment of my "guess whose tail?" series of blogs.  (Answers are at the bottom of this page.)  See if you can figure out whose feathery tail this is:

Keep guessing....the rest of the tails are all furry:

Have it all figured out?  The first one was easy--it was a turkey's tail, of course!
The second one may have been a bit harder to figure out.  It belongs to our very lovely bobcat on the Outdoor Trail:
The second furry tail was may also have been a bit tough to figure out.  If you guessed some sort of canid, you're correct!  It's the tail of one of our coyotes.  Her thick winter coat is starting to come in:
The third furry tail was pretty easy--it belongs to a white tailed deer.  Here's a photo of one of our does:
The last furry tail was very difficult.  It belongs to a small furry rodent that lives in one of our Piedmont & Mountain exhibits--it's a chipmunk.  Were you right?
How cute is that?  Hope you enjoyed the guessing game.  More off the beaten path in two weeks!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Leaves of Autumn 2012

If there ever was a magical day for autumn leaves it was here at the Museum on November 12, 2012.  As I walked along our Outdoor Trail under a colorful canopy of leaves, I could not help but think this was a truly awesome experience:
I found interpreter Larry Lewis also on the Trail that day--he had collected a huge sycamore leaf off the boardwalk and it became an "interpretive magnet," attracting children and adults alike who were so curious as to what kind of leaf it was.  Many thanks for sharing your enchanting leaf, Larry!:
Here's a shot of a smaller sycamore leaf backlit by the morning sun:
Throughout the week of November 12th I captured a range of brilliant colors like the bright yellows of this buckeye plant:
And these "golden" silver maple leaves:
The reds were glorious, too, but none so deep as this leaf from a red twig dogwood:
My favorite orange color is represented by this witch hazel leaf--it's almost "pumpkin" colored!
Even the brown colors were vibrant, like these white oak leaves backlit in the late afternoon sunlight:
Beech tree leaves will run the gamut from yellow, to soft orange, a pale brown, and finally a wispy tan.  The leaves will mostly stay on the tree branches and only fall off in the early spring right before the new verdant green leaves are about ready to emerge:
A few of my favorite animals were padding through a carpet of multicolored leaves--the bobcat, and a red wolf:
This yellow-crowned night heron in our Outdoor Aviary looks out into the soft sunlight of mid-afternoon, with a kaleidescope of autumn colors in the background:
And last but not least, a wild cormorant suns itself on the pond, with the colorful leaves reflected in the water:
I hope you enjoyed these lovely colors of autumn....I can only hope that next year I'll have another magical day to share more leaves with you!  More off the beaten path in two weeks....

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Heads Up!

In the modeling and acting world, a "headshot" is a photo portrait of a person's face and is considered an integral part of an aspiring model's or actor's portfolio.  Over the last few months I've been able to take "headshots" of several animals at the Museum.  Okay, maybe they aren't going to audition for the lead role in a Broadway play, but, they still have important roles to play!  They're perfect ambassadors for environmental awareness and every day they fulfill a vital educational role in helping to connect people to nature.  Many of the animals you'll see below are a part of our "Adopt a Wild Thing" Program.  Here's a few of my favorites....First a "headshot" of our male otter, a very playful creature who delights visitors with his graceful swimming:
Another favorite among guests is our lovely bobcat.  When I took this photo, the bobcat was flicking her ears--notice the "eyespot" on the back of her right ear?:
If anything could win a "cuteness" award, it'd have to be our chipmunks in our Piedmont & Mountain Gallery:
I love the soulful expression in our coyote's face:
I have to admit that I tried many, many times to get a good "headshot" of one of our does--they're constantly moving:  licking their lips, twitching their ears, etc.  When this doe finally stopped moving, I was able to capture her curious expression:
The raccoon below, made it pretty easy for me to take its picture--it was lounging in the tree branches, getting ready for a nap:
Not everything at the Museum is soft and furry--we have plenty of other critters that are scaly!  The alligator below is being held by my colleague, Dan Summers, Curator of School Education.  Thanks, Dan!:
Another scaly face--our rattlesnake in our Mountain Cove Habitarium.  It took about 50 shots, but I was finally able to get one with the snake sticking its tongue out:
Another favorite, especially with children, is our elegant loggerhead sea turtle in our large Chesapeake Bay Aquarium tank:
In the realm of aquatic wonders, this lionfish tantalizes guests with its wispy fins and bold stripes.  The spines on their fins can inject venom.  We have this animal on exhibit to help people understand the problems associated with invasive species--lionfish are native to the Pacific, but either through accident or neglect, these fish were released into the Atlantic.  Without predators to keep them in check, lionfish have steadily spread from Florida to New York along the eastern seaboard:
Last one--technically not an "adoptable" Museum critter, but I had to share its wonderful, whimsical face.  A favorite among children are the spiky-skinned fish that can inflate--pufferfish, porcupine fish, and here, the webbed burrfish:
Hope you enjoyed these "headshots!"  More off the beaten path in two weeks.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Orange and Black Beetles

Okay, since it's Halloween, I thought I'd get into the "spirit" of things (yep, I know, awful pun....) and write about something orange and black--but it has nothing to do with pumpkins or black cats.  Instead, here are some photos of a delightful little orange and black beetle I found on some black-eyed Susan flowers in September:
I believe it's a type of soldier beetle--I'm pretty sure this one is a goldenrod soldier beetle, also called a "Pennsylvania leatherwing" (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus.)  They're about an inch long and on the day I photographed them, there were lots of them busily flitting about the flowers--I caught this photo as the beetle was taking off from a flower--notice the membranous underwings.  Adult beetles eat pollen and drink nectar from flowers.  If you look closely, you can see some bright yellow pollen its face::
In this profile, you can see its black and yellow abdomen.  Though superficially these beetles resemble fireflies, they don't have any light-producing organs in their abdomen:
I'm a big fan of beetles--they've fascinated me since I was a kid.  I'll try to feature more beetles in later blogs.  But, that's all for now.  More "off the beaten path in two weeks."  Until then, Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Fruits & Seeds

I must admit that Autumn is my favorite season!  After the blistering summer heat and before the cold of winter, I delight in the cooler fall temperatures.  I also enjoy the riot of color that explodes in plants--their leaves, fruit and seeds.  Below are photos that I took in mid-September but didn't get a chance to post until now.

Several people have commented to me that the pearl-like berry clusters of the American Beautyberry plant (also called American mulberry) are amongst their favorite fall colors.  Spaced at intervals along the stems, these vivid purple berries are a food source to a variety of wildlife--birds and squirrels (not too good for people, though!)
Volunteer Larry Lewis pointed out this gorgeous strawberry bush plant, a native perennial shrub we have planted outside the Goodson House on our Museum grounds. (Thanks, Larry!)  In September and October, the spiky strawberry-colored seed capsule will burst open revealing bright reddish-orange seeds:
In the fall, persimmon trees are loaded with fruit which are extremely (and I mean extremely!) bitter until they fully ripen usually after the first frost.  At which point, a tree might be stripped clean almost overnight by opossums--who dearly love this tantalizing fruit!:
Do you know what fruit is pictured in this next photo?  Don't let the leaves fool you--they're from another plant (columbine)!  Hint:  it grows from a type of vine:
Did you guess passion vine fruit?  There are many species of passion vine--I believe this one is Passiflora incarnata, a hardy species native to the southeastern United States.  The plant's leaves are food for Gulf fritillary caterpillars. The fruit is edible and was consumed by early American colonists as well as Native Americans.  In the photo below you see its lovely purple flower--being pollinated by a bumblebee:
And finally, in our Virginia Garden, the fall harvest included corn, cucumbers, and figs--many thanks to our hard-working Horticulture staff and Volunteers!:
More "off the beaten path" in two weeks!