Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring Things

Spring is in full swing here in Virginia--I very much enjoy the beauty of nature at this time of the year.  The trees are vividly green and abundant wonders of nature are around every corner.  These nestling Carolina wrens are tucked away in a quiet spot on the Museum grounds--fortunately, I have a new telephoto lens and was able to get this shot without disturbing them while their busy parents were out fetching insects:
This fledgling mockingbird was flitting about the treetops in the Virginia Garden--constantly begging for food from its parents, of course.  The adult birds tend to look a bit harried!
Another lovely springtime sight is the fringe tree outside the Wason Education Center.  The blooms form elegant--and fragrant!--white drapes of flowers:
The springtime blossoms attract insects such as this bee on a false blue indigo flower--see the "pollen baskets" on her rear legs?:
I spotted my first black swallowtail butterfly of the season getting nectar from a homestead verbena flower:
I must admit I'm pretty crazy about gardening for butterflies.  I've planted a lot of native plants at my house over the last eight years.  Our Museum hosts two big plant sales every year--one in the spring and one in the fall--so I buy something new for my garden at each sale.  The VLM spring plant sale is April 21-22 & April 28-29, with a Member's Sale on April 19th.  Our dedicated Horticulture crew--staff and volunteers--have been working very hard to prepare for this sale.  Here's a picture of Darl and Ashley--I'm constantly bugging them with questions ("What's this plant?...") and they always seem to know the answers!:
So if you're hoping to attract wildlife to your garden or just want a brilliant burst of color in your landscaping, try planting a few native plants.  Here's a few of the plants being offered for sale this spring....the first is the striking pink shooting star:
I love the rich dark tone of this copper iris:
....and the delicate bluish purple of the bird's foot violet:
....and the serene pale beauty of this Atamasco lily:
But whether you enjoy gardening or not, I wish you a happy spring--filled with the joy of discovering the small beauties of nature all around you.  More off the beaten path in two weeks....

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Whose Tail?

As promised to the many school teachers and children that have visited the Museum, here's another "Guess Who?" blog--this time dedicated to animal tails.  We'll start off with an easy one--a large crustacean:
 Next, here are two tails:
This tail is hard to miss--especially when it "rattles!"
This tail might be a little hard to identify:
Here's another bird's tail--again, another tough one:
How about this tail?:
Here's an odd looking tail:
Finally, a tail way "off the beaten path"--in fact this animal is not at our Museum.  I spotted it (forgive the pun!) recently when my co-workers, Susan Summers and Bo Baker, and I led a VLM Family Safari to the National Zoo on March 24th:
Did you figure them all out?  The first one was of course, a lobster's tail--we have a rather large lobster on display in our World of Darkness Gallery:
The second photo was pretty easy as well--they belong to the two beavers we have on display on our Outdoor Trail.  I recently had the good fortune to meet Suzanne McBride, the licensed wildlife rehabilitator who raised these orphaned beavers.  Suzanne is the Secretary for a really wonderful local organization called Wildlife Response, Inc. located in Chesapeake, Virginia.  Many thanks to Suzanne and all the dedicated folks at Wildlife Response--keep up the good work!

You probably already know that a beaver's tail is used to help it swim.  Also, to warn other beavers of danger, it may slap it's tail on the water's surface.  Usually our beavers don't do that--they're used to people being around.  However, I've heard wild beavers do this and the sound is extraordinarily loud--it almost sounds like a loud gunshot!
The third photo was of the rattlesnake we have on display in our Mountain cove Habitarium.  This critter's tail is a warning to other animals to stay away--however, the rattlesnake does not always rattle its tail before it strikes:
The next two photos were of bird tails.  The first one belonged to a wild Canada goose.  At present a mated pair hangs out on the pond--and the female has laid eggs nearby.  Birds use their tail to help them steer when flying--sort of like a rudder or flaps on an airplane:
The second bird is a pelican we have in our Outdoor Aviary--they are flighted, so it's pretty amazing when they glide around in the Aviary.  On average a brown pelican's wingspan is about 6-7 feet:
Always a favorite--the sixth photo is an otter's tail.  An otter's tail is used like a rudder as it swims:
The fishy tail belongs to a sturgeon we have on display in our Piedmont/Mountain Gallery that showcases the wonders of the James River:
The final tail belongs to a cheetah we saw at the National Zoo located in Washington D.C.  When a cheetah runs, it uses its tail as a counterbalance:
Well, hope you enjoyed all the tails....more "off the beaten path" in two week!