Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013

I wish you a joyous holiday season and a happy new year!  These photos are of very special ornaments on the Museum's favorite Christmas tree--ornaments hand-painted by long-time volunteer, Tede Johnson.
I wish you peace.....

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Eye See You 3

More guessing games!  This edition is about eyes...the first one is sort of a repeat if you've seen my other entries Eye See You and Eye See You Again, but I had an opportunity to get an excellent close up with my macro lens, so I couldn't resist:
This next one is from something that swims:
How about something soft and furry?
Do you know whose eye this is?
And our fine feathered friends have beautiful eyes as well!
Last one:
The first set of eyes, as I'm sure you've already figured out, are dragonfly eyes.  What's not to love about these amazing eyes?  First off, they give this fierce predator a tremendous field of view--almost 360 degree vision.  How cool is that!  And of course, I'm entranced by the shiny, iridescent quality of the eyes, in this case a brilliant blue. 
The fish's eye belongs to a porcupine fish.  The fishes on exhibit at the Museum are pretty used to watching people walk by, so I couldn't get a photo of the fish puffed up--which they can do if threatened:
The first furry animal was one of our coyotes...
...and the second is one of our does:
The first feathery critter is our beautiful red-tailed hawk, of course a bird of prey, and is one of our educational program animals.  A daytime (diurnal) hunter, red-tails prey upon soft furry things like squirrels, rabbits, and rodents:
The other feathery critter is a great horned owl, a nighttime (nocturnal) hunter, that can prey upon soft furry things like rodents, but interestingly enough can also hunt skunks.  Yuck, right?!  But not particularly so to great horned owls, which like most birds tend to have a poorly developed sense of smell; they instead rely more on their incredible senses of sight and hearing to help them hunt:
Many thanks to my friend and fellow "Nikonian" Karl Rebenstorf, a talented photographer, who happens to volunteer here at the Museum.  On the day I took this photo, he was exercising this owl, one of our educational program animals....That's all for now--more again in two weeks!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wild Wings 1

We get a lot of wild birds on the Museum property and sometimes they are just as much fun to watch as the animals we have on exhibit.  For example, while walking the Outdoor Trail, I'll happen upon a wild great blue heron as it wades around the pond looking for fish or frogs to spear with its long beak:
I've seen up to three wild great blue herons on the pond at one time.  I'm pretty sure at least one individual resides here all year long.  Most of the time, they don't move very fast--unless they're catching food, then they can be lightening fast as they jab their prey!  But for the most part, they seem unhurried, walking with deliberate footsteps in the shallows of the pond.  Sometimes a great blue will calmly land on a hand rail along the trail to sun itself--in this photo, you'll see that it tucked a leg up tightly up against it's belly so that it appears it only has one leg:
Sometimes guests might notice a wild great blue heron sitting on top of our Outdoor Aviary.  Does it talk to our heron?  I don't know....but it might stay for a while to groom its feathers:
If you're really lucky, you might hear it vocalize as it throws its head back--a weird loud squawk:
If you're really, really lucky, you might get to see it launch off the top of the Aviary and fly off across the pond--all with an economy of movement and very little flapping of its wings.  As it launches itself into flight, it initially looks a bit gawky and ungainly, but that changes in an instant, as it spreads its broad wings--with an impressive 6-foot wingspan!--and glides noiselessly across the pond:
On some days I might wait up to 45 minutes to see it launch into flight--and then I only have a few seconds to take photos--you'd be surprised at how fast it can soar across the pond!  I hope you enjoyed these photos--I'll try to capture more shots of this magnificent creature and share them with you in the future.  More off the beaten path in two weeks!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Fine Fall Day 2013

Fall is probably my favorite season.  I love when the temperature drops a bit, but it's still comfortable, like on the sunny mid-October day when I shot these photos.  Some of our animals, like our river otter, use it as an excuse to play.  The second photo shows him diving into his pond:
Some, like our female raccoon, prefer to find a sunny spot to curl up for a nap:
Wild animals were also out basking in the sunshine, like this pond turtle:
Small birds, like this yellow-rumped warbler flutter through tree branches as they migrate through this area:
The leaves also flutter....down to the ground, like this brilliant red sweetgum leaf:
Catching the late afternoon sun, these sassafras leaves glint with warm amber shades.  (Thanks to Judy Molnar for pointing these out to me!):
Blending in with the autumn-colored leaves that drifted to the forest floor, this male common yellow-throated warbler looks like a yellow leaf with legs!  Thanks to Susan Summers for helping me identify this gorgeous little bird:
This time of year, persimmons start to ripen....
...while turkey tail fungi fans out in beautiful shades of orange, tan, brown, and pale purple.  I stood on top of a tree stump and pointed the camera down to take this shot:
Hope you get out to enjoy the small wonders of a fall day, where ever you might be!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Orange and Black 2013

In the spirit of Halloween, here's a bit of "orange and black"....two kinds of insects that hang out on milkweed leaves.  You might already be familiar with milkweed bugs.  Their black and orange colors serve as warning colors to other animals--letting them know that they will taste bad if eaten:
Another orange and black insect is the milkweed leaf beetle--also with warning colors and tasting bad to predators.  This beetle was spotted by Jim Drummond and Judy Molnar.  I put the beetle on my index finger to shows its size--as Judy puts it:  "It looks like a ladybug on steroids!"
Take a look at this beetle from all angles:
Well, that's all for now....more in two weeks.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Whose Feet? 3

It's been a while since I posted a "guess who" blog, so get your thinking caps on and try to figure out whose feet these are.  First something that lives in water:
Can you guess who has these strong talons?
Who wears these black "stockings"?
Finally, a critter with warm fur--all the better to keep her toes warm if it snows!
Think you know the answers?....The first one I admit looks a little weird--the foot in the photo belongs to a hellbender, a large aquatic salamander:
The talons belong to a bald eagle, a powerful bird of prey:
The stockings belong to a red fox:
Last, the warm furry toes belong to our bobcat.  We don't get snow here very often, but when we do, she doesn't mind--in fact, she seems more active than usual in cooler weather!
More off the beaten path in two weeks!