Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fur Balls 1

Often our Museum guests may notice that some animals on exhibit are asleep.  Since guests may be perturbed that the animal on display seems to be nothing more than a sleeping "fur ball," I decided you might like to try to guess what each sleeping "fur ball" might be....this first sleeping animal is one that we often have on display on the Outdoor Trail during warmer summer months.  It might be pretty obvious to you:
This animal is also on our Outdoor Trail:
Also, another Outdoor Trail animal:
This animal is, again, an Outdoor Trail animal which sometimes sleeps up in a tree:
This last animal is in our Piedmont Mountain Gallery:
You probably already know that the first photo is of a skunk.  Of course, you noticed the two white stripes down its back--but did you know that no two skunks have the exact same stripe pattern?  The stripes vary in thickness and also how far apart the stripes are.  I've even seen a "striped" skunk without its stripes!:
The second photo is of a red fox.  They are usually awake at dusk and dawn ("crepuscular") but can be seen awake during the day as well.  We had a little snow the day before I took this photo--but with her beautiful red coat, she didn't seem to mind a bit!
The third photo was of one of my favorite subjects--one of our coyotes.  Not only was she awake when I took these photos, but she romped, galloped, and jumped in the bit of snow we recently had:
The animal in the tree was one of our raccoons--very agile climbers, the raccoons will often sleep in the "Y" of tree branches:
The last animal was of one our chipmunks.  Very cute!
So the moral of this story:  "Be patient, eventually all the "fur balls" wake up!"  I hope you enjoyed this edition of  "Off the Beaten Path"...more in two weeks!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Birds of a Feather 2

It's been well over a year since the first "Birds of a Feather" blog, so I thought another feathery edition was long overdue!  Get your thinking caps on....the first photo is a bird native to this area, but not in our exhibits--it's a type of wild bird frequently seen on our Museum grounds.  What spectacular iridescent feathers!
These feathers belong to a bird that lives on exhibit on our Outdoor Trail:
These feathers belong to an animal we use in educational programs:
These silvery gray feathers belong to a bird in our Outdoor Aviary:
Finally, some exotic feathers--definitely not native to Virginia:
Figured it out?  The first set of feathers belong to a boat-tailed grackle:
In this next photo, look closely at this bird's eye...does the eye look "cloudy?"  That's the nictitating membrane or "third eyelid" that birds have to help protect their eyes--sort of like built-in "flight goggles."  If you look closely you'll see that the membrane is sweeping from front to back (not straight up or down.)  Sometimes you'll see birds "blink" with just this membrane to clean their eyes--built-in "windshield wipers," right?  Birds do have "normal" eyelids, but typically their bottom lid "blinks" upward, whereas a person's top eyelid blinks downward.
The second set of feathers belongs to one of our bald eagles.  Was it hard to figure out without seeing the white head and tail feathers?
The third photo belongs to a great horned owl we use in some of our educational programs.  On the day I shot these photos, the owl was handled by Karl Rebenstorf, a long-time volunteer in our Animal Curatorial ("animal keepers") Department and talented nature photographer who routinely contributes his amazing photos to our Marketing Department.  He also happens to be one of my first photography mentors--many thanks, Karl!
In the fourth photo, the silvery gray feathers run down the back and the top of the wings of our brown pelican.  Yes, you're right--it doesn't look very brown does it?  Juveniles will have more of a muddy brown color; adult breeding plumage includes a "bronzy" brown color at the back of the head and neck.
The last two photos--they belong to macaws that were guests here at the Museum during our annual "Noon Year's Eve" special family event.  The birds belong to Nancy, a member of the Peninsula Caged Bird Society, who shared with us a green-winged macaw....
....and a lovely hyacinth macaw.  And what a beak, too!  These magnificent pet birds were born and raised in captivity--but the species are native to South America.  With proper care and diet, pet macaws can live for decades--upwards to 70 or 80 years!
I hope you enjoyed this edition of "birds of a feather"....more off the beaten path in two weeks!