Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hummingbird Moth 2

I couldn't resist--it's been such a treat to see so many of these moths on the Museum grounds this summer, I just had to share them with you!  These beautiful daytime-flying moths zip about like miniature "bumblebee colored" hummingbirds.  Their wingbeats even sound like a hummingbird's!  I was able to get a few photos showing their incredibly long whip-like proboscis (tongue) that they use to slurp up nectar as they hover in front of a flower:
Take a look at this proboscis curled up as the hummingbird moth flew from flower to flower:
The hummingbird moths did not seem to mind other insects like wasps, bees and butterflies sharing the flowers.  Here a hummingbird moth shares flowers of a bottlebrush buckeye with a silver-spotted skipper, a kind of butterfly.  Also notice, I took this photo at a high shutter speed--essentially slowing the wings down enough so you can actually see the structure of the wings.  The wings have "scales" on them like all butterflies and moths, but soon after emerging from their cocoon, the scales in certain areas are shaken off, resulting in the translucent "windowpane" spots:
I was also lucky enough to see two hummingbird moths at the same time--in the first photo, one hummingbird moth approaches the other at high speed....
....resulting in a "train-wreck" into the other one:
Don't worry!  They just sort of bounced into each other then they both flew off--it all happened in a split second.  That's all for now....more off the beaten path in two weeks!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Busy Beavers 1

It's sort of a cliche, but, at times a beaver really can be...."busy as beaver!"  In the wild, beavers are "crepuscular" meaning they are mainly active at dawn and dusk--but here at the Museum, our beavers (two males) are often active during the day, too.  The rest of the time visitors might only see them curled up asleep.  But, when they are awake.....they carry logs....
....using their incredibly powerful jaws to grasp logs in their months--see how far they can open their mouths!
Their front teeth (incisors) are like razor sharp chisels--see the orange enamel on the front teeth?  Great for holding onto logs and cutting down trees, and....
eating, of course!  Beavers are herbivores and eat a variety of vegetation, including tree bark--and they like the very thin green cambium layer just underneath the bark:
Then back to work....more lifting:
Scooping up mud and wet leaf debris...
...and carrying it up on land to shore up the logs--notice they waddle on their back legs to do this!
Then more lifting....
 ....placing the logs where they think best....
....and finally time for another snack:
Whew!  Was that busy enough for you?  More off the beaten path in two weeks!