Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Birds of a Feather 3

We have lots of birds here at the Museum....see if you can guess who these birds are by looking at their feathers:
The first one easy, right?  Owls have 14 neck vertebrae, allowing their neck to be very flexible and an owl can turn its head about 270 degrees (not quite a full circle.)  And the feathers on top of his head?  Just feathers, not his ears (which are located on the sides of his head under the feathers.)  Here's what this great horned owl looks like when he turns around
The second photo is the back of a black-crowned night heron in our Outdoor Aviary:
The third photo shows the wing detail of a green-winged teal--we have them in our Mountain Cove Habitarium:
The fourth photo shows the beautifully speckled feather pattern of a brown thrasher, a songbird we have in our Cypress Swamp Habitarium:
The last photo showed the head crest of a hooded merganser--this one a female, also in our Cypress Swamp Habitarium:
We also have several mergansers in our Outdoor Aviary--here's a male so you can see the difference in the coloration.  In this photo, the feathers on his head are relaxed down:
Hope you enjoyed this edition of "Off the Beaten Path"--more in two weeks!  Our new Virginia Living Museum website is up and running, however our blogs are still slowly but surely migrating over to the new website.  For now, I'll continue to post here until the transition is complete.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Flowers in Bloom 1

Thanks to our wonderful Horticulture Dept., there's usually something in bloom here at the Museum from early spring through late fall.  During the month of April I found lots of blooms on the Museum grounds.  First, some white dogwood blossoms (our Virginia state flower, by the way):
This "umbrella" of tiny white blossoms are from Viburnum sp., a type of shrub--which also goes by the common names of nannyberry, arrow-wood, or possum-haw:
Another lovely flowering shrub is choke berry (which has bright red berries in the fall):
Sedum is a type of succulent plant.  We have several varieties that grow on the Museum grounds--this particular one has delicate white flowers:
You might walk right past this flower and not really notice it.  It's the flower of the pawpaw tree, and it hangs downward like a bell.  I took the photo from underneath so you could see it better.  Many thanks to my friend and fellow educator, Bo Baker, for helping me to identify this flower!:
Another deep reddish flower--this one a Trillium:
Another flower that hangs bell-like is wild columbine.  I took a side-view photo and also one from underneath so you could see the beautiful orange-yellow center:
These azaleas are a spot of bright pink color:
And finally, the blue star, with its lovely soft blue color:
Hope you are enjoying spring!  More off the beaten path in two weeks.  We are getting closer and closer to getting our new VLM website up and running, so I'll make the shift to writing this blog directly from that website very soon.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Eye See You 4

Ready to guess whose eyes these are?...
The first belongs to a lionfish.  An invasive species in this area and up the eastern seaboard, lionfish are native to Pacific waters.  They have venomous spines in their fins--so don't touch!
The second belongs to a chicken turtle:
The third belongs to a copperhead--another venomous creature.  Also, did you notice the heat sensing pit next to the eye?
You may have recognized the last beautiful eye--it belongs to one of our educational program birds--a great horned owl.  Owls have a nictitating membrane that acts as a "third eyelid," sort of like built-in safety goggles to shield its eyes as it flies through the forest:
That's all for now...more off the beaten path in two weeks.  We're updating our website, so this blog will have a new web address soon, which you will be able to access through our main Virginia Living Museum website.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring Things 2014

I've done several "spring things" blogs in the past, so to keep up the tradition, here's the 2014 edition of "spring things."  I took these photos over the last two weeks or so.  After a more intense winter than usual (at least for around here!) these are a few welcome signs of spring.  First, I always know spring is around the corner when we see migratory robins return:
Other wild birds like this cormorant start hanging around the pond behind the Museum--and yes, they really have bright blue eyes!:
Of course the flowers blooming are a very welcome sight.  Here's a shot of the very tiny flowers of a red maple tree:
Bloodroot is also an early spring bloom:
Another beautiful white flower is the rue anemone.  Thanks to Horticulturist Darl Fletcher for helping me to identify these lovely gems!
I love the brilliant color of these violets:
....and of this iris, which actually bloomed in our Cypress Swamp exhibit:
Perhaps one of my favorite spring flowers are witch hazel flowers, with a brilliant yellow color and a sweet scent, too!
Some delicate mushrooms made an appearance in our Mountain Cove.  Thanks to Larry Lewis for spotting these for me:
Also it's the time of year when turtles start their courtship dances--male pond turtles wiggle their long claws in front of a female's face to get their attention.  These turtles are on exhibit in our Cypress Swamp Habitarium.  Thanks to Adrienne Pack for spotting them for me!
And with the warm weather, wild turtles on the pond line up like dominoes on a log to soak up the warm springtime sunshine:
I hope you're enjoying spring where ever you are!  Also, heads up...very soon this blog will be moving to a new website address via our main Museum website. All of my past blogs will remained archived on Blogger, and you'll still be able to access them through a link on our Virginia Living Museum website.  So look for more "Off the Beaten Path" via the Museum website in the coming weeks!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I'm All Ears 1

Here's another "guess who" for you--this one features animal ears...
Figured it all out?  The first one was probably the easiest, belonging to our bobcat.  The backs of her ears show a pattern called "false eyespots" an adaptation used by many animals into fooling would-be predators.
Did you guess coyote for the second one?
The third one belongs to a deer:
The last one--the really odd looking one!--belongs to a turkey:
That's all for now.  More "off the beaten path" in two weeks...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reptile Weekend 2014 Part 2

In my last blog, I featured the many beautiful lizards on display during our annual "Reptiles Bizarre & Beautiful," especially those exhibited by VIIPER (Virginians Interested In Protecting Every Reptile.)  Today I'll feature some more amazing reptiles, and I'll start you off with some more "guess who?"....
The first is the eye of an African dwarf crocodile.  This incredible crocodilian was on loan from Clyde Peeling's Reptiland in Allenwood, Pennsylvania.  The dwarf crocodile is the smallest living crocodile species getting up to 5 feet long.  Native to sub-Saharan west Africa and west central Africa, it inhabits swamps and rainforest rivers.
Also on loan from Reptiland was this fascinating rhinoceros ratsnake.  In the photo below, I caught it yawning!  This ratsnake ranges from northern Vietnam to southern parts of China.  It's an arboreal inhabitant of subtropical rainforests, where is preys upon small rodents and birds.
The second "guess who" photo is of an American alligator--this one shown by VIIPER member, Jessica.
The third "guess who" photo belongs to a really gorgeous reticulated python shown by VIIPER affiliate, Eric.  This snake can get up to 22 feet in length--not sure how long this snake is, but I think it weighs about 75 pounds!  Native to southeast Asia, this type of python inhabits tropical rainforests and swamps.  This snake is always a crowd pleaser--many thanks, Eric!
VIIPER members shared smaller snakes, too--and every bit as enchanting as the bigger snakes!  Tara showed off her delicate little Namibian bug-eyed house snake, which inhabits a variety of habitats from forests to deserts to urban areas.  When I took this photo, the snake's skin looked "dull" or "milky"--a sure sign that it would shed its skin in the near future.
This next snake is a rosy boa, shown by Scott, who told me it was one of the smallest boa species, maxing out at about 3 to 4 feet.  The rosy boa inhabits rocky deserts in the southwest US and northern parts of western Mexico.
I was fascinated by the brilliant colors of this carpet python, native to Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea:
Another snake native to those same regions is the scrub python--take a look at the wonderfully detailed scales on its head:
More beautiful snakes....a blood python shown by Sierra:
...a gray banded kingsnake shown by Curtis:
...a black ratsnake flicking out its tongue to sniff the air. (Thanks, Madi!)
And last but not least....a frog?!  Yep, even though "Reptiles Bizarre & Beautiful" mostly features reptiles, there were a few amphibians, too.  This one is a black and blue poison dart frog:
Again, many, many thanks to ALL who helped make our annual event a success.  I can't wait to see what next year brings!....More "off the beaten path" in two weeks....