Author Archive

by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Farmyard Visitors

August 23rd, 2014

Early one morning, I got a radio call from Sprout Cafe asking if we could come pick up a bird who had flown into the glass. Ranger Greg got to the cafe before me and handed me a small, white paper lunch bag; bird inside.

Look who it was!!

This is either a female or an immature (male or female) Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The little bird had a few sips of sugary Gatorade and rested for about 10 minutes, before flying to the top of a River Birch tree.

Only a few days after the hummingbird visit, I picked up this scaly, little fellow. This Rough Earth snake had been hunting insects (or napping) in the middle of a big mulch pile that I was in the process of spreading out and kept getting right in my way. He/She was relocated safely away from the tines of my rake.

 

Most recently, this lovely lady dropped in to visit. I think this particular Grey fox has been visiting the Farmyard for several years. She uses the train tracks like a highway from the wooded areas at the back of our campus to the more populated sections by the train station and farmyard. She was a common morning visitor back when Ducky was alive. She would  creep around the edges of the farmyard and Ducky would puff up and charge at her and scare her off. Without the duck to try and catch for breakfast (assuming that’s what she was after), she hasn’t come around much in the mornings.

Ranger Greg has done many blog posts featuring the resident foxes. Check out his blog for better fox photos than my old cell phone camera can take.

 

Nearly every morning, I get to say hello to one of the most frequent (and my favorite) farmyard visitors: a female Eastern Towhee. Like the Grey fox, this little bird was also attracted to the farmyard seemingly because of Ducky. She hops all the way from the front entry plaza where she spends most of the day, up to the farmyard where she pops in and out of the animal yards, picking up bugs or pieces of spilled chow. She used to share Ducky’s breakfast with him and could be seen later in the morning tucked up alongside him taking a nap. Nowadays, I see her hopping her old route along the back of the farmyard, often with a male in tow. She’s identifiable by her consistent lack of tail feathers (she usually has only 2 or 3) and spotted rufous left side.

Join the conversation:

  1. love hearing about our guests- thanks for sharing Sarah!

    Posted by sherry
  2. Your hummingbird photos are really impressive, such a cool experience to see one so close.

    Posted by Ranger Ro

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

There’s a Pig on my Trailer!

August 20th, 2014

I heard some noise coming from the compost trailer when I was cleaning the pig yard. Look who had hopped inside!

Auggie checks out what Miss Piggy is doing, but quickly finds something else to do.

All done inspecting the trailer.

I think I’ve earned her approval.

Join the conversation:

  1. Love Miss Piggy’s snout of approval!!

    Posted by djcronce

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Update: Frog Eggs

July 29th, 2014

A few weeks ago, I wrote up a post about some frog eggs we found in the alpaca pool and the tadpoles they hatched into.

I’m sorry to report that none of the tadpoles made it into frogs. However, only a few days after the last tadpole disappeared a whole new batch of eggs was laid in the alpaca pool during a night of heavy rainstorms. I collected the eggs up and the new group of tadpoles have already hatched and started swimming around. I’ll post new photos when these guys get a bit bigger; which is likely soon as this group is growing a lot faster than the first bunch did!

An interesting fact to leave you with:

It’s entirely possible that all of the tadpoles in this new batch are siblings! A single female Grey Treefrog (which is what we think these tadpoles are) can lay as many as 2,000 eggs at once!!

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Cows Have Horns, too!

July 24th, 2014

Lots of guests come into the farmyard, see Max, and call him a “cow.” I assume that a few know he’s not a cow but choose to use “cow” rather than “steer” because it’s an easier word of small kids, but I’d bet more people just don’t know what the difference is. So here’s a quick run down of the various common terms used for cattle:

Cow – A female who has had a baby (or many babies).

Heifer- A female who has not had a baby.

Bull- An intact male.

Steer- A castrated male.

Ox/Oxen- adult, male or female, trained in draft work (pulling). Often males that have been castrated as adults.

Calf- A baby, male or female.

Bullock- In the UK, a castrated male. In the USA, an intact male, less than a year old.

Cattle- either gender (or both) in a group.

 

What about the horns?

Horns are common on both males and females, especially in dairy breeds. It’s not usually possible to tell if you’re looking at a bull or cow just by looking at their face. You’d need to get a look at their bellies to tell them apart for sure. Udders are only visibly present in cows. Heifers have udders but they aren’t typically distended or visibly hanging because she’s never had a calf. Intact males are bulls, castrated males are steer.

Some cattle are naturally hornless. This is called being “polled” and is a genetic trait in cattle that can be passed down to their offspring. It’s also common for cattle on farms to have their horns removed as very young babies, so they never grow, and to have the horns on adult cattle cut or blunted so they don’t hurt each other or the people working with them. Max keeps his own horns blunted by rubbing them on all sorts of stuff, like toys, stumps, and his fence.

Max

Max, napping in the sun

jersey heifer

An adorable little Jersey heifer with her horns

Here’s a handsome naturally polled, Jersey bull from MaryJanesFarm in Idaho.

 

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Frog Eggs

June 18th, 2014

The alpacas found themselves with quite a number of visitors in their yard one evening last week. I was in the farmyard with Jill and Kent when they called over to me to come see the frog eggs in the alpaca pool.

The substitute “vernal pool”

The neighbors

I rescued as many eggs as I could and moved them to a 5 gallon bucket. I say rescued only because we drain and scrub the pool daily and these eggs were soon to be “thrown out with the bathwater.” Generally, wild animals are very rarely in any need of actual rescuing and human intervention often causes more problems for the animals than it remedies.

Look closely. See all those tiny black dots clumped together? Those are the eggs!

After our newly laid egg masses were removed from the pool and settled into their new home, Jill called Ranger Greg to help us answer my “what now?” question. He assured us that there’s nothing more we can do for the eggs but wait and once they hatch, they should be just fine eating the algae in the water for at least a little while. One source I looked at said the eggs will hatch into teeny, tiny tadpoles in anywhere from 4 to 14 days.

So now we wait. I am terrible at waiting -really, I’ve checked on the bucket at least a dozen times today, just to make sure they’re okay-.

In the meantime, do you have any ideas as to what kind of frogs these will grow up to be?

 

Quick Edit:

In the time it took to write the first blog post, our little eggs have hatched! In 3 days, many of the eggs became tiny tadpoles, each a maximum of 1/4 inch long.

There are four tadpoles in this photo, can you spot them all?

 

 

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Hay Stacks

June 6th, 2014

The biggest barn in the Farmyard is used to house our tools, bedding and hay. Loading hay into the Hay Barn generally takes a few people, mostly because we get a little competitive and stack as quickly as possible (7 minutes and change was our best time to load 70 bales into the barn!). This needs to happen every 6 to 8 weeks depending on how many bales we order (or how many our local farm has to offer us), the speed we go through them, and the size and quality of the bales.

Hay bales change size and weight throughout the year depending on how the grass is growing. Early to mid Spring can be a bit of a challenge for us since the bales tend to be at their smallest and Max is eating a whole bale on his own. The smaller, Spring bales don’t fit in our stacking system quite as easily as the larger bales we have during the rest of the year. The last hay delivery was not attended by Kent or myself. Apparently, when the people who typically help load the barn are on their weekend breaks, those who get involved in loading the hay barn decide to get a little bit creative with their stacking.

IMG_20140511_141256_868

This is how I found the hay on Sunday when I came in. To an untrained eye, this might look like well-ordered hay; however, note how all of the hay bales are facing the same direction and the slight lean of the bales toward the left side of the photo.

IMG_20140511_141453_640

This is how I found the hay barn later that day. In total, 17 bales fell and several of them slipped out of their strings, leaving hay pretty much everywhere.

IMG_20140512_105418_254

A volunteer and I unstacked every one of the bales and restacked them in a more traditional pattern.

IMG_20140512_105428_741

Look how nicely organized they are!! Bales stacked in alternating directions use gravity to keep the bales on the row below them from falling, plus, they look pretty.

 

Join the conversation:

  1. I had no dealings with this debacle

    Posted by Jill
  2. Director Comment :

    I was involved in this stacking. It was amusing to say the least, as there were disagreements among the stackers as to the method the bales should be stacked.

    Of course, our main goal was to provide information for a blog post, so we succeeded.

    Posted by Sherry Samuels

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Can Snakes Swim?

May 28th, 2014

YES!

All snakes can swim. It’s not just specialized snakes, like Sea Kraits, that can swim and dive. Water Snakes, Copperheads, Water Moccasins, Garter snakes, Anacondas, Ribbon snakes, Rat snakes, and many more are often found near bodies of water. Even the arboreal snakes of the world like Green Tree Pythons and Mangrove snakes are competent swimmers.

The museum grounds are home to a number of resident snake species; including the only venomous snake species in Durham, the Copperhead. While I didn’t see a copperhead on this occasion, I did see the Northern Water Snake below who  just happened to be swimming by when I was on the boardwalk.

 

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Citizen Science!

May 10th, 2014

Do you ever sit at home, staring at your computer monitor willing something interesting to happen on the internet so you can be entertained? Are you a secretary with a secret passion for reading old war diaries? How about an engineer who wants to hear whales talking to one another? Or maybe you were born and raised in a city and always wanted to go on an African safari or a fireman who dreams of being a meteorologist?

Even if none of those things resonates with you, there’s probably some branch of science that does. Likewise, there’s a branch of science that needs your help. Channel surfer, secretary, engineer, urbanite, fireman, or whatever it is you do, everyone is welcome and needed to help process the massive amounts of information that scientists assemble. I promise it’s not boring!

Imagine you’re interested in learning to identify the different dialects of Orcas. You sink several microphones underwater and record for hundreds of hours. Now you’ve got a ton of data to sift through and it would literally take you YEARS to do so. So what do you do? Historically, a scientist might devote their entire career to that one project but now, with the internet and so many people willing to help, it may only take a few months. Projects that involve the collective effort of people (scientists and janitors alike) to parse through vast amounts of data are called, “Citizen Science” projects.

The museum helps pair social scientists and their projects with participators on our Experimonth website using cooperative games to find answers for the scientist.

If that’s not your thing, and you really do want to read war diaries, listen to whales, categorize cyclones or safari through Africa, you should head over to Zooniverse and join me and the other 1.1 million people who are taking part in any of the 22 currently running projects.

My current favorites:

Experimonth: Do You Know What I Know You Know?

Zooniverse: Condor Watch, Snapshot Serengeti, Notes from Nature, and Galaxy Zoo

So start classifying or entering or cooperating!

You also never know when a Serval will photobomb your Wildebeest trail cam, and I promise you don’t want to miss it!

 

An actual trail cam photo from the Snapshot Serengeti project

 

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

QuikPic: Styx

May 7th, 2014

StyxOwl

 

It might not be award worthy photography, but I thought you might like to see my favorite photo of Styx. We have three Eastern Screech-Owls living in Carolina Wildlife: Badeye, Robin and Styx.

Come visit them next time you’re here!

 

Join the conversation:

  1. Awesome picture!

    Posted by Ranger Ro
  2. Styx seems to be giving the “My mouse, get your own” look.

    Posted by HRvdB
  3. Keeper Comment :

    My favorite is when you get to see Bad Eye grooming Robin Owl. So cute!!!

    Posted by Katy Harringer

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

If you have an account on any of the Museum's blogs, you can sign in with the same login to contribute to the discussion.

If you don't have an account, signing up is free and easy.

by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Early Morning Walk

March 27th, 2014

Lightning and I don’t always have enough time first thing in the morning to make the long walk out to Explore the Wild, but when we do, it’s always worth the trek.

Lightning and I walk on a service path behind the train tracks and meet the moss cattle and deer that inhabit the train pasture

Next, we walk down the paths in Explore the Wild and say, “Good Morning” to the wolves.

 

Then, we stop in at the Bear House and check on Jessi and Autumn…we might have stolen some of Jessi’s breakfast…

 

Lightning goes for a walk every day, as do most of our farmyard animals. Even the pigs and Max! So next time you’re here, if you come by the farmyard and don’t see your favorite furry (or feathered) critter it’s probably a good thing, they’re likely out enjoying the sunshine in the company of a keeper.

Join the conversation:

  1. Love it!

    Posted by Wendy
  2. This could be the start of a good children’s book–”A Donkey’s Day”…Lightning certainly gets into mischief (stealing radios, snitching food…)

    Posted by CVdB
  3. I had no idea the animals went for regular walks…thanks for sharing!

    Posted by Libby
  4. Keeper Comment :

    Absolutely, Libby!

    Walks are an important way for animals to get exercise, explore new places, sights and sounds, and to spend some time bonding with their keepers.

    Posted by Sarah Van de Berg

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