Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

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.

Where Are the Babies Hidden?

July 14th, 2013

This nest of Carolina Wrens (CAWR) is the third we’ve had in the Farmyard this year –that we knew about, anyway–. Mom and Dad wrens have been very protective of their three youngsters, but now that the babies are a little bigger, I managed to sneak a peak at the little ones without being crashed into by a grumpy parent.

Look closely, can you see them?

All feathered and nearly ready to fly!

Normally our CAWR nests are well hidden up in the rafters of the barns. This one, however, is my favorite of the season. Can you guess where it is? Post your ideas in the comment section, I’ll post the answer as soon as the babies fledge!

Join the conversation:

  1. In a bucket of cleaning supplies?

    Posted by Janell
  2. This is a great game, Sarah! (and great post). I won’t give it away…

    Posted by Michele
  3. Keeper Comment :

    It is a bucket with a brush, but WHERE the bucket is located is really the question.

    Posted by Sarah Van de Berg
  4. Bucket from the Keepers/Supply building in the barnyard?

    Posted by Hans
  5. I had a bird’s nest at my place inside an open bag of potting soil! Is it is a feed bag or a bucket?

    Posted by Giovanna
  6. Oops, didn’t see the above comments. Is the bucket in a stall with the animals?

    Posted by Giovanna
  7. Keeper Comment :

    The bucket/brush is not in a stall or even in a building! The answer will be posted soon, keep an eye on the blog!

    Posted by Sarah Van de Berg

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by , Keeper
Hiya! I'm Mikey. That's all you get. :)
I work Tuesday through Saturday and you can usually find me training the bears, mucking with the reptiles and saying bad words in Italian to the aquatic filter systems.

Animals at the Museum…that aren’t ours!

July 14th, 2011

So on any given day you can come to the museum and see all kinds of fun things.  The exhibits, the fun and wonderful staff, and of course the animals in their habitats.  But once in a while you get a treat. You see the museum is on a good bit of wooded land and has a healthy population of wildlife living on it’s grounds as well.  So sometimes we’re lucky enough to run into all kinds of fun animals that we work around every day and don’t always see.  Especially on those days when we come in extra early, or leave extra late – when the crowds aren’t too plentiful is when we especially get to encounter some fun wild critters. 

Look at the side of her shell- see the old injury in the middle?

A few weeks ago, all of the keeper staff came in extra early to help catch the wolves so we could spray the yard for ticks, and get them vet-checked, as well as some other big maintenance like cleaning the pool and mowing as long as we were at it.  On the way down to the wolf yard we came across a big female yellow bellied slider right in the middle of the path.  I got out of the back of Sherry’s truck to move her over and it was Chip, a turtle who if the story serves true, was hit by the museum train many years back and now has a distinctly scarred shell from the encounter.  All the keepers said a cheerful (or as much as they can muster at 7am) “Good Morning” and we send her on her way out of the trucks path. 

Somebody just doesn't like museum paparazzi!

Slightly later on that morning after the wolf yard had been taken care of and most of us had been de-ticked (Marilyn usually has a complement of three times the normal human capacity) when Aaron and I were mucking around Explore the Wild, we came upon a young black rat snake sunning itself on the path.  I say young because even though it was a small adult size, it still had faint remnants of it’s juvenile blotched coloration.  It was decidedly unhappy to see us, which I will attribute to Aaron’s singing.  :)

Already this summer we’ve found a number a copperheads on grounds.  Everything from last year’s birth to a decently hefty female looking for a meal over by our compost pile in the back area.  These snakes are very pretty, but also are dangerous because of the fact that they are venomous so when we find one we relocate it to an unpopulated area to ensure the safety of both our guests and the snake.

Pretty but dangerous... I've had dates like that :)

Agkistrodon contortrix - The Copperhead

Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) - A cute way to start the day!

There’s so many animals to be found on the museum grounds that you could spend weeks trying to find them all.  Any given day you might see woodchucks eating and hanging out at any given place in the park.  I had a Gray Tree Frog keep me company as I cleaned at Lemurs the other day.

Our Intern Jessica with a baby slider she rescued from the dangerous human path in front of wolves

And it's off to the swamp with him!

You might even be in early one day to start cleaning the animals and a random creature from the night before left you a present on the path to step over and try to identify.  :)  All in all, it’s always nice to be surrounded by nature, especially in the heart of Durham.  The best part is, you never know what you’re going to find.

The Museum version of a mermaid... minus the singing Animals :)

Join the conversation:

  1. Director Comment :

    I’ve seen a bunch of wild mammals on grounds over the years: fox (and kits too), muskrat, beaver (with babies), deer, and an otter.

    Maybe you can get photos of all our groundhogs!

    Posted by Sherry Samuels
  2. Is that copperhead in the second picture trying to strike? And how do you go about safely relocating them?

    As an aside, children’s author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) wrote a couple of fabulous memoirs about his childhood and young adulthood. In the second one (Going Solo), there’s a chapter about catching a green mamba in Africa (by a professional snake catcher, not Dahl, who felt the same way about snakes as I do!). It’s a great read for those who are interested in snakes, although not the NC variety.

    Posted by Libby

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by , Keeper
I have been working at the museum since 2003, and I feel fortunate to have a job where I can start my day with amazing animals surrounding me. I enjoy camping, hiking and rock climbing in my spare time when the weather is nice.
I work Tuesday through Saturday and spend a lot of time behind the scenes, but you might find me at a public program or feeding the farmyard animals in the afternoon.

Wildlife wins: refuges get to stay refuges

August 2nd, 2009

In a series of previous posts, I have discussed many different threats to the wild red wolf population in eastern North Carolina. About a year ago there was another topic that, had it not been abandoned, had the potential to threaten red wolves and several other wildlife species, as well.

There was a proposal to place a naval outlying landing field (OLF) in the areas surrounding two of eastern North Carolina’s wildlife refuges. This Navy landing field would have been located within 3.5 miles of the Pocossin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, where tens of thousands of migratory birds flock each year. The OLF would have also been stationed very close to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, where the only wild red wolf population currently resides.

The Navy had been trying to establish the fighter-jet OLF in the area for almost five years. The plans suggested about 31,000 departures and landings a year, and many of them would occur at night. This constant onslaught of noise would be extremely stressful for many of the animal species living on the refuges, including red wolves. The noise would make it difficult for the red wolves to communicate with one another by their usual method of howling. The repeated low-level flight patterns of the jets would have also put migratory birds and pilots both at risk for deadly collisions. Fortunately, these concerns were addressed by conservation groups and local residents in several court cases against the Navy, and the plans were finally abandoned.

At least for now, these beautiful sanctuaries for our wildlife are not under any threat of an OLF. But this sort of proposal brings up an important question for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS): Are there any alternate wild population locations for red wolves in the future? Stay tuned for my next post where I will talk about how the USFWS is addressing this question in regards to the current location at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR) and whether it could soon reach its carrying capacity for red wolves.

The information in this post can be found here.

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