Supersize Me

Let's see...make that one regular and one extra-large...

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Anyone know of a site with a key to cicada exuviae?


It's An Acquired Taste

So you say you want to get closer to nature, eh? Well, just find a place with some zebra swallowtails and work up a really good sweat. They'll find you simply irresistible...


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I finally had to gently grasp this butterfly and physically remove it from Treebeard's sweat-soaked shirt. He's my man, don't you know, and I don't allow trespassers ;)


A Little Reward

Yesterday was yet another day inside. This is getting old, people. I am not meant for the indoors. And apparently, Mother Nature feels my angst because she gave me two little rewards yesterday.

The first was an opportunity to do a little skink wrangling. A nice fat five-lined skink wriggled its way under the door and into the corridor leading to the classroom. I got a good laugh watching it trying to maneuver on the tiled floor and was successful in herding it back out onto the deck. No pictures, I'm afraid. This skink was just too fast.

The second came as I was locking up. I glanced out the glass door on to the deck and thought to myself, "Wow, that greenbriar sure grew fast. It wasn't there this morning." Then I realized it wasn't a vine, it was a snake. A beautiful little Northern Rough Green Snake playing periscope up through the trex boards of the deck.

First I took a picture through the glass just in case...
Then I eased open the door, eased down onto the deck, and eased my camera close to the snake. It cooperated nicely for a heart beat or two...
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So yeah, despite being inside way too much this summer, I do love my job :)


A Matter of Perspective

Late yesterday afternoon I was hard at work, desperately trying to get the work schedule completed for September and October. It's something I have been trying to accomplish for the past two weeks without success. One thing after another has interrupted me, including a blue screen error on a very important computer in our network (oh, the horror!). While I was working, probably scowling at the computer, there came a timid tap on the glass of the office door. I glanced up to see a gentleman peering in at me and it was obvious that he had a question to ask but was reluctant to interrupt me. Visitor questions always take precedence over just about anything else and I am never upset to be interrupted by someone who wants to know something about the park or a plant or an animal...he had questions about all three.

We chatted for a bit and I was able to answer all of his questions except one. He and his wife were geocachers and they were working they way from their home in New Jersey to their vacation destination in Emerald Isle, NC, finding caches all along the way. There is one cache immediately adjacent to the park and I am familiar with the location. (By the way, if you are a geocacher, please don't place a cache on a state park in NC without permission!) He told me that when they found the cache and prepared to sign the log book they got what he considered an unpleasant surprise -- a snake! The couple said it looked like a coral snake, orange with white stripes circling the body. I told them that we were a bit too far north for a coral and asked them if they noticed any black on the snake. One said no, the other said yes. Not unusual when two people see the same snake and try to describe it ;)

I told them I would go check it out. At this point I was cautiously optimistic about the possible identity of the snake and I grabbed a container just in case I was correct. The couple needed to be on their way so they gave me their email address and I promised to send them an ID if the snake was still in the cache. They left and I walked over to check the cache...

The snake was still there and, for me, it was the most pleasant of surprises. As I had hoped, the snake turned out to be a Scarlet Kingsnake, Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides. Scarlet kings are secretive little snakes and very hard to find. It put a huge smile on my face to find one in a mailbox of all places!

The snake was a beauty. I handled it briefly, took a few hurried shots and then let it go. A pleasant surprise indeed and a great way to end an otherwise frustrating day.

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Click on the photo below to appreciate just how pretty this little snake is.
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Be free! Live long and reproduce.
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Fungi Fest

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Treebeard and I saw more than just snakes and frogs on our walk this past Sunday. Fungi were everywhere! Such variety of form and color.
The collage above shows just a few of the many 'shrooms we found. I hope to come back to this post and name them all, I just don't have time to do it this morning...
Another office day for me, I'm afraid. And yes, I am whining ;)


What, Another One?!

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Yes, I know. I really do need to find a Green Treefrogs Anonymous group to help me deal with my addiction.
Hope everyone is feeling fine as frog hair today -- and if you're not, do like this little frog, hunker down and hang on.


Special Places

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There are some places near my house that just team with life.
Perhaps I'll bring you along the next time Treebeard and I venture here...
Sadly, I'll be in the office all day today. But, I wouldn't be surprised if I find my mind drifting to this spot from time to time during the day.


Three Resting Racers

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Curiously, the only snakes we saw Sunday were Northern Black Racers and all of them were coiled up by the trail we were walking. (I saw one other snake that I'm fairly certain was a racer, but it was on the move and I didn't get a positive ID.)


Give Us A Kiss

Rana sphenocephala utricularia
Southern Leopard Frog


Pork Barrel?

You just never know what a storm system will bring with it...

Our conversation this afternoon following a thunderstorm:

"Hey, Treebeard?"
"Yes, Swampy?"
"There's a little pig in the yard."
"A what?"
"A pig. A little one. You reckon it escaped from one of the neighbor's hog houses?"
"I'll give 'em a call and find out."

Turns out we are harboring a fugitive. The hog farmer next door received a shipment of new pigs on Thursday. This little guy made a break for it and has been on the lam (you thought I was gonna say ham, didn't you?) ever since. The little guy fell in love with the pepper barrels that we are getting ready to make into rain barrels.
A few minutes after I shot the video, Treebeard snuck up on him and caught him in one of the barrels. He's in there now (the pig, not Treebeard!) munching out on a couple of ears of corn, waiting for a ride back to the farm.
Funny, I have mixed emotions about that...


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One of five Carolina Wrens that fledged today.
Guess this means we can have our hanging basket of geraniums back now.


Itty Bitty Baby

Cradled in the hand of my fellow ranger, aka Scranton, a brand-new, itty-bitty ground skink (Scincella lateralis).
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Three Good Things

It has a been a very frustrating summer for me. Way too much time spent in the office and way too little time spent outdoors. Today I managed to get out for a few hours. It was wonderful -- I feel almost human again ;) There was much to see, but I will just share my favorite three for the day...

Squirrel Treefrog

Transforming tadpole of unknown species -- king of all he surveys

A young mother out for a stroll with the kids.

Life is good.



...is having a Pine Woods Treefrog on your shoulder,

or perched atop your head!
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Our seasonal employee is curious about all the critters in the park. He frequently brings his finds to me for an ID. Yesterday, he found a treefrog hanging out on one of the decks at work. He caught it and brought it to me. When he opened his hands so I could take a look, the frog jumped onto his shoulder. From there it migrated to the top of his head. It gave us all a good chuckle.


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Cope's Gray Treefrog


Taking Wing

Just before leaving for work on the morning of the second, I made a quick trip out to the side yard to check on the black swallowtail chrysalises. Good thing I did, or I would have missed the show altogether! The "dill worms" of previous posts had emerged as butterflies sometime in the wee hours of the morning and were just about dry enough to fly...

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A transformation that never ceases to amaze me.


What Do You See?


Me...I see Cookie Monster's country cousin. Too much Sesame Street when my kids were little, perhaps?
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The goldfinches are helping themselves to the seeds of the sunflowers that Treebeard planted around the edges of our vegetable garden. They perch atop the nodding heads of the flowers, grip with their toes and s-t-r-e-t-c-h down and around to pluck the seeds.

Sometimes those little yellow birds get down right snippy -- they fuss us out just for being near "their" sunflowers.