Milkweed for Monarchs

i Jun 18th 4 Comments by

By John Connors and Bryan England

All photos by Bryan England
Hi Everyone.
In the last week I’ve heard reports of Monarch caterpillars feeding on previous milkweed plantings at Horseshoe Farm, Monarchs flying at Anderson Point, and I saw one flying Saturday at Yates Mill Pond. All good news! So the time has come to add to the inventory of milkweed available at public parks around Wake County.

Milkweed seedlings-Bryan_England

The Common Milkweed seedlings have arrived and we have flagged the planting zones at both Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve and Harris Lake County Park. The sites look good…Wilkerson has a clay loam soil and lots of open meadow which was formerly cow pasture- once established milkweed should thrive here and attract many monarchs; Harris Lake has easy to dig sandy loam in a meadow that was once farmed- it will be a good late summer breeding site for monarchs. The Wilkerson meadow was mowed maybe a month ago, so we’ll be planting in openings among the grasses. Harris Lake had a prescribed burn across their meadow…it will be a little easier working there.

We will clip openings in the grass, dig the planting holes, add a little soil improvement, plant the seedling, add a little mulch and water. It may take 3-5 minutes to plant each seedling. We will work in teams.

I imagine we should finish our work by noon, although Wilkerson may take a little longer as the soils will be more difficult to work.

Milkweed planting-Bryan_England

You are part of a nationwide effort in trying to restore Monarch habitat- thanks for your willingness to help. See you in the meadow.

-John Connors

Milkweed planting2-Bryan_England

5/16/2015 from Bryan England, Assistant Manager, Wilkerson Nature Preserve

I want to thank everyone who came and helped with the planting last Thursday, and especially John for organizing it.  I hope I will be able to send you all some pictures of monarchs here visiting “your” milkweeds in the seasons to come.  We gave all 96 seedlings a drink of about a quart of water each today.  The soil was starting to dry, and soaked the water right up, but all the plants looked healthy, with no post-planting wilting at all (although a couple seemed to have been nibbled by something).  The flags and plantings in squares really helped us find them all, and made watering a pretty simple job.

5-23-2015   From Bryan England, Assistant Manager, Wilkerson Nature Preserve

Here’s the Milkweeds for Monarchs update from Wilkerson.

Nine days after your planting, we have Monarch eggs!

Monarch egg-Bryan_England

Several of the new plants had eggs like these when I checked today, so we may have caterpillars by sometime next week.

Overall, of the 96 plants, we’ve only lost 4 to browsers, and they may still re-sprout from the root.  Of the 92 visible plants, 16 have had their top leaves browsed but are recovering with side branch growth.

None of the plants appeared diseased or drought-stressed, so the overall cohort appears strong.  Thank you all for making these eggs possible!

5-24-2015 John Connors Wake Audubon Society

Well I didn’t see that coming! I did find three medium to full grown Monarch caterpillars at Raleigh’s Anderson Point Park yesterday, on milkweed I had planted several years ago- and that was without looking very hard. So maybe its going to be a good year for Monarchs.

It certainly will be a better future for Monarchs for the work all of you put in to get the milkweed planted at Wilkerson Preserve and Harris Lake…and for the efforts of staff and volunteers to keep the seedlings watered.

Thanks everyone, and thanks Bryan for keeping us informed.

6-2-2015 Bryan England, Wilkerson Nature Preserve

Here’s the Milkweeds for Monarchs update from Wilkerson–

Nineteen days after your planting, we have Monarch caterpillars!

Monarch caterpillar-Bryan_England

Several of these brightly-striped caterpillars were observed on “your” milkweed plants today, all were about 10mm long (they say the camera always adds 10 lbs…).  At one caterpillar per plant, they plants seem to be growing faster than the caterpillars can eat them (for now).

Overall, of the 96 plants, we’ve currently “lost” 5 to browsers.  Of the 91 remaining visible plants, 27 have had their upper leaves browsed, but most are recovering well with side branch growth.  Some of the browsed stems are obviously deer damage (rough, stringy bites), but the majority are rodent/rabbit damage (clean-cut, angled bites).  The “wild” milkweeds at Wilkerson have also been browsed over the last week, mostly by deer, so that’s just a natural part of the food chain, too.

Photogenic Birds

i May 15th No Comments by

Authored by Bob Oberfelder

If you find photographs of birds engaging, viewing the award winners from the Audubon photography competition will be rewarding.  Some of the birds are exotic and others are common, but the photos are all extraordinary.  If you view the winners at the link Audubon Photo Winners you will be as impressed as I am with the quality of these pictures.   The photographers have revealed the personas of the birds they have digitally captured.   These pictures are a result of the confluence of an artistic eye, careful assessments of the lighting conditions, patience in getting the ideal pose, and high quality photographic equipment. The winners deserve accolades for the quality of their submissions, but I suspect even the average submission is worthy of praise.

If you wish to see photos from Wake Audubon field trips and activities, they can be viewed using the following link: Wake Audubon Photos.  Though the quality of these photos in not in a class with the winners, they display the birds and other wildlife that have been seen on Wake Audubon field trips.  Perhaps you will find them engaging enough to entice you to join us on one of our upcoming field trips.

In Pursuit of a Tiny Bird in a Big Forest

i Dec 1st No Comments by

Authored by Zhuoyun “Zoe” Pu, with minor contributions by John Gerwin.

I have been studying the Black-throated Green Warbler in the Uwharries region of central NC for the past few years. This includes capturing some individual birds and applying bands and radio transmitters. I work with colleagues from the Greater Uwharries Conservation Partnership, especially Joe Poston of Catawba College, and Crystal Cockman of the Land Trust for Central North Carolina. Museum research associate Sharna Tolfree has been instrumental. Crystal and I co-host a “Naturalist Day” on the second Saturday in May. And recently I and my Museum colleague Jerry Reynolds led a day trip to the region. Crystal has several interns each spring/summer and as part of our collaboration, I get to take one into the field. This year’s intern was a young woman from China who is doing an advanced degree at Duke University in Environmental Engineering. The internship is designed to give them experience in land conservation work, including biotic surveys and in my case, some research. Often this is outside the “comfort zone” of the intern. We asked Zoe to write a little something about her experience with the work for the Black-throated Green Warbler, in May. Although not part of this story, it was great that Zoe was able to come back in June and assist for two of the 5 days when I had several Young Naturalist/Junior Curators. One of the Junior Curators is half Chinese and was thrilled to have some time chatting with Zoe. You never know what you will find in the forest.

Black-throated Green Warbler photo by Joe Poston, Catawba College

Zoe’s words –

I’ve spent the spring and early summer in pursuit of a tiny, black and yellow bird with a buzzy song – the black-throated green warbler of the Uwharrie National Forest. It’s made for an experience I’ll never forget.

As a Duke University graduate student, I’ve been an intern during May and June with the Land Trust for Central North Carolina, assisting John Gerwin, an ornithologist from the N.C. Museum of Nature Sciences, with his bird and vegetation surveys in the Uwharrie National Forest. It’s an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Our main object is the Black-throated Green Warbler. We try to collect physiological and genetic data by catching, tagging, and releasing the birds. While we work, we look for birds captured in previous years and record information about their habitat.

The Black-throated Green Warbler is a small songbird of the New World warbler group. Its black bib and bright yellow face are unique among birds of the eastern U.S. This bird can be recognized easily, not only by sight, but also by its sound, a song that sounds like “zee-zee-zee-zoo-zee” or “zoo-zee-zoo-zoo-zee”.

The warbler breeds in coniferous and mixed forest but occupies a wide range throughout its life. In August, it flies south to its Central American wintering grounds. The warbler nests in parts of North Carolina in the higher southern Appalachians, a few coastal plain sites, and in the Uwharries region. Our survey focuses on the black-throated green warblers found in the Uwharrie National Forest, which seems to be an isolated habitat for them.

The Uwharrie National Forest is primarily in Montgomery County, but extends into Randolph and Davidson counties in south central North Carolina. Most of the time, we are on Daniel Mountain or other mountains near it. According to former reports, the Black-throated Green Warbler is usually heard on the N/NE slopes of the mountains.

We begin our hike through the mountain trails at 7:30 a.m. daily, then head off the trail on a zigzag pattern through the terrain. When we hear the songs of a black-throated green warbler, we stop at one spot and play a recording of the bird’s song. In general, the male bird will be attracted by this imaginary male’s song and will come close to find out who might be challenging him for his territory. If we find a male bird is interested in our fake song, we will set a vertical net in the clearing and put a decoy model of a Black-throated Green Warbler and audio player on the branch nearby. The male will try to flush the decoy bird and get tangled in the net. The process requires a lot of waiting, watching and luck.
If we catch a bird, there’s a lot to do before he’s released. First, we put a small, numbered metal ring on the warbler’s feet to identify it. Then, using special measuring tools, we tally the bird’s wing length, weight and fat condition. During this process, we noticed that this year’s birds weigh about 8.5 grams, lighter than the typical weight of 9 grams.

Using a special needle, we draw blood from the tiny bird’s wing vein, an operation that doesn’t hurt the bird. The blood sample allows us to collect genetic data on the animal.

For our next step, we will do some vegetation surveys to know more about the warblers’ Uwharrie habitat. The Black-throated Green Warbler brings more vitality to the Uwharries, and I hope our efforts will help people understand more about the birds, so that we can live together with them long into the future.

Zhuoyun “Zoe” Pu is a Duke University graduate student who interned with the Land Trust for Central North Carolina.
Re-posted with permission from Zhuoyun Pu and the Urban Institute at UNC-Charlotte. First posted at

Author Zhuoyun “Zoe” Pu with a Black-throated Green Warbler. Photo: John Gerwin

American Woodcock Courtship Grounds

i Nov 17th No Comments by

Authored by John Connors

Wake Audubon volunteers and students from the NC State College of Natural Resources spent Saturday morning clearing saplings from a half-acre plot at Schenck Forest. Our goal was simple…to maintain a setting for woodcock courtship next spring. Although it was cold, the shining sun warmed us quickly as we clipped blackberry vines, small pines and hardwoods leaving intact a broomsedge-dominated opening.

Here we are at the start of the morning.

Schenck Forest is an outdoor teaching lab for the Department of Forestry at NC State University. Much of it is managed as pine forest, but in a recent agreement with Wake Audubon, sections will be maintained as early successional forest to improve wildlife habitat and viewing opportunities associated with them.

John Connors, Wake Audubon’s Woodcock expert, explained that cutting trees in a forest can have benefits for some wildlife species- and that it is essential for species like American Woodcock. John was both a Forestry student and a Wildlife student at NCSU, and studied woodcock at Schenck Forest during that time. “I think it’s great that we can use Schenck as a setting where we showcase the benefits of forest management for both wood products, and wildlife. It’s great for the students to see this. It’s great for the public who like to see the woodcock perform their weird courtship antics. And it’s great for the birds. I’ve led woodcock walks for 35 years here in Raleigh…thousands of people…but this is the first time we’ve been able to give back to the birds who’ve provided so much entertainment. I really appreciate that the managers at Schenck will work with us on this!”

Woodcock is a species of shorebird that has taken to living in the wet, wooded thickets across North Carolina. They are hard to spot because they are medium-sized mottled brown birds that spend their time searching for earthworms in the forest soil and leaf litter. They are extremely well camouflaged.

The best time to observe Woodcock is during their courtship displays. Wake Audubon schedules its annual walk to coincide with Valentine’s Day in February. The males make a strange ‘peenting’ sound on the courtship ground. They then launch into the sky, with wings whistling, as they fly upward. As they reach a height where they are barely visible, the descent begins. They voice a soft, liquid warble until they approach the original launch pad. Then the process begins anew. These courtship displays occur for 20 minutes at dusk and dawn. Look on the Wake Audubon calendar for the next Woodcock walk – sometime next February at Schenck.
Here are before and after pictures.

Imperial Moth – Look for larvae in autumn

i Oct 10th 1 Comment by

Imperial Moth authored by John Gerwin

This evening I nearly stepped on the dark larva pictured below. Glad I didn’t, as I might have twisted an ankle!  This is the caterpillar of an Imperial Moth. A few years ago, in early August, I found a recently emerged adult in our front yard, and I’ve attached a couple images of that. It’s a lovely form indeed. Depending on the light, the darker color varies in intensity but always seems to be some form of violet.  I believe this is a male, with so much violet.

The larva apparently comes in two flavors, and both are shown here. The green guy we found at Durant Park last year in late September.  Larva seem to be most common in September/October. I’m used to thinking of a “brown” form of caterpillar like this as a “pre-pupal” stage. This species pupates in the soil and I presume it was crawling across the parking lot to find some suitable soil. Instead, it now finds itself in a garden plot of ours out back!  (with nice loose, loamy soil and plenty of soft dead leaves).

On the latter few dark form images, the flash highlights the animals colors more than what we could see in the kitchen light. When we found it, it was already getting dark outside, so I don’t know what “natural light” would show – it’s dark to be sure but the greenish cast is there. The spiny knobs were definitely visible in any light. When it extended itself on the kitchen counter it was 5+ inches in length.

IN 1909 naturalist/author Gene Stratton Porter wrote a novel entitled “The Girl of the Limberlost”. Porter was considered one the most popular female novelists of that era – by the time of her death in 1924, 10 million copies of her various books had been sold. In the above mentioned novel, Elnora is a young (nerdy?) woman with a penchant for nature study.  Growing up fatherless and mostly alone in a poor rural Indiana setting, one thing she does is learn to collect and sell nature objects, including moths. I have not read the novel but apparently the Imperial Moth is prominently featured……….

A real treat!

2014 Wildathon

i Jun 20th No Comments by

Authored by Jeff  Beane

Wake Audubon’s Wildathon took place on May 5-6. This was the first year that we conducted our survey on a weekday. Our “24-Hour Dream Team” members were Jeff Beane, Ed Corey, Bob Davis, John Finnegan, Stephanie Horton. We counted all vertebrates.


Mon., 8:05 a.m. For the 8th consecutive year, we kicked off our event with Eastern Glass Lizards (three of them this time) at Carolina Beach.



We officially began our count at 8:05 a.m. on 5 May and ended at 8:05 a.m. on 6 May. Beane, Corey, Davis, and Horton participated for the entire 24 hours; Finnegan took a sleep break between ca. 12:30 and 5:30 a.m. Our search included portions of Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, New Hanover, Pender, Richmond, Robeson, and Scotland counties, NC. We began at 1208 Canal Drive (ca. 1.0 airmi. NNE Carolina Beach) in New Hanover County and ended on the Sandhills Game Lands WNW of Hoffman in Richmond County.The weather was mostly sunny and breezy, with temperatures slightly lower than average, especially at night; no precipitation; high temperatures in the 80sºF and lows in the 50sºF.


Mon., 1:58 p.m. Corey and Horton scan for more species from the Ft. Fisher-Southport ferry.

Techniques:  Most species were observed via visual and auditory searches, while walking and driving. Binoculars and a spotting scope were used to assist in viewing many species. Several species were taken in dipnets, seines, minnow traps, and drift fences; and several were found by turning logs, boards, sheet metal, leaf litter, or other surface cover. One bat species was confirmed via an Anabat detector. Several species were observed only as road-kills or otherwise dead specimens; these are noted by an asterisk (*).

Species Observed

Raja eglanteria  Clearnose Skate

Anguilla rostrata  American Eel

Brevoortia tyrannus  Atlantic Menhaden *

Umbra pygmaea  Eastern Mudminnow

Esox americanus  Redfin Pickerel

Esox niger  Chain Pickerel

Clinostomus funduloides  Rosyside Dace

Hybopsis hypsinotus  Highback Chub

Nocomis leptocephalus  Bluehead Chub

Notropis altipinnis  Highfin Shiner

Notropis chiliticus  Redlip Shiner

Notropis maculatus  Taillight Shiner

Notropis petersoni  Coastal Shiner

Minytrema melanops  Spotted Sucker

Noturus insignis  Margined Madtom

Pylodictis olivaris  Flathead Catfish *

Chologaster cornuta  Swampfish

Aphredoderus sayanus  Pirate Perch

Fundulus chrysotus  Golden Topminnow

Fundulus heteroclitus  Mummichog

Fundulus lineolatus  Lined Topminnow

Fundulus luciae  Spotfin Killifish

Fundulus waccamensis  Waccamaw Killifish

Lucania parva  Rainwater Killifish

Gambusia holbrooki  Eastern Mosquitofish

Heterandria formosa  Least Killifish

Menidia menidia  Atlantic Silverside

Chaenobryttus gulosus  Warmouth

Enneacanthus chaetodon  Black-banded Sunfish

Enneacanthus gloriosus  Blue-spotted Sunfish

Lepomis auritus  Redbreast Sunfish

Lepomis gibbosus  Pumpkinseed

Lepomis macrochirus  Bluegill

Lepomis marginatus  Dollar Sunfish

Lepomis microlophus  Redear Sunfish

Micropterus salmoides  Largemouth Bass

Pomoxis nigromaculatus  Black Crappie

Elassoma boehlkei  Carolina Pygmy Sunfish

Elassoma evergladei  Everglades Pygmy Sunfish

Elassoma zonatum  Banded Pygmy Sunfish

Etheostoma [flabellare] brevispinum  Carolina Fantail Darter

Etheostoma olmstedi  Tessellated Darter

Centropristis striata  Black Sea Bass

Morone americanus  White Perch *

Archosargus probatocephalus  Sheepshead *

Lagodon rhomboides  Pinfish

Leiostomus xanthurus  Spot

Micropogonias undulatus  Atlantic Croaker

Mugil curema  White Mullet

Necturus punctatus  Dwarf Waterdog

Ambystoma tigrinum  Eastern Tiger Salamander

Notophthalmus viridescens dorsalis  Broken-striped Newt

Desmognathus fuscus  Northern Dusky Salamander

Eurycea n. sp.  “Sandhills Eurycea”

Eurycea cirrigera  Southern Two-lined Salamander

Plethodon chlorobryonis  Atlantic Coast Slimy Salamander

Scaphiopus holbrookii  Eastern Spadefoot

Bufo [= Anaxyrus] terrestris  Southern Toad

Acris gryllus  Southern Cricket Frog

Hyla andersonii  Pine Barrens Treefrog

Hyla chrysoscelis  Cope’s Gray Treefrog

Hyla cinerea  Green Treefrog

Hyla femoralis  Pine Woods Treefrog

Hyla gratiosa  Barking Treefrog

Hyla squirella  Squirrel Treefrog

Pseudacris crucifer  Spring Peeper

Gastrophryne carolinensis  Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad

Rana catesbeiana  [Lithobates catesbeianus]  American Bullfrog

Rana [= Lithobates] clamitans  Green Frog

Rana [= Lithobates] palustris  Pickerel Frog

Rana sphenocephala [= Lithobates sphenocephalus]  Southern Leopard Frog

Rana [= Lithobates] virgatipes  Carpenter Frog

Alligator mississippiensis  American Alligator

Kinosternon subrubrum  Eastern Mud Turtle

Sternotherus odoratus  Eastern Musk Turtle

Pseudemys concinna [floridana]  River Cooter (“Florida Cooter” types)

Terrapene carolina  Eastern Box Turtle

Trachemys scripta  Yellow-bellied Slider

Anolis carolinensis  Green Anole

Cnemidophorus sexlineatus [= Aspidoscelis sexlineata]  Six-lined Racerunner

Eumeces [= Plestiodon] fasciatus  Five-lined Skink

Eumeces [= Plestiodon] inexpectatus  Southeastern Five-lined Skink

Eumeces [= Plestiodon] laticeps  Broadhead Skink

Scincella lateralis  Ground Skink

Ophisaurus ventralis  Eastern Glass Lizard

Coluber constrictor  Black Racer

Elaphe guttata [= Pantherophis guttatus, etc.]  Corn Snake

Elaphe obsoleta [= Pantherophis obsoletus, etc.]  Rat Snake

Farancia abacura  Mud Snake *

Nerodia fasciata  Banded Water Snake

Nerodia taxispilota  Brown Water Snake

Opheodrys aestivus  Rough Green Snake *

Pituophis melanoleucus  Northern Pine Snake *

Storeria dekayi  Brown Snake *

Storeria occipitomaculata  Red-bellied Snake

Tantilla coronata  Southeastern Crowned Snake

Agkistrodon contortrix  Copperhead *

Agkistrodon piscivorus  Cottonmouth *

Aix sponsa  Wood Duck

Anas platyrhynchos  Mallard

Branta canadensis  Canada Goose

Colinus virginianus  Northern Bobwhite

Meleagris gallopavo  Wild Turkey

Phalacrocorax auritus  Double-crested Cormorant

Anhinga anhinga  Anhinga

Pelecanus occidentalis  Brown Pelican

Ardea alba  Great Egret

Ardea herodias  Great Blue Heron

Bubulcus ibis  Cattle Egret

Butorides virescens  Green Heron

Egretta caerulea  Little Blue Heron

Egretta thula  Snowy Egret

Egretta tricolor  Tricolored Heron

Eudocimus albus  White Ibis

Cathartes aura  Turkey Vulture

Coragyps atratus  Black Vulture

Pandion haliaetus  Osprey

Buteo lineatus  Red-shouldered Hawk

Haliaeetus leucocephalus  Bald Eagle

Fulica americana  American Coot

Rallus longirostris  Clapper Rail

Charadrius semipalmatus  Semipalmated Plover

Charadrius vociferus  Killdeer

Charadrius wilsonia  Wilson’s Plover

Pluvialis squatarola  Black-bellied Plover

Haematopus palliatus  American Oystercatcher

Arenaria interpres  Ruddy Turnstone

Actitis macularia  Spotted Sandpiper

Calidris alba  Sanderling

Calidris alpina  Dunlin

Calidris minutilla  Least Sandpiper

Calidris pusilla  Semipalmated Sandpiper

Limnodromus griseus  Short-billed Dowitcher

Limosa fedoa  Marbled Godwit

Numenius phaeopus  Whimbrel

Tringa melanoleuca  Greater Yellowlegs

Tringa semipalmata  Willet

Larus argentatus  Herring Gull

Larus delawarensis  Ring-billed Gull

Larus marinus  Great Black-backed Gull

Leucophaeus [= Larus] atricilla  Laughing Gull

Gelochelidon [= Sterna] nilotica  Gull-billed Tern

Rhynchops niger  Black Skimmer

Sterna forsteri  Forster’s Tern

Sterna hirundo  Common Tern

Sternula antillarum  Least Tern

Thalasseus maximus [= Sterna maxima]  Royal Tern

Thalasseus [= Sterna] sandvicensis  Sandwich Tern

Columba livia  Rock Pigeon

Streptopelia decaocto  Eurasian Collared-Dove

Zenaida macroura  Mourning Dove

Coccyzus americanus  Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Strix varia  Barred Owl

Caprimulgus carolinensis  Chuck-Will’s-Widow

Caprimulgus vociferus  Whip-Poor-Will

Chordeiles minor  Common Nighthawk

Chaetura pelagica  Chimney Swift

Archilochus colubris  Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Megaceryle alcyon  Belted Kingfisher

Colaptes auratus  Northern Flicker

Dryocopus pileatus  Pileated Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus  Red-bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes erythrocephalus  Red-headed Woodpecker

Picoides borealis  Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Picoides pubescens  Downy Woodpecker

Picoides villosus  Hairy Woodpecker

Contopus virens  Eastern Wood-Pewee

Empidonax virescens  Acadian Flycatcher

Myiarchus crinitus  Great Crested Flycatcher

Sayornis phoebe  Eastern Phoebe

Tyrannus tyrannus  Eastern Kingbird

Lanius ludovicianus  Loggerhead Shrike

Vireo flavifrons  Yellow-throated Vireo

Vireo griseus  White-eyed Vireo

Vireo olivaceus  Red-eyed Vireo

Corvus brachyrhynchos  American Crow

Corvus ossifragus  Fish Crow

Cyanocitta cristata  Blue Jay

Hirundo rustica  Barn Swallow

Progne subis  Purple Martin

Stelgidopteryx serripennis  Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Baeolophus bicolor  Tufted Titmouse

Poecile carolinensis  Carolina Chickadee

Sitta carolinensis  White-breasted Nuthatch

Sitta pusilla  Brown-headed Nuthatch

Thryothorus ludovicianus  Carolina Wren

Polioptila caerulea  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Catharus ustulatus  Swainson’s Thrush

Hylocichla mustelina  Wood Thrush

Sialia sialis  Eastern Bluebird

Turdus migratorius  American Robin

Dumetella carolinensis  Gray Catbird

Mimus polyglottos  Northern Mockingbird

Toxostoma rufum  Brown Thrasher

Sturnus vulgaris  European Starling

Bombycilla cedrorum  Cedar Waxwing

Geothlypis formosa  Kentucky Warbler

Geothlypis trichas  Common Yellowthroat

Icteria virens  Yellow-breasted Chat

Limnothlypis swainsonii  Swainson’s Warbler

Mniotilta varia  Black-and-White Warbler

Parkesia motacilla  Louisiana Waterthrush

Parkesia noveboracensis  Northern Waterthrush

Protonotaria citrea  Prothonotary Warbler

Seiurus aurocapillus  Ovenbird

Setophaga americana  Northern Parula

Setophaga caerulescens  Black-throated Blue Warbler

Setophaga citrina  Hooded Warbler

Setophaga coronata  Yellow-rumped Warbler

Setophaga discolor  Prairie Warbler

Setophaga dominica  Yellow-throated Warbler

Setophaga magnolia  Magnolia Warbler

Setophaga petechia  Yellow Warbler

Setophaga pinus  Pine Warbler

Setophaga ruticilla  American Redstart

Piranga rubra  Summer Tanager

Aimophila aestivalis  Bachman’s Sparrow

Melospiza georgiana  Swamp Sparrow

Pipilo erythrophthalmus  Eastern Towhee

Spizella passerina  Chipping Sparrow

Spizella pusilla  Field Sparrow

Cardinalis cardinalis  Northern Cardinal

Passerina caerulea  Blue Grosbeak

Passerina ciris  Painted Bunting

Passerina cyanea  Indigo Bunting

Agelaius phoeniceus  Red-winged Blackbird

Icterus spurius  Orchard Oriole

Molothrus ater  Brown-headed Cowbird

Sturnella magna  Eastern Meadowlark

Quiscalus major  Boat-tailed Grackle

Quiscalus quiscula  Common Grackle

Carpodacus mexicanus  House Finch

Passer domesticus  House Sparrow

Didelphis virginiana  Virginia Opossum

Blarina carolinensis  Southern Short-tailed Shrew

Corynorhinus rafinesquii  Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat

Eptesicus fuscus  Big Brown Bat

Lasiurus borealis  Red Bat

Procyon lotor  Common Raccoon

Canis latrans  Coyote

Urocyon cinereoargenteus  Gray Fox

Sciurus carolinensis  Eastern Gray Squirrel

Sciurus niger  Eastern Fox Squirrel

Microtus pinetorum  Pine Vole

Peromyscus leucopus  White-footed Mouse *

Sigmodon hispidus  Hispid Cotton Rat

Sylvilagus floridanus  Eastern Cottontail

Odocoileus virginianus  White-tailed Deer


Fishes:  49

Amphibians:  23

Reptiles:  26

Birds:  135

Mammals:  15

Total Vertebrate Species:  248


Mon., 8:11 a.m. Minnow traps yielded Pinfish and several other species. Our hard work on fishes this year paid off.


Mon., 8:30 a.m. Green Anole makes an early appearance; Davis spotted this displaying male 25 minutes in.




Mon, 9:01 a.m. One of North Carolina’s most common snakes, this Black Racer at Carolina Beach was one of five turned up during the event.



Mon., 8:52 a.m. One of North Carolina’s smallest snake species, the tiny Red-bellied Snake is not often encountered during our Wildathons, but this year’s event turned up four. This red phase individual, found under a coverboard at Carolina Beach State Park, was the first snake we encountered.






Mon., 9:07 a.m. Most mammals are secretive and not easily observed. This Eastern Fox Squirrel at Carolina Beach State Park was one of two seen during this year’s event.


Mon., 9:23 a.m. North Carolina’s largest hylid, the Barking Treefrog is a species we often miss on our Wildathons, but this year we scored this adult, plus another calling, at Carolina Beach State Park.





Mon., 10:33 a.m. Birds, like this male Boat-tailed Grackle at Carolina Beach Lake, are always our most abundant and readily detectable vertebrate class.


Mon., 10:00 a.m. For flashy, it’s hard to beat a Painted Bunting. This banded male was one of several visiting the feeders at Carolina Beach State Park.




Mon., 12 noon. Gull-billed Terns are not the easiest species to get on Wildathons, but we observed several at Ft. Fisher State Recreational Area in Brunswick Co.




Mon., 12:17 p.m. Forster’s, Royal, and Sandwich were among the seven tern species we observed during the event.




Mon., 12:26 p.m. This Black-bellied Plover, at Fort Fisher State Recreational Area, was already in breeding plumage.




Mon., 1:20 p.m. American Oystercatcher and Whimbrel at Ft. Fisher State Recreational Area. We did fairly well on shorebirds this year.




Mon., 5:01 p.m. The Brown Water Snakes at White Marsh “hang thick from the cypress trees like sausages on a smokehouse wall.”




Tues., 3:06 a.m. A late-night run up into the Uwharries paid off with several predominately Piedmont species, like this Pickerel Frog, spotted (no pun intended) on a stream bank in Montgomery County.





Tues., 4:27 a.m. North Carolina’s newly designated State Frog, the beautiful Pine Barrens Treefrog, is uncommon, very locally distributed, and often difficult to find. This male was one of several heard calling in Richmond County in the pre-dawn hours.





            We counted only those species that we could positively identify to the agreement of our team. Big “misses” (species that we certainly should have observed, based on where and how we applied our efforts) included Snapping Turtle, Red-tailed Hawk, American Goldfinch, Atlantic Bottle-nosed Dolphin, and a few others. We recorded a few species not found on any of our previous Wildathons.

Our total species count of 248 was the highest of the 24-hour Dream Team’s 15 Wildathons to date (our previous record was 235, in 2013). For the 8th straight year, it was a pleasure to begin the event with Ophisaurus ventralis (we found three) at Carolina Beach in New Hanover County, in the backyard of the former home of the late Ms. Myrtle Curry, mother of team member Bob Davis. The last species recorded was Pseudacris crucifer, of which two tadpoles were dipped in a small pond on Sandhills Game Lands in Richmond County with less than a minute remaining. The cool weather and wind at night, and the lack of any precipitation, almost certainly hurt our chances with some amphibian and reptile species, and “road-cruising”—usually very effective for amphibians and reptiles—was less effective than usual this year. We salvaged five road-killed snakes (two Elaphe guttata, two Farancia abacura, one Storeria dekayi) for the collections of the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences, and also collected some Notropis maculatus for the Museum. Many observational records for various species were added to the Museum’s files and the NC Natural Heritage Program’s database.

This was the first time in 15 years that we had attempted a Wildathon over weekdays, and we slightly preferred that to the usual weekend event (fewer people encountered, less traffic).

We dedicate this Wildathon to the late Jack Dermid (wildlife photographer extraordinaire, 1923-2014); to the late Renaldo Kuhler (scientific illustrator extraordinaire and possibly the most unusual person I ever met, 1931-2013); to all our sponsors; and to all wild, free things everywhere.

We thank everyone who pledged our team this year, especially in light of the difficult financial times. At this point, our pledged sponsors include Sunny Allen, Ronn Altig, Rudy Arndt, Jeff Beane, Brady Beck & Laura Teeter, Ann Bilobrowka, Art Bogan, Hal Broadfoot, Alan Cameron, Bob Cherry, Amanda Chunco, John Connors, Ed Corey, Bob Davis & Judy Morgan-Davis, Kelly Davis, Angie & Bill DeLozier, Tom Driscoll, John Finnegan & Stephanie Horton, Martha Fisk, Bob Flook, Jim Green, Jeff Hall, Diane Hardy, Andy Harrison, T.J. Hilliard, Linda Jones, Susan Kelemen, Kelley & Yancy King, Jane & Craig Lawrence, Greg Lewbart & Diane Deresienski, Roland Kays, Gerry Luginbuhl, Ellen Lyle, Jeff Marcus, Bob Oberfelder, Zach Orr, Chip Parnell, Jo Ann Parnell, Anne Porter, Linda Rudd, Annie Runyon, Jessie Schillaci, Melody Scott, Kim Smart, Don Stanger, Joanne St. Clair, Dorothy Stowe, Paulette Van de Zande, Peter Warny, Kari Wouk, and almost certainly some others we may have inadvertently left out.  Special thanks to Ed Corey for allowing use of his personal vehicle, to Nate Shepard for assistance with setting minnow traps in the NC Sandhills, and to the staff at Carolina Beach State Park and Ft. Fisher State Recreational Area for providing special access. Jeff Beane and Bob Davis provided lodging. Monies raised will be used to support the usual projects (Audubon’s Coastal Island Sanctuaries, local Wake Audubon projects, Project Bog Turtle, and Project Simus). Your generous support is greatly appreciated! You are the reason we keep doing it every year.

If you have not already done so, please send your pledges to the address below (or give them to any of our team members or to Wake Audubon Treasurer John Gerwin) as soon as possible. Make checks payable to “Wake Audubon” (or “NC Herpetological Society” if you want to donate only to those projects). You can also use the PayPal option on Wake Audubon’s website (under “donate” down on the left side of the home page), but please indicate that your donation is for the Wildathon, and let us know that you’ve paid via that option. Please contact one of us if you have any other questions.

We thoroughly enjoyed the event, and we are already looking forward to participating again next year. Sincere thanks from all of us!



Angle-wing butterflies

i Jun 2nd 3 Comments by

By John Gerwin

“Angle-wings” refers to a group of well-named butterflies with very angular edges to their wings.


Comma underside

I recently learned that there is reference to “Angel Wings” on the Internet, referring to butterflies, apparently these same ones. A typo no doubt.  But this reminds me that there are tropical butterflies with clear wings, often called, sure enough “Clearwing butterflies”.  I just photographed one species in Nicaragua, which I will include for reference.  To me, a butterfly with clear wings seems more like an angel. But, back to our geometrically-enhanced leps………….

The two common species of angle-wings around our area are the Comma, and Question Mark.  They’re quite similar to each other. Not in a punctuation-syntax way, but rather, morphologically. These are black and orange butterflies, with cryptic, darkly colored patterns underneath that blend in well with the bark of a tree (but not our orange house, as seen below).  It is the underside that best determines the correct syntax, er, species – a shiny crescent on a dark background with or without the diacritical point.  These species exhibit some variation in the amount of black on the upperside of the wings.  They are pugnacious little devils as well, “attacking” all manner of fauna that may walk or fly by too close (and they determine what is “too close”).  Comma and Question Mark larvae feed on nettles and elms; and the Question Mark will also feed on Hackberry.  Both butterfly species are regular in our area, but I see more Question Marks (perhaps a reflection of my general outlook on life).  Indeed, the April 2014 picture included below is my first Comma for the yard.  Adults of both species hibernate over the winter, and you can often find one out and about on a warmer/sunny winter day. Hmmmm, I wonder if anyone saw any angle-wings this past winter.  Notable, adults of these two species seldom visit flowers: they prefer to feed at rotting fruit, tree sap, and/or animal droppings (they would make fine….. well, never mind). Here are images of these butterflies.  Also included is a Question Mark caterpillar from the Uwharries – and, as mentioned, a clearwing species from Nicaragua. As far as I know, no one has described a “Semi-colon” or “Exclamation Point” butterfly – yet.


Comma, dorsal view                                    Comma, underside – note clear “comma”



Question Mark, dorsal view                        Question Mark, underside



Question Mark caterpillar photographed in the Uwharrie Mountains



Clearwing species of butterfly photographed in Nicaraqua

All photos by John Gerwin

Native Ground Bees

i Apr 4th No Comments by

Miner Bees Anthophora abrupta.

By Annie Runyon and Gerry Luginbuhl

Below  is a photo of a lovely group of the miner bee nest holes. They are active during dry weather for a short time right now. The males emerge, mate and then die soon afterward, leaving the females to rebuild these ground nests. They are active in the middle of the day, rather than morning-evening when it is cooler. Each female has a separate nest chamber. She’ll be busy laying her eggs, building little waxy walls inside to keep her offspring snug and bringing lots of pollen in to pack with the eggs for the larvae to eat. After all this labor she will not live long, but her offspring will develop over the year and emerge again next spring. They are solitary (although do build beside one another) and are not aggressive about defending their nests the way honey bees defend the hive. They are good early season pollinators … important members of our communities! Please don’t disturb them, they are only active for about a month.

Look closely and you can see one of the bees.

bee at nest hole

Bee at nest hole

Large group of miner bee holes

Large group of miner bee holes

Wintertime Reads – Three Good Bird Books for Gift-Giving

i Dec 5th No Comments by

By Annie Runyon, Board Member

This summer I received a beautiful gift. The Bluebird Effect, Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) written and illustrated by Julie Zickefoose. Ms. Zickefoose writes about her life with the wild birds she rescues and releases. She blends her own personal observations with natural history, using humor, words and art. Her sketches reflect her careful observation, and her watercolor paintings color her stories beautifully.

Reading The Bluebird Effect prompted me to reread two beloved older, but still in print, books about bird life with illustrations by the authors.

Joe Hutto’s Illumination in the Flatwoods, A Season Living Among the Wild Turkey (The Lyon’s Press, 1995) is a companion to the PBS Television Special My Life as a Turkey.

Bernd Heinrich’s Ravens in Winter (Vintage Books 1991) is one of many beautiful books written by an this extraordinary academic field biologist.

Each book offers careful observation, humor and thoughtful questions yet to be answered. Perfect for a winter’s evening read, and for a good gift.

Changeable Mantleslugs In the Trees

i Oct 4th No Comments by

by Annie Runyon (photos and sketches by the author)

Back in the fall of 2011, I decided to collect a few slugs and snails from my yard to study. I needed to illustrate “Slippery, Stealthy Slugs” written by Susan Carl for Wildlife in North Carolina magazine.

Top left to right: white-lipped globe snail, 2 three-toothed snails. Lower left to right: sow bug, and several three-band garden slugs.

The three-tooth snails laid a few eggs in the moss and I had tiny snails after a while. The white-lipped globe snail, Globe, was a bold explorer and loved to munch on mushrooms. The juvenile three-band garden slugs were speedy and devoured fresh lettuce.

One chilly evening in January 2012, I went outside to bring in firewood and discovered a handsome slug snuggled in the woodpile. I placed it in my terrarium. It was quite different from the non-native species I had collected.

Art Bogan, from the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, and Megan Paustian, from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, helped me identify this native as a changeable mantleslug, (Megapallifera mutabilis) … or Slide for short.

This is Globe.

The leopard slug  was too large, active and slimy to live comfortably in my small terrarium. After drawing, I released the leopard on a holly trunk.

This is Slide climbing onto a stick.

Here is a sketch of Slide’s face. 2 long eye-stalks look about, while 2 short stalks feel-taste-smell below. Slide’s face looks a bit cat-like, mouth closed.

Slide seemed upset by the other non-native slugs. Slide moved to a corner, produced copious slime, scrunched up and stank off!  So I put the slugs in separate terrariums, and soon released the non-natives. Slide and Globe lived peacefully together …

Changeable mantleslugs (Megapallifera mutabilis) forage for fungi and lichen in the tree canopy. I gathered fallen branches with fungi for Slide to eat. These native slugs shelter together in moist nooks and crannies in the trees and under logs on the ground. They stretch way out and twist all about; gliding up, over and under with grace. Mantleslugs sometimes contract into a hard lump when frightened. All slugs breath through an opening, called the pneumostome, located on their right side, shown in my sketch below.

On February 11, 2012 at midnight, Slide laid a cluster of eggs (more than 20) in my terrarium. Then she rested. (I figure I can call this hermaphrodite a female while laying eggs!) Next morning she stretched and nibbled on lichen. Slide laid more eggs on February 26, 2012 and on March 9, 2012 her first eggs began to hatch.

Slide lays her second cluster of eggs.

The first egg cluster hatches.   Baby slugs!

Slide and her babies, of various ages, eat together.

Slide continued to lay egg clusters for the next three months. Whenever the weather was wet and warm, I would release her babies onto my maple trees where other slugs roamed. I finally released Slide after she laid her sixth egg cluster. At midnight on May 4, 2012, Slide glided up a big wet maple and disappeared in the canopy. Her offspring are growing and doing well.

Slide’s offspring climb…

…and huddle together in the backyard.

Certain predators are happy to thin the backyard slug herd!

Look in mesic wooded habitats (well-supplied with moisture) for these handsome native slugs. In the morning after a rain, you may find them moving down the trees. During the night, look for them climbing up to search for food and mates.