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Nature Gardens at NHM: LA's Urban Nature

Showing posts with label : sphinx moth

July 8, 2011

Dumpster Diving Gulls

It never fails. Every year we have the same problem with dumpster divers. No it's not the hipster artist looking for obscure objects for his next sculpture, and it isn't the local freegan looking for her next luncheon. It's actually Western Gulls, Larus occidentalis.

Here's an image I captured on my way back from lunch on my smartphone.


It follows the same routine every weekday. Soon after the field trippers have exited the building they descend to the lawns and eat their lunches. About this time the gulls appear in a massive flock, like a reenactment of Hitchcock's, The Birds. The gulls around here are not as aggressive as others I've seen on my high school campus in the Inland Empire, or those at Seaworld that literally snatch burgers out of patrons' hands! Instead the gulls of Exposition Park wait for our school children to "finish" their packed lunches and...

June 23, 2011

Camera Trapping

Last week Sam got an awesome package in the mail, our new camera trap! On Monday afternoon he set it up behind the Butterfly Pavilion to see if it worked. We were also curious to see if we'd capture any interesting images. Boy were we in for a surprise!

Night 1: Monday pm-Tuesday am


Our first cat tail caught on camera! We've known for a long time about the feral cats, Felis catus, that live in Exposition Park, but we weren't expecting to capture one of them on camera so quickly.


Just over an hour later this Opossum, Didelphis virginiana, sidled into view. Again we knew they were around as we'd seen their tracks in...

June 15, 2011

Squirrel Stew

What's For Dinner (and the Unintended Consequences of Every Introduction)?
 
The Eastern fox squirrel, Sciurus niger, was imported to Southern California in 1904 by veterans of the Civil War and Spanish American War, at the time living at the Veterans Home in West Los Angeles.  The war veterans mostly came from the southern US (e.g., Tennessee, Kentucky) and kept as caged pets tree squirrel native to their home states. Perhaps it is apocryphal, but I've heard that the squirrels weren't just pets, they were also used in that old-time favoritesquirrel stew!


Whatever the reason for keeping the squirrels, eventually an overzealous hospital administrator noticed that they were being fed table scraps and, deeming this illicit provisioning a misuse of government...

June 9, 2011

We're Building a Pond

This morning I got to work and did my usual cursory look out of the office window. This is what I saw:
 
Breaking ground on the pond
 
I know a hole in the ground doesn't get many people excited, but it definitely made my day. Working with the North Campus design team, we spent many months designing a pond that could increase the biodiversity of the North Campus and be a fun and engaging place for visitors. The pond will be teeming with wildlife such as fish, freshwater invertebrates, visiting birds, and hopefully a colony of Western Pond Turtles, Actinemys marmota. Here is a rendering created by Mia Lehrer + Associates, so you can get a sense of what the pond might look like.
 
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June 7, 2011

Bee Hotel California

Bee Hotels

We here at the Museum really like bees, so much so that we are building them a hotel! This hotel will contain over 200 deluxe suites for native bees. We've specifically designed the hotel to accomodate various solitary bees found in L.A. We'll keep you posted as we see what moves in. Thanks to exhibit fabricator, Jerome Brown, the hotels are nearly ready to be put out in the Butterfly Pavilion yard.

Cedar log with pre-drilled bee holes
Swarm!

It seems that other bees have heard how luxurious our accomodations are and stopped by to check them out! Last Friday we got reports of a European honey bee, Apis mellifera, mass in one of the Magnolia trees on the west side of the Museum. Brent "the Bug Guy" Karner, went to...

June 1, 2011

I Love My Job

So I get back to work yesterday morning after the long weekend, and this is what I find on my desk!


Yes, that is indeed a dead lizard and a peanut can full of mushrooms! To be more precise it is an Alligator Lizard, Elgaria multicarinata, and shaggy parasol mushrooms, Chlorophyllum rhacodes. I am not sure exactly how they turned up on my desk, but in this line of work it's pretty common for people to drop off interesting things for you to identify. 

This is especially true when you start to survey urban biodiversity through citizen science projects like Lost Lizards of Los Angeles (LLOLA). Myself and a number of other Museum staffers frequently return to our desks to discover dead lizard specimens. However, don't be compelled to follow suit. It is much more valuable to the...

May 26, 2011

Hummingbirds: Born to be Sword Swallowers!

We've got more bird babies at the Page Museum (you know the one at the La Brea Tar Pits)! We were informed about an Allen's Hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin, nest in the atrium about two weeks ago, and jammed over to scope out the scene. When we arrived we found two tiny eggs in a beautifully crafted nest, suspended about ten feet up in one of the plants.

This past weekend Sam Easterson captured the footage below. I really like the way you can see the nest stretch as the nestlings move around. This is because the nest is partially constructed from spider webs! When constructing the nest, the female hummingbird collects materials such as plant fibers, moss, lichen, and small bits of bark or leaves. She also collects the spider silk for its elasticity. As the nestlings hatch and grow the nest can stretch with them! Check out the video to see it and then be wowed with feeding time. The first time I watched this footage, I couldn't help thinking about a sword...

May 26, 2011

The Birds, the Bees, and the Fecal Sacs

I know you've seen a lot of still images from the Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans, nest, but I just had to share this footage. Honestly, it is too good not to post.

At the beginning of the video you'll see one of the adults (hard to tell if it's the mom or dad, they both help to care for the nestlings) feeding a European Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, to one of the young. This in and of itself is pretty awesome to see, but it gets even better! Remember the Bushtit post? I told you all about how some species of birds produce fecal sacs, to make it easier to keep the nest clean and disease free. Well, Black Phoebes also produce fecal sacs, and this video gives you an insight to this behavior. I'll let you judge for yourself whether you think it's gross, cool, or just plain interesting.