NHM.org


Nature Gardens at NHM: LA's Urban Nature

Showing posts with label : Blog

August 5, 2011

Waiter There's a Wasp in my Fig!

A couple weeks ago we had the second round of our North Campus insect survey. Fifteen Museum staff tromped around the North Campus to see what insectuous wonders we could collect. Although we found some notably large specimens, the largest being a 3-inch bird grasshopper (Schistocerca sp.), the most interesting find was actually something a lot smaller. Much, much smaller in fact: a minute fig wasp about 2 millimeters in length!
 

Female Fig Wasp, Pleistodontes sp.
 
Fig wasps belong to the wasp family Agaonidae and as their name implies, they have a life history intricately linked with fig trees, family Moraceae. In fact fig trees can not produce figs without the wasps, and the wasps can't reproduce without the figs! The way this mutually beneficial...

July 29, 2011

Feral Parrots

Have you ever seen a wild parrot in L.A.? Like many other North American cities, Los Angeles has a healthy population of many species of parrots, the most commonly seen of these species in Exposition Park is the Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Brotogeris chirri.

Yellow-chevroned Parakeets feeding on coral tree nectar

Jail Break!
People like to keep parrots as pets. To satisfy this demand, literally hundreds of thousands of parrots have been imported legally (and untold numbers illegally) into the United States over the past 50 plus years. In some...

July 20, 2011

Is This Your Dog?

Sam moved the camera trap last week. We wanted to see what else we might find in the North Campus. Here's what we found.


I guess the Opossum was like the rest of us totally unaffected by Carmageddon!


How did this dog get into the North Campus at 9:02 on a Sunday morning, when all the gates are locked until 9:30?

July 14, 2011

Dinosaurs Open Part of North Campus!

Unless you're living in a cave somewhere (no offense to the troglobites out there), you've heard that we're opening a new Dinosaur Hall next week. In anticipation of this meteoric occassion all Museum staff were invited to preview the hall, which began with a jaunt through the soon to be open sections of the North Campus (car park, transition garden, entrance plaza, and footbridge). Even though these areas of the North Campus were only recently planted, we're already noticing wildlife visiting, including a ladybug that landed on me during the preview and another cat caught on camera trap!

Lost Ladybugs?
The ladybug that landed on me during the staff preview was a Multicolored Asian Ladybug, Harmonia axyridis. It's an introduced species from Japan, which has become very common in our area. This is the first ladybug of its kind that I've found in...

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.
 
...

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...