Monday, August 12, 2013

Additions to the Menagerie

Yesterday I took a trip to Nature Discovery in Williamston, MI.  Jim and Carol McGrath (and their family) run Nature Discovery have operated Nature Discovery for the past 25 years.  Their home houses the largest private collection of Michigan Native reptiles and amphibians in the state.  Both trained biologists, Jim and Carol present amazing programs on reptiles and amphibians (and other nature topics) throughout the state of Michigan and beyond.  This business is their primary source of income. 

Once a month (usually the second Sunday) they open their home up to the public for a nature program.  For a $5 admission cost you can see most of the frogs, toads, salamanders, lizards, turtles, and snakes that call Michigan home.  Some species can even be held.  Yesterday's program was about Michigan's salamander species from the diminutive Red-backed Salamander to the aquatic Mudpuppy which can grow 18 inches in length.

Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) in a small aquarium for display during the Michigan Salamanders presentation

Also on display were a large number of giant silkworm moth caterpillars including Cecropia and Polyphemus.  For a small donation, visitors were able to take home several caterpillars to raise to adults. I currently have five large Cecropia caterpillars on our enclosed porch, happily munching away on Boxelder leaves.

One of the Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) caterpillars

Not a Cecropia Moth!  This one was a Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) caterpillar.  I did not take any of these home - just some pictures.

If all goes according to plan, the caterpillars will soon go into cocoons where they will remain until next spring where they will emerge to look like this:

Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia)

I also took home this lovely creature:

That's a baby Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta) - it will turn black over time.  The two adult female Rat Snakes at Nature Discovery recently laid a number of eggs, from which seven viable offspring hatched.  Because they have a large number of Rat Snakes already, Jim and Carol are looking for homes for the hatchlings.  Right now, any education institution that books a program with Nature Discovery can (if they want) adopt one of the hatchling Rat Snakes.

Because I have booked a number of programs in the past (and for the future) for our Environmental Education Day, Bird Day, and the Chippewa Valley Audubon Club, I was able to secure one of the hatchlings.  This youngster will join two Corn Snakes, a Tiger Salamander, and several turtles as pets in my wife's second grade classroom - everyone agrees that she has the "coolest" classroom. 

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