Naturalist Dr. Rudy Mancke discusses all things winter at seasonal nature talk

Mancke holds an American robin’s nest as he elaborates on the items the bird used to construct the nest. Karamie Sullivan photos.

There were 112 people who braved the cold weather to listen to one of Dr. Rudy Mancke’s seasonal discussions on the University of South Carolina’s horseshoe Tuesday afternoon.  His educational and comical presentation consisted of the plants, animals, insects, and weather related to the winter season in South Carolina.

Mancke began by directing everyone’s attention to one of the large columns at the front of McKissick Museum.  “Before humans were making pottery, there were insects making it.  If you look on that second column you’ll see a potter wasp nest there on the right.  The female wasps build a perfectly shaped pot,” he explained.

One of the most well-known activities of the season is when families bring Christmas trees home to decorate.  Mancke laughed that sometimes people will get unexpected “presents” living among the limbs they had not planned to find.  “Grasshoppers hibernate on cedar trees.  Then you bring them into a nice warm house.  Sooner or late, something’s going to explode out of the tree – usually when you’re decorating,” he said.  Mancke also recalled a time where a family brought in a tree that turned out to have a praying mantis egg case attached onto it  “When it warmed up, they found about 50 or 60 mantises on their wall,” he said.

An unsuspecting bird that many people may be seeing this season is a rufous hummingbird: a migratory species coming from the west, according to Mancke.  “The western hummingbirds might spend the winter in your back yard if you leave your feeder up,” he said.  “It might make your neighbors look at you a little funny, though.”  Other winter birds South Carolinians can expect to see include the white throated sparrow, and the yellow bellied woodpecker.

There were a few items Mancke brought with him to show and pass around the crowd.  Items included an American robin’s nest, vulture feather, breast bone of a turkey, red tail hawk feather, piece of an alligator skull, racoon skull, cow femur, and a live polyphemus moth cocoon.

It was announced that Mancke’s nature discussions will be taking place again next year, but dates have not yet been set.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Columbia, Education, Richland County