Hummingbird at Brookside

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The day after I saw the Question Mark butterfly at Brookside Gardens, I was back for another shift at the Wings of Fancy exhibit. This time the big ‘find’ out in the gardens was a hummingbird that was on the plants in the area just before the entrance to the exhibit’s caterpillar house. The bird would make a round visiting flowers…then sit.

That made it easy to get pictures. It is a female – probably a female ruby throated hummingbird. All the hummingbirds around here are feeding as much as they can…fattening for the migration flight.

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For those near Montgomery County, Maryland…this is the last weekend for the Wings of Fancy exhibit at Brookside for this year. If you want to see the butterfly exhibit, this is the last chance.  

Question Mark (Butterfly)

Earlier this week I was walking around Brookside Gardens and noticed a flash of orange in the mulch near the orb sculpture…under a Golden Rain Tree. I had my camera and managed to zoom in. It was a butterfly! When it closed its wings, it was well camouflaged in the mulch and dead leaves.

When I got home, I looked at my quick reference card - “Butterflies of the Western Chesapeake (Washington DC, Maryland, & Virginia.” I tentatively identified it as a Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis). The picture on the card was of the underside of the wing (where the “?” is).

There were more pictures of the butterfly on the Maryland Biodiversity Project website and it was easy to confirm the identification. I also learned that the butterfly overwinters as an adults so might be seen in the early spring.

It’s been fun to talk to others that I volunteer with; many had not heard of the Question Mark butterfly!

Brookside Flowers – September 2019

There are a lot of things in bloom at Brookside Gardens in September. The weather is a little cooler and the Roses are blooming profusely again.

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The Angel’s Trumpets – that always remind me of long swirling skirts – are in all stages of their blooms. I like the colors of this one…the crème color with green highlights at the ‘waist’ and then the transition to melon at the ‘floor.’

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The Black Eyed Susan petals start out as tubes!

There are seeds forming a this point too. I always notice the dogwoods – bright red.

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This year I noticed the nuts on the Red Buckeye trees. At first, I thought they were some odd growths on the trees and there are not many of them; perhaps the trees are a little out of their natural range in Maryland.

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And then other flowers that I couldn’t resist photographing with my cell phone. The phone does very well with flower pictures if I can get close enough to the flower for the picture I want!

Some Insects at Brookside Gardens – September 2019

There are always plenty of plants to see during a walk at Brookside Gardens, but I’ve been looking for insects in a few of my short walks before starting my shift inside the butterfly exhibit. The weather has been pleasant…just warm enough for the insects to be active but not overly hot for a walk. I saw an Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly along the walk toward the arrivals area for the butterfly exhibit.  

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A few feet away…about 30 seconds later…I saw a Hummingbird Moth Clearwing. What a great way to start the morning!

The next time I was at the gardens, I walked back to the same area. I photographed 2 different insects but they were not as showy as the dragonfly and hummingbird moth.

I headed up to the salvia garden to see if there were still any hummingbirds feeding on the plants there. I saw a couple of females but didn’t have the right camera to attempt to photograph them. I did see a Common Buckeye taking a break on a gravel path.

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The salvia garden is very popular with bees of all kinds. There were large bees that were nectar robbing because they were too big to get into the flower (sometimes the stems bent a little with the weight of the bee as well). They had shiny abdomens so were probably carpenter bees.

Longwood Gardens – September 2019

Now for the highlights from the rest of the Longwood Gardens. Before the waterlilies we enjoyed the plants around the main entrance to the conservatory.

We always stop at the indoor children’s garden at the very beginning since later it will be a busy place. This time we got there before any families, so it was very quiet. The place it full of accessible water and natural materials made into art.

On the way to the waterlily courtyard, I noticed different colors of cannas and a bird-of-paradise flower.

After the waterlilies we walked through several more ‘rooms’ of the conservatory including one with plantain and banana plants (both with heavy pods of fruit). And the orchid room was there too.

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Then it was outdoors to the trial gardens. They are particularly lush right now after growing all summer. The sunflowers were heavy with the forming seeds.

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We walked to the chimes tower going up the steps of the tower

And then more steps to follow the water to the Eye of Water. Last time we’d come to Longwood, the eye had been closed for renovation, so we wanted to see it this time.

We trekked to the other side of the visitor center for the flower garden walk. There were beginning to be more people around by this time. A hummingbird flew ahead of us but wasn’t stopping for long; too many people about. Just past the Whispering Bench, there were pots with pitcher plants. I remembered them being there last time as well.

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We made our way around the Large Lake to the Italian Water Gardens.  I zoomed in on some of the sculptures. The renovation several years ago is holding up well.

The day was warming up, but we decided to head out to the meadow anyway. The plants are well established now, and we hiked all the way across to the Forest Edge kiosk/bench. I saw taller Joe Pye Weed than I’d ever seen before…lots of goldenrod…a few thistles…skippers and buckeyes…large dragonflies. We were glad to get back to a shady part of the trail. It was a good morning to be at Longwood!

Waterlilies at Longwood Gardens

One of my favorite places at Longwood Gardens in the late summer/early fall is the waterlily courtyard. Last weekend was no exception. It was a sunny day – and not too hot. We had left our house early enough to be at the visitor center about 15 minutes after the gardens opened. There were a couple of groups that had obviously planned to meet others waiting in the building or just a little way into the garden. Everyone was enjoying the prospect of the day at Longwood – just as we were. As usual – we headed for the Conservatory first…..making our way to the waterlilies half way through the conservatory walk through.

The courtyard always has a few photographers and there is usually someone around to answer questions. We were around early enough that it wasn’t crowded. I love catching the bees on the flowers. My favorite picture of the slideshow below is a flower with 4 bees (there were probably more on the inside of the flower)! Waterlilies often look somewhat alien to me because the colors are vibrant, and the flower parts are robust. I love photographing them….and enjoying the images after I get home.

Red-Spotted Purple

The other butterfly that seems to be doing great in our area of Maryland are the red-spotted purples. They are smaller swallowtails than the most prominent swallowtails in our area – the tiger swallowtails. They can look a little like the dark morph of the tiger swallowtail but they are smaller and a closer look at the markings show they are different. There was a red-spotted purple caterpillar that hatched on the black cherry plant where the Brookside staff had pinned the cecropia moth cocoons back in April. The moths emerged…and the red-spotted purple caterpillar grew, pupated, and emerged as a red-spotted purple. Now – in September, I am seeing lots of these butterflies. They seem to like country roads and gardens. I saw several at Brookside Gardens over the past few weeks.

And at the north tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge….along the road and in the visitor center parking lot.

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I didn’t get out of the car to identify and photograph the butterflies flitting on and over the road to Belmont Manor and Historic Park…but they were the right color and behavior.

It’s great that we have some butterflies that are apparently doing well even if the Monarch butterflies don’t seem as prevalent this year in our area.

More Juvenile Birds

During the past few weeks, I’ve seen several more juvenile birds. They must be from the late broods.

A Titmouse that was a frequent visitor to our feeder for a few days.

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A Carolina Wren at Brookside Gardens. As usual – I heard it before I saw it.

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The same was true with the fuzzy Cardinal. The song was not quite the adult song yet but cardinal-like. It was singing when I walked under the tree – then stopped when I turned around to take a look.

Posts from earlier this summer about young birds:

Fledglings through the window – July 2

Red Bellied and Down Woodpecker Juveniles – July 25

Gleanings of the Week Ending August 31, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: August and Sunbirds and Spiderhunters -  Two sets of bird pictures this week…catching up a little on the gleanings…and good picutres to start out the post this week.

Rare Lightning Strikes Detected 300 Miles from North Pole | Smart News | Smithsonian – I’d never thought about lightning or thunderstorms over the arctic….so this was ‘news to me’ from several perspectives.

Impact of largescale tree death on carbon storage -- ScienceDaily – In our area, invasive insects have caused the deaths of two tree species in recent years: Eastern Hemlock (wooly adelgid) and Ash (Emerald Ash Borer)…die-offs that are definitely not the norm. I wondered if the research included these in their ‘insect outbreak’ category.

The practical ways to reduce your carbon footprint (that actually work) | WIRED UK – How many of these have you considered…implemented?

Here's How the 'Fish Tube' Works | Smart News | Smithsonian – And it doesn’t injure the fish? It seems like it would be very traumatic for the fish.

Tracing the History of Decorative Art, a Genre Where "Form Meets Function" – Short…with some good pictures…and links.

Microplastic drifting down with the snow: In the Alps and the Arctic, experts confirm the presence of plastic in snow -- ScienceDaily – Aargh! Something we have in our minds as being ‘clean’ because it is white, is polluted by things so tiny we can’t see them.

Insect 'apocalypse' in U.S. driven by 50x increase in toxic pesticides – Why are we still using such huge amounts of pesticides when we don’t need to….we have methods to grow our food without decimating pollinators and other beneficial insects.

BBC - Future - The wildlife haven in a Cold War ‘death strip’ – The land between what used to be East and West Germany…the borderland between Finland and Russia….places where the Iron Curtain divided people. This is a long corridor of land left alone for the decades of rapid growth in Europe – land where people didn’t tread but where plants and animals could thrive. It is the European Green Belt through 24 countries. Some species are already using it to migrate north to escape the effects of global warming.

What drives inflammation in type 2 diabetes? Not glucose, says new research -- ScienceDaily – A surprise finding….and now a lot more research needed about fat derivatives and mitochondria in people with type 2 diabetes.

Zooming – August 2019

There are 10 images in this month’s ‘zooming’ post – a selection from places I’ve been over the month: Brookside Gardens, Patuxent Research Refuge, and Mt. Pleasant Farm. I used the zoom a lot on my camera, so I always have a lot to choose from…and the collection almost always is dominated by plants. This month is no exception although there are a few insects (butterflies and a cicada) and a frog.

There is one type of plant that is featured twice. Can you find it in the slideshow?  The answer is below the slideshow.

The hibiscus is the plant featured twice: the red flower and the three green buds!

3 Free eBooks – August 2019

My picks of ebooks freely available online for August were a bit of a challenge; I was a little surprised at the variety that ended up as the top three – fashion history from the 1920s, drawings of junks (also from the 1920s, and Vermont Life Magazine from the 1950s onward (still haven’t looked at all of them up to 2018).

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Barbier, George. Le bon ton d'après-guerre. Paris: Dorbon-Aine. 1922. Two volumes available from Internet Archive (one and two).

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Donnelly, Ivon A. Chinese Junks: a book of drawings in black and white. ShanhaiL Kelly and Walsh. 1920. Available from Internet Archive here.

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Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. Vermont Life. Montpelier: Vermont Development Commission. A quarterly publication available from Internet Archive here.

Battered Moth

Earlier this week when I was heading out to a volunteer shift at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit, I noticed something moving at the base of the red oak tree near our mailbox. I got out of my car to see what it was. There was a large moth flapping around on the ground among the remnants of day lily plants. I took several pictures with my phone and continued to Brookside.

When I got there, the staff helped me identify what I’d seen: a Polyphemus moth (read about the species at Maryland Biodiversity Project and Wikipedia). It’s a female because it doesn’t have the feather-looking antennae. It looked very battered and it died sometime after I left. I collected it when I got home and have it in my freezer…trying to decide what to do with it.

The caterpillars require about 60 days to grow enough to make a cocoon to go through the winter…so this is going to be cutting it close for the eggs this female probably laid in our oak tree. Some of the leaves on our oak (a food plant of the caterpillars) are already beginning to turn reddish brown. None of the branches are low enough for me to see any of the caterpillars in action unfortunately. I’ll still be watching the tree hoping to see one as they grow larger.

Brookside Gardens – August 2019

There is a lot to see at Brookside Gardens in August. I try get there early enough before my Wings of Fancy volunteer shifts to look around.

A plant that was new to me and is evidently doing better than usual in the garden this year (according to one of the gardeners I talked to) is Cardoon or artichoke thistle. In early August, most were still just buds.

By the third week of August there were a lot of blooms. It looks like artichoke and is closely related.

I see Goldfinch almost every time I am in the gardens…but only managed one picture!

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The evidence of Bald Cypress Gall Midge is on the trees now. Soon the tips of the branches will die.

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Sometimes the shape of a leaf catches my attention. These are folded along the central rib – sometimes until they get quite large – and then unfolded into a heart shape leaf.

Milkweed bug larvae (many different instars) are common on milkweed this time of year.

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There were a few Dogwood Sawfly larvae on the dogwood plants near the front of the conservatory buildings but not as many as last year (see the post about them here from August 2018). They were treated with BT (found out from one of the gardeners) and only shriveled larvae were on the plants the next time I visited the gardens.

Wings of Fancy – August 2019

Two volunteer shifts at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit stand out this month. The first was a shorter shift before the exhibit was open to the general public. It was two hours for photographers. The shift was low key with not as many people in the exhibit and it was cooler because it was early in the morning. The temperature was low enough that many of the butterflies were still roosting rather than flying around.

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It was possible to get close enough for some quick pictures with my cell phone. There were at least two clear wings that were spotted.

Enjoy the slide show! By the end of the 2 hours, the temperature was warming and the morphos were flying. One paid a lot of attention to one of the camera bags.

After my shift I went back into the exhibit and took some pictures with a better camera. My favorite turned out to be a blue morpho that positioned itself perfectly on the ‘do not touch’ sign!

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The second shift was made special by a moth! At the beginning of the shift there was an Atlas Moth on the netting at the top of the conservatory…not a good place for a picture. As the shift went on it got hotter and hotter and the moth glided down to the foliage.  We had some time without visitors in the conservatory and I got a great picture. The clear ‘windows’ on the wings look green because of the green plants behind the moth.

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Outdoor Butterflies at Brookside

I always walk around a bit before my volunteer shift in Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit. It’s been easy to see butterflies out in the garden recently. I’ve been able to identify them via my photographs – comparing to the images in the Maryland Butterflies website.

The most numerous butterflies are the tiger swallowtails. I have already posted about them (here) but I did get a good shot of a dark morph (with strips showing in the bright light).

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There was a Pipevine Swallowtail that shared a flower for a few seconds with a Monarch butterfly. These swallowtails are smaller than the tiger swallowtails.

Among the smaller butterflies, the Pearl Crescent is plentiful

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As are the Silver Spotted Skippers.

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I took a picture of a dark butterfly…maybe a Wild Indigo Sooty Wing.

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In the walk up to the Caterpillar House of the exhibit there is a Pipevine with Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars. There were so large…I couldn’t resist a picture!

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I saw a clearwing moth last time I was cutting flowers at my CSA but I haven’t seen any at Brookside yet this year….and haven’t gotten any pictures.

Patuxent Research Refuge – Part II

Continuing about our visit to the Patuxent Research Refuge last weekend (map)…

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At the very beginning of the Loop Trail near the visitor center, we saw a blue dasher on a sign! A great way to start the morning at Patuxent.

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After leaving the bird blind on the Loop Trail, we crossed the bridge heading toward the Cash Lake Trail and began to realize that it was getting hotter every minute…the hike was going be a short one. Looking back toward Lake Reddington, I took one landscape picture

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Then zoomed in for waterlily pictures. The bright sunlight made the water look very dark.

There was a thistle blooming nearby….and going to seed.

After photographing the herons, we came back to the Viewing Blind at the end of boardwalk. I noticed something fly into the tree and was lucky enough to zoom in to find it – a cicada! It was probably the highlight of the trek for me.

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On the way back to the car I noticed the milkweed…looking too good to have very many Monarch caterpillars.  There don’t seem to be many Monarch butterflies this year in our area – noticeably fewer than last year. I hope they are more numerous elsewhere.

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Patuxent Research Refuge – Part I

Last weekend, we spent an hour at the south tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge – that’s the area that includes the visitor center (map). We got there early enough that it wasn’t overwhelmingly hot (and before the visitor center was open). We stopped at a recent addition along the Loop Trail: a bird blind with bird feeders: seeds, hummingbird, and suet. They are still working on the area; as time goes by it should become a better and better place to see birds. In just a few minutes, I saw and photographed three different birds in the area: a male Red-winged Blackbird with patches just beginning to show,

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And a juvenile Common Grackle.

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We walked down to the Cash Lake Trail and out onto the pontoon lake crossing part of the trail. There were two Great Blue Herons out on the lake in the shallow water.

Note the water lilies in bloom around the herons. I’ll post about other things (not birds) we saw in our short visit tomorrow.

Summer Camp Volunteering- Week 4

The theme for last week’s Howard Count Conservancy’s summer camps was ‘Friends in Flight – Bees, Birds, Bats.’ For the activity at Mt Pleasant – I added ‘Butterflies’ to the Friends in Flight list – playing a Monarch Migration game (instructions here) with each of the three groups. The numbered and laminated cards were taped to colorful cones and mug box dice were used for the cards that needed them. The route of cones was set up on the bricked path in the Honors Garden because the grass was so wet everywhere.

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All the campers discovered that there are a lot of hazards along with way during migration….and most played the game about 3 times. We tallied the successful and unsuccessful migrations…with the unsuccessful being slightly ahead!

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At Belmont, I started the Zentangle® session with a discussion of blue jays and their feathers using some pictures.

Then the two groups of campers made mono-tangles with a feather-like pattern. For the first group (skewed toward the older in the 5-12 years old range), I used 3” square coasters and a finer point pen than they had used before. The younger group used Apprentice tiles and the Sharpie ultra-fine pens. Some, but not all, of the campers had been in the previous Zentangle sessions. Overall – it was an impressive week!

It was the last week of summer camp. I’ll take a little break – but am already looking forward to the fall field trips ramping up soon.

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The Zentangle® Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. "Zentangle" is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.

Gleanings of the Week Ending August 17, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Well-Preserved Mosaic Floor Found in Roman Egypt - Archaeology Magazine – Lotus patterns!

Nations with strong women's rights likely to have better population health and faster growth-- ScienceDaily – A study analyzed databases which held information on health, human rights, and economic and social rights for 162 countries for the period 2004 to 2010.  The results suggest that gender equality is not just a women’s issue but a development issue.

More Climate Surprises Expected – THE DIRT – “Climate change together with environmental degradation and social and political instability is the threat multiplier.” It seems like more and more climate-linked surprises/disasters are happening every year. When do we reach a tipping point where everyone realizes that we cannot continue the status quo?

Liver transplants could be redundant with discovery of new liver cell -- ScienceDaily – From Kings’ College London. It would be a big step forward if this finding translates into standard treatment for liver failure.

Viking Woman Warrior May Have Been Slavic | Smart News | Smithsonian – Not all ‘Vikings’ were Nordic men…some were Slavic and some were women! It’s good to understand long ago cultures in more depth…particularly when it causes us to rethink our assumptions.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Birding – National Geographic Society Newsroom – Variety and beauty of birds…I always enjoy the ‘25’ collections.

How to keep buildings cool without air conditioning – according to an expert in sustainable design – We are going to need all the technology we know (and some new ones) to keep buildings and homes cool as the planet gets warmer.

America's packaged food supply is ultra-processed: Americans are overexposed to products that are high in calories, saturated fat, sugar and salt -- ScienceDaily – Unhealthy ‘food’ --- most of us have an inkling about this but it doesn’t keep us from indulging. The article mentions the Foodswitch app that allows consumers to scan packaged foods to determine their healthfulness; I loaded the app and scanned things in my pantry. The pasta I buy (whole wheat and green) rates a 5 of 5! Soymilk was 4.5. The canned tamales my husband likes are a 3 (salt and fat).

Thamugadi, a Roman outpost in Algeria, was saved by the Sahara – Buried in sand after it was abandoned around AD 700…and rediscovered in the 1700s but not explored. In the 1870s it was again rediscovered. It was excavated by the French from 1881 to 1960 in its entirety. It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982.

100 days, 100 nights: Sensor network reveals telltale patterns in neighborhood air quality: Custom-built sensors deployed for 100 days and nights to track black carbon pollution -- ScienceDaily – A test was done in West Oakland with new technology to monitor air pollution with more specificity over the area and time of day(s) than has been done before now. The technology worked and demonstrated that the finer grain measurements provide deeper understanding of what impacts localized air quality…something we have to understand to make progress in improving city environments.

A Serendipity Hike at Mt Pleasant

Last Saturday morning, there was a Serendipity Hike offered at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt Pleasant location. There were quite a few registrations for the free event after the forecast temperature and humidity were lower than recent days in our area. About 50 people came and we had 4 volunteers to lead hikes. My group included people that had not been to Mt Pleasant before.

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My focus turned out to be about landscaping with native plants (like the sweet bay magnolias)

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And cone flowers.

We headed through the Honors Garden to see more flowering plants and around to the stand of Joe Pye Weed (full of tiger swallowtails). Along the way, the green frogs provide a serenade from the pool. I told them that I had seen 3 frogs earlier but that the summer campers had found 7 a few weeks ago. My hiking group saw 5 and one was positioned to easily observe when he made his croak!

From the Joe Pye Weed we hiked around to see Ranger the Barred Owl…then to the meadow, noticing the orchard and Montjoy barn along the way. Down at the stream we noticed the steep slopes that now have vegetation growing on them --- an indicator that the stream restoration upstream has slowed the flow of water from storms. To avoid a steep uphill climb, we crossed the meadow and walked along the stone wall and then back to the nature center. I pointed out the tree with myriad yellow-bellied sapsucker holes.

The hike was a little over an hour…several people came in to get maps of the trails afterward.