Mockingbird at Belmont

We don’t have a resident mockingbird near our house (the trees are too thick now that the neighborhood is 25+ years old), but I see them every time I got to Belmont. Northern Mockingbirds are year-round residents in Maryland. They pick up ‘songs’ from their environment – most of the time other birdsongs but it can be any noise.

I got to Belmont early on a couple of field trip days to take pictures of a bird in the nature place space. It could have been the same bird both days…or not. The space is surrounded by a meadow so plenty of opportunity for the mockingbird to spot insects for a tasty snack or meal. There are plenty of trees and vines with small fruits that develop over the summer surrounding the meadow to feed the mockingbirds into fall and winter. This is prime habitat for the birds.

See the the mockingbird slide show below – the bird enjoying the morning…before the buses arrived.

Macro Photography at Belmont

I did a short session of macro photography at Belmont with my smartphone and the clip-on lens in early May before one of the elementary school field trip students arrived. I already had some ideas of what I wanted to photograph from some previous field trips with student BioBiltzers. My first stop was the shelf-fungus growing just below eye level on a large sycamore.

2019 05 IMG_4189.jpg

I got as close as I could focus with just the smartphone:

20190502_100859.jpg

Then clipped on the macro lens to take a closer look at the cracks and edges of the fungus.

2019 05 IMG_4197.jpg

Dandelion seed globes are always a favorite subject. I was careful to not touch it and cause the seeds to scatter before I could get the picture!

The tiny sycamore leaves have a lot of color – I took a picture with the phone alone…and then the macro lens.

20190502_101409.jpg

The sweet gum is beginning to form gum balls. The balls are small and green currently; they enlarge as the seeds form.

I took pictures with the macro lens of the female flowers (becoming gum balls) and the male flowers that had already fallen from the tree. Both are hard to photograph with the macro lens because they have depth…and the focal plain is shallow.

Overall – it was a very productive 10 minutes of macro photography!

Belmont – April 2019

The Howard County Conservancy spring field trips at Belmont and Mt. Pleasant are into prime time. The two I volunteered for last week had beautiful weather for hiking – almost perfect temperature and dry. I always arrive more than 30 minutes before the students. It’s a short walk from parking to the Carriage House….long enough to get some pictures. Birds that are around: chipping sparrows, robins, and red winging blackbirds. There is at least one resident mockingbird which I heard but didn’t get a picture.

The warmer weather is also causing things to bloom and new spring green leaves to unfurl.

As I wait for the bus, I take pictures toward the manor house, down the entrance road, and down toward the pond. It’s the calm….before the students arrive.

2019 04 IMG_3992.jpg

The students, teachers, and chaperones come on buses and there is a flurry of activity to get the groups sorted into hiking groups and activity groups.

The hikes are about an hour. There are forest and meadows…lot of opportunity for good observations. One of my hiking groups was making BioBlitz observations…documenting a common blue violet blooming in the middle of the mowed path!

20190409_103916.jpg

Belmont – March 2019

Howard County Conservancy hosted a training session at Belmont for upcoming elementary school BioBlitzes last week. I hadn’t been to the location since January, so I looked around before going into the Carriage House for class. The plane trees (they are like sycamores but are a little different – have some seed balls in pairs rather than single) seemed full of seed balls. We’ve had quite a lot of wind and the fibers holding the balls to the tree look worn at this point. I wondered how long they would stay attached after I saw the zoomed image through my camera.

2019 03 IMG_5198.jpg

It was sad to see the stump of the red maple they had to cut down recently. Evidently it lost a lot of big branches during some of the recent winds. The colors in the stump drew my attention. The tree was not extensively rotten but there were some insect holes. The stump would have to be sanded to count the rings. The tree had been struggling in recent years, but I always pointed it out because it had small branches low enough on its trunk for children to see the flowers and leaves.

It also had a root that was above the surface and been injured by mowers…but still survived.

2019 03 IMG_5206.jpg
2019 03 IMG_5210.jpg

I almost always pointed out the red maple to contrast with the nearby sugar maple – which is still standing with some ivy growing on it. It was a good concept for student to think through – how the trees were alike and how they were different…both maples.

The class had an outdoor portion to try out the app and tablets the students would be using. I used the time to take a few more pictures. There were crocuses blooming in the grassy area near the mailboxes.

The wind had blown pine cones and sweet gum balls into the same area.

The pond still looked like it has all winter. The clouds had rolled in while we had been indoors. And this landscape shows the dimness of the day.

2019 03 IMG_5222.jpg

I turned back to the view the manor house and notice a maple that no longer had its upper branches. One of the them was very rotten. But the tree is still blooming!

We headed up to the cemetery and I checked the hemlock. The tree looks like the treatment for wooly adelgid has worked. I tried an experimental shot with a cone highlighted…and blurry branches above and below.

2019 03 IMG_5230.jpg

By the time I am at Belmont again – there will be even more signs of spring.

Ten Little Celebrations – January 2019

As usual – it is easy for me to find little celebrations every day…and here are the top 10 for January 2019.

Getting rid of ‘stuff’ – My husband and I celebrated taking two loads of ‘stuff’ to the landfill (trash and recycling) and donation. I feel like we are finally making progress in getting rid of things we no longer need. We managed to fix 4 floor lamps that we thought were broken…just before we were set to take them to the landfill.

Wedding anniversary – My husband and I usually have a quiet celebration when our wedding anniversary comes around just after Christmas and the beginning of the year. We’re always pleased with ourselves for becoming long-time marrieds….but realize that it has been easier for us than it is for so many others.

2019 01 IMG_1076.jpg

A morning hike at Mt. Pleasant – It was muddy but otherwise an excellent day for a winter hike. I enjoyed getting outdoors.

2019 01 IMG_1404.jpg

New hiking boots – I celebrated getting new hiking boots. The lining of my 4-year-old boots was tearing. I bought the same brand (Merrell) but waterproof and a little wider to leave more room for bunions and thick socks.

No cavities – I went to the dentist for a checkup and celebrated ‘no cavities’ or anything else that required follow-up! It’s been that way for the past few appointments…and I’m glad my teeth seem to be OK and stable.

Anticipating Zentangle class – I registered for a Zentangle class scheduled for late March and started working through the pre-work….what a joy and worth celebrating both the tiles I am creating now and the anticipation of a great experience in the class.

2019 01 IMG_1295.jpg

Walking in snow at Belmont – I celebrated the beauty of snow on the landscape….and that my boots didn’t leak!

20190117_121645.jpg

Witch hazel blooming – What a thrill to find the burst of color in the browns, dark greens, and whites of a winter day! I like that the petals are like little streams as well…. appropriate for a celebration.

20190113_094742.jpg

Peppermint snow ice cream – Yum! Yes, I was very cold after I ate it but is was well worth it…celebration-worthy food!

Macro photograph collection – I celebrated the macro photographs I’d made over the past year or so as I prepared charts for a presentation. I have enjoyed the clip on macro lens more than any other photography accessory!

Belmont in January 2019

Last week, I attended a lecture for Howard County Conservancy volunteers at the Belmont Carriage House – arriving early to walk around a bit before the lecture. There was still quite a lot of snow on the ground.

2019 01 IMG_1257.jpg

I stayed on the cleared roads until I made the trek up to the old cemetery.

2019 01 IMG_1264.jpg

The old tulip poplar looks even more ancient in the winter with all the hollows and bark injuries more clearly visible. It had a lot of seed pods from last season just as the younger trees do.

2019 01 IMG_1272.jpg
2019 01 IMG_1276.jpg

One of the people I was hiking with pointed out an ash tree on the Patapsco Valley State Park side of the cemetery that had evidence of emerald ash borer (the lighter color on the bark). This tree will have to be cut down before it falls on the cemetery taking down fences and stones.

On a positive note – the hemlocks in the cemetery seem to be thriving. A few years ago they were infested with wooly adelgid but they were treated and it seems have saved them.

The wind must have ‘pruned’ the holly in the cemetery. A branch was draped from one of the headstones – no footprints in the snow around the headstone.

2019 01 IMG_1275.jpg
2019 01 IMG_1286.jpg

There were lots of deer tracks in the snow as we walked up to the cemetery and back. We didn’t see any rabbit tracks. Maybe a coyote?

We circled back along the row of white pines. The snow stands out even on a very cloudy day.

2019 01 IMG_1291.jpg

It was time to head back. I stopped near the mailboxes to take a picture of the pond with the bald cypress standing just to the left of it. It does have a classic cypress shape but if I wasn’t familiar with the tree, I’d have to hike down to the pond and see the cypress knees that surround it for a definitive identification.

2019 01 IMG_1295.jpg

Hiking with 4th Graders at Belmont

Last week I spent a morning hiking with 4th graders at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont location. The theme for the hike was how the land has changed from it was all a forest 300+ years ago…to the way it is today with emphasis on the impact of our development of farms and factories…streets and homes.

I arrived early to help with set up. I carried a bag with materials for the terrain model to the table mid-way along the hike and then carried the other bag into the forest for the students to compare aerial photos of the Belmont area.  I took some pictures since I knew once the students arrived I wouldn’t have time for more – I am totally focused on the students while we hike. Some areas in the forest have deep leaf litter and would soak up a lot of water before the water would run off…and right now there are some leaves that are still colorful too.

Coming out of the forest I took a picture of the Belmont cemetery and the row of white pines. I took my hiking groups to the side of the cemetery and talked about the ground penetrating radar that was used a few years ago finding graves under the ground within the cemetery even where there are no markers and also where we were standing outside the fence (lot’s of fun to point out on a Halloween hike) but the conversation also included the idea of shifting of sediment and deterioration of grave markers that might have been made of wood. The pine needles that have accumulated over the years under the pines make the ground feel spongy; that surprised some of the students….and that area would soak up a lot of water just as the leaf litter does – like a sponge.

There was a terrain model that we poured blue liquid over to represent the normal river level…then more blue liquid to be a minor flood (houses nearest the river wet)…up to the level representing the 1868 flood which washed away Elkridge Landing and parts of Ellicott City. The mills never recovered, and towns ceased to exist. The students were surprised to learn that the flood experienced by Ellicott City in 2018 was not that much below 1868 and it was higher than the flood caused by Hurricane Agnes (1972) in Ellicott City.

20181031_095446.jpg

Overall – it was a great day for a fall hike with 4th graders!

Saturday Hike – Part II

We started down from the Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont Carriage House shortly after 10 AM with 21 hikers. I wanted to make good time for the downhill part of the hike to the Patapsco River in the Avalon area of the state park. I didn’t stop for any pictures. Until we got down to the river.

The water was cloudy with silt and the gravel bars that used to be in the center (where tiger swallowtail butterflies liked to puddle in the summer) were gone. The high volume of rainfall has swept them way. The shallows don’t look so shallow any more.

2018 10 IMG_2988.jpg

I noticed a stand of young sycamores as we started back. I wondered if they were planted or had just come up from seeds. There are not many truly large trees along the river because of the violence of the floods.

2018 10 IMG_2991.jpg

The paths were muddy and sometimes slippery with wet leaves. The rain from the night before was still running off. There were two downed trees across the trail at one point…the leaves on one still looked fresh – like it might have fallen the night before. It was easy enough to go under them rather than over.

We’d had enough dry days that there were some noticeable shelf fungi but none of the brightly colored ‘new’ ones that appear after several days of rain.

2018 10 IMG_2992.jpg

There was a light coating of leaves on the forest floor but a lot of green too.

2018 10 IMG_2993.jpg
2018 10 IMG_2995.jpg

We knew were past the half way point going back when we came to the Morning Choice Trail.

There were more signs of trees that had fallen recently. I zoomed in on part of this one when I saw a funnel spider web that looked a lot like an owl!

We came out through the stand of big leaf magnolias and into the trail beside a hay field and thne were within sight of the carriage house shortly after noon. I had my 12,000 steps for the day!

Saturday Hike – Part I

2018 10 IMG_2984.jpg

Last Saturday, I lead a hike from Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont Carriage House down to the Patapsco River. It was a cool gray morning – a good day for a fall hike.

The starlings and male brown-headed cowbirds were busy around the carriage house when I arrived.

2018 10 IMG_2979.jpg
2018 10 IMG_2982.jpg

I appreciated the leaf color of the sugar maple near the carriage house since most of the other leaves in our area seem to be staying green on the trees or falling off before they change color

I noticed that the pods on the butterfly weed had opened but the seeds were still tightly packed inside. Perhaps the rain has come frequently enough this year that the white fibers haven’t dried out enough to become the parachutes for the seeds.

That was the calm before the hike. The list of people that had signed up was long – over 50 people. But only 21 showed up. That was large enough and I was glad that another volunteer was available to bring up the rear on the way down and be at the front for the uphill trek.

More about the hike itself in tomorrow’s post.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are coming up all over. The moisture we got in September evidently provided optimal conditions for the fungi to put up fruiting bodies.

20181002_124500.jpg

On the way home from Belmont last week, I stopped along the road to photograph an embankment with visible mushrooms.

As I got closer I discovered some that were not quite as visible. There were at least three different kinds. The largest ones, that were in all stages of development, were what I saw first. The started out as white then began to darken and crack like meringue. Finally, the cap splits. There were some that were still just pushing up – still almost concealed by pine needles.

20181002_124510.jpg

There was one that was almost the same color as pine needles.

And puffballs that were in all stages of development.

When I got home, I noticed a large one at the base of a neighbor’s tree. I put my macro lens beside it to show the size and then took a picture of the surface with the lens; it looked like a topography map with rifts between the brown patches!

Belmont BioBlitz Field Trip

I went early to help set up for the first Belmont BioBlitz for 5th graders this fall at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont location. I arranged the discovery tables with pelts, skulls, insects in jars/acrylic, and leaves/seeds of common trees neatly framed in cases backed with cotton. Another table held reference books. The volunteers arrived and we all went out to wait for the buses. The new item for this year is a rugged tablet! Otherwise we had the usual BioBlitz backpack: ruler, tape measure, magnifiers, clip boards, some id books…things we would need in the field.

20181002_100703.jpg

It’s good to feel that we are ready – and enjoy the morning calm as we wait for the buses.

20181002_100711.jpg

And then the buses arrive and it all begins.

2018 10 IMG_2945.jpg

With my first group we stayed on pavement since we had one student with a cast and were using a wheel chair for her to help with the distance. We documented some trees along the entrance road and some insects on the trunks. Some geese flew to the pond as we watched, and I used the zoom on my camera to take some pictures to include with their documentation. It was the only time I got my camera out during the field trip. Otherwise the students did all the picture taking and documenting of what they found. The big find for the first group was a wolf spider.

The second group went in a different direction and said – at the beginning – that they wanted to look at plants and fungi. They documented an oak and the ivy growing on it. Then they found several kinds of mushroom type fungi. And there were some insects along the way…they were more interested than they thought they would be in insects. They were looking around for acorns and discovered a different kind of nut….and then the tree. A hickory. They got some good pictures of the nuts and leaves, and the way the leaves are on the branch…so they should be able to determine the type of hickory it is!

It was a good field trip. All the students had already done a BioBlitz on their schoolyard so were well versed with the mechanics of what to do. Belmont is a very different place than a schoolyard!

Cicada Identification

I photographed two cicadas in August. When I found the second one at home I had more time and took more pictures. I realized that I probably had enough different views that I should try to identify it. I knew it wasn’t a periodical cicada (one of the 13 or 17 year life cycle species) because it didn’t have red eyes.

20180822_165756.jpg

I looked more closely at the markings and did some research using the Maryland Biodiversity Project website…and found it: Swamp Cicada – Neotibicen tibicen. The description they give fits perfectly: “Field marks include bright green in the wings, the white ventral area, greenish legs, and green patches on the head.”

I decided to return to the few pictures I took of the first one I photographed. There were fewer pictures because I was in the field with summer campers. Still – it is clearly Linne’s Cicada – Neotibicen linnei.

With this little success – I am motivated to try more often to identify what I manage to photograph…the challenge being to get quality photos from as many perspectives as possible!

Ten Little Celebrations – August 2018

I thought August might be a slow month with the summer camps ending and nothing new starting….but the month developed….not hard at all to pick 10 little celebrations to highlight.

Solitary hike – Usually I hike with other people – most recently with summer campers. Hike my myself at Mt. Pleasant was a change-of-pace and something to celebrate. Getting a artsy picture of two butterflies on Joe Pye Weed with a clear blue sky background was the image to remember of the morning.

20180806_091319 clip.jpg

Surviving a long hike – Then there was the much longer hike with camper up and down…across a stream and along muddy paths. I celebrated when that hike was done!

20180820_101823.jpg

Blue Jay feather – A special feather is always a celebration for me…and from several perspectives: finding one on the ground, photographing it, remembering my daughter’s feather collection when she was very young, and realizing that know what kind of bird it came from!

Weekend in State College – Deciding to take a weekend trip – spurt of the moment. And dodging the rain to enjoy every minute! Celebrating family.

Butterflies – August seems to be my peak month for butterflies roosting on me in the butterfly exhibit. It’s special every single time.

20180813_094814.jpg

Hummingbirds – Last weekend my husband and I attempted to photograph hummingbirds at Brookside gardens for two mornings. We were reasonably successful (a post about our experience is coming) but we’ll both improve with more practice. The birds are fast movers. Both of us are celebrating the photographs we got with the birds in focus!

Blooming bananas – Seeing something familiar but in a little different stage of development….I’m celebrating being in the conservatory at the right time.

2018 08 IMG_3760.jpg

Rulers for 25 cents – I celebrated that several stores in our area had wooden rulers for 26 cents. That’s inexpensive enough I can have my own supply for field trips with children just learning to measure sizes of what we find on our hikes.

Dragonflies – I haven’t found dragonflies in the wheel formation (mating) but I did find two at our neighborhood storm water management pond that were half way there! I celebrated the photographic opportunity and an still looking for the wheel.

2018 08 IMG_2657.jpg

Sweet potato leaves – Yummy sweet potato leaves. Our Community Supported Agriculture must have harvested part of the sweet potato crop in August so we got leaves in one of our shares this month. I hope there are still some left for later since we normally get them in late September. They are probably my favorite salad green….and I get them a couple of weeks a year….so worthy of celebration when they are available.

Belmont Hikes with Summer Campers V

The theme for last week’s summer campers at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont location was STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Math). I decided to a pick some STEM related activities that were more like field work than actual hikes.

20180817_151637.jpg

As usual there were two groups of about 15 each. The first group was the younger one; some of that group were just getting ready for kindergarten. I started out by handing a ruler to each camper.

We started by using the rulers to measure samples I’d brought in a bin (a stick and tulip poplar seedling were popular) and parts of the nearby barn. We did quick tutorials for campers that had not used a ruler before. One student measured one of the tiles – discovering that it was the same across and up/down (i.e. a square). Six campers collaborated to measure the lentil over a low window of the barn (5 feet 4 inches)! Most of the time we tried to measure in centimeters although we used both sides of the ruler.

I started a log of everything we measured on a pad of paper and clipboard.

We measured most of what we encountered on our hike including flowers, several feathers, grass, pine needles and cones, a fake rock (used to cover equipment), holly leaves and berries, a stump and and some very colorful mushrooms.

2018 08IMG_3165.jpg

The second group campers were a little older – up to 12 years old. First, we talked about examples of science new sources (like Science Daily). I used an article about the discovery of moths roosting in hollow trees in Florida as an example. Then I showed them the information about the moth in the Maryland Biodiversity Project site…the way I knew the moth lived in Maryland as well as Florida. And we all knew there was a hollow tree nearby.

20180817_151722.jpg

I had two small flashlights and we started out.

We didn’t find any moths but there were a lot of spider webs in the hollow tree. There was something there that kept the spiders well fed! We found a dead cicada nearby in the grass and examined it closely before we started out next activity.

The second activity with the group was to determine the height of a tree using a piece of paper and a tape measure. The technique worked but after using it for 2 trees we decided a 25 feet long tape measure for measuring trees over 125 feet tall was too painful (we measured a tulip poplar and white pine)…and it was too hot for more field work. We headed back to the air conditioning and lunch.

It was the last day of summer camp at Belmont. These STEM themed hikes were a good finale for us all. Everyone is getting ready for school to start…and the training sessions for field trip volunteers start too.

Horsenettle

When I first got to Belmont…well before it was time to organize for the hike…I walked down into the meadow and discovered an area of shorter vegetation that was thick with Carolina Horsenettle. It looked like an area that might had soil added…and the seeds of the weed must have come in with the new soil.

I started taking pictures. The flowers of these plants are like tomato flowers – although considerably bigger. Horsenettle is in the same genus as tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant but no part of this plant is edible. The flowers are pollinated in the same way as those food plants…with bumblebee’s buzz pollination. I suspected if I had a very high-speed camera that the bee I saw on the flowers we getting showered with pollen as he buzzed close to the flower. Note that many of the leaves have holes; whatever that is eating them, gains the plant’s toxicity as a security against predation. The stems have thorns so it’s better to use the zoom on the camera instead of trying to get close.

The fruit of the plant looks like a tiny green striped tomato right now. In the fall they will be yellow. I point them out on school field trips…making sure the students know they are not tomatoes…not edible (and about the thorns as well).

2018 08 IMG_2471.jpg

Belmont Finches and Red Winged Blackbirds

Before the big hike last week at Belmont, I sat in the shade and took pictures of birds coming to the bird feeders while the summer campers were inside the Carriage House getting ready. I noticed finches at first. Sometimes there are 3 or 4 at the feeders together.

When the red winged blackbirds come the finches scatter. I managed to get one picture with both. The red winged blackbirds are a little bigger…and they tend to dominate wherever they are.

There was another bird that showed up that looked scruffy. Was it another red winged blackbird? I continued taking pictures to find out.

2018 08 IMG_2515.jpg

I think it is – one that is either sick or a juvenile getting adult plumage!  The patch of color on the top of the wing looks mottled but it’s there.

2018 08 IMG_2529.jpg

Belmont Hikes with Summer Campers IV

Last week was probably the longest hike of the season for the summer campers at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont location. It was the combined group of campers so when we started there were just under 30 campers and all their junior counselors and counselors. More than half of them made it the whole distance.

While we were getting organized I took a few pictures of the lichen and moss in the large English Elm to the side of the carriage house. I also noticed that there was more moss than before on the roof of the carriage house – probably from all the rain we’ve gotten this summer; we go for days where nothing dries out completely.

2018 08 IMG_2533.jpg

Once we headed out, I didn’t have much time for taking pictures. We cut across the mowed grass field to connect with the Morning Choice trail and enter the forest near the grove of Bigleaf Magnolias. We saw at least one seed pod high in the trees. They have the look of tropical trees with their large leaves.

We continued – connecting with the Ridge Trail and noticing that the trail that goes down the Avalon Area in Patapsco Valley State Park was closed. On and on through the forest – noticing some trees that had recently fallen – their roots not being able to keep them upright in the soggy soil. Even though it was the Ridge Trail it was up and down…we even crossed a stream. We stopped for a little bit longer rest.

I photographed a millipede. There were several that the campers found…very pleased with themselves since the critters are well-camouflaged in the forest.

20180802_111636 clip.jpg

We finally made a final trek into the valley and over a little stream we were all familiar with because of its proximity to the Carriage House. It was time for lunch and I had already met my 12,000-step goal for the day before noon! Everyone was tired…in a good way…thrilled to have made it back from our trek.

Belmont Hikes with Summer Campers III

Yesterday I was at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont for photography hikes with the summer campers. We could hike because the rain moved out during the night and the morning was sunny. The cardinal flowers near the entrance were blooming well after the deluge of the previous days.

I started off the younger group with an activity looking at sycamore leaves from the branches I had cut from my tree at home: looking at the holes made by caterpillars and comparing the sizes of the leaves. We made a pattern on the pavers of the patio in front of the Carriage House as a subject for our first photographs.

We found a very small caterpillar on one of the leaves.

20180726_095219.jpg

Then we went around to the other side of the house and looked at the pollinator garden and the surrounding vegetation.

The older group of campers went to the formal gardens behind the manor house. There were three kinds of butterflies that I managed to photograph….but missed the monarch that some of the campers managed to catch on the cone flowers. I took the common buckeye, a cabbage white, and a hairstreak (maybe a gray hairsteak). The last one was new to me….had to look at it closely when I got hope. It looks like it has antennae on both ends!

We gathered around the water feature in the gardens and enjoyed the variety water lilies and a lotus growing there. There were bees – usually head down – in several flowers.

Dragonflies are hard to capture with cell phone type camera (which is what most of the campers were trying to use) but everyone saw them…and I managed a picture.

2018 07 IMG_2200.jpg

Behind the formal gardens – the campers with cell phones experimented with the macro lens to photograph lichen.

There were tree roots damaged by mowers that look like eyes in the soil!

20180726_111402.jpg

Overall – a good day for hiking and photography!

Belmont Hikes with Summer Campers II

The hike last week with summer campers at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont location was about plants and animals of Maryland through history. I thought of using the barn whose walls are stones from the are to start off with geology but decided that opted to stay with plants and animals.

2018 07 IMG_2031.jpg

We talked about trees we see at Belmont today that were here when the Europeans arrived (like oaks and tulip poplars and beech and holly and white pine)…new ones (like gingkoes and English Elms and dawn redwoods that have been planted as landscaping trees). We also talked about trees that are missing like American Chestnuts and Elms; more recently the ashes have been cut down and the few remaining hemlocks are struggling.

2018 07 IMG_2039.jpg

We talked about animals like deer and fox and rabbits that we still sometimes see. We looked for signs of the overpopulation of deer – noticed that the deer don’t seem to like holly but that other trees tend to not have any branches within deer reach! We were looking for signs of things as we hiked – and feathers are always a favorite…evidence that birds are around. On one hike we found a dried mushroom with the gills still visible underneath the cap; some of the campers have observed mushrooms in their yard and shared their observations.

20180719_091755.jpg

We saw a lot of dragonflies in the air over the meadow and talked about how the insects had gotten smaller over time…a hold over from last week’s camp theme: fossils.

2018 07 IMG_2032.jpg

It was a good morning hike!

Belmont Hikes with Summer Campers I

2018 07 IMG_1819.jpg

I have started weekly hikes with summer campers at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont location. The theme for this week was ‘Fossils and Feathers’ – to I focused on birds during the hike. The cardinal flowers near the entrance to the Carriage House (the camp headquarters) have evidently attracted some hummingbirds but there were too many people about while I was there to see them.

I was early enough that I walked around to see how the butterfly meadow looks during its first season. It’s mostly grass!

2018 07 IMG_1759.jpg

I photographed some of the flowers that are there among the grass. I hope the butterflies find them!

There were two groups of campers; the first group to hike were the younger children. We hiked down to the pond. There are birdhouses along the way down the grassy path through the newly mowed field. The tree swallows were very active…and then we saw purple martins in their house and flying off toward the pond. Turkey vultures made slow circles in the sky. There were red-winged black birds around the pond and we talked about other birds that like to be around water; Great Blue Herons and Wood Ducks both came up in the talk. We also saw dragon flies at the pond and talked about how they lay their eggs in the water. We hiked back along the tree lined drive to the manor house and stopped at the sycamore; we noticed the pieces of bark on the ground and agreed that next time they go to the stream they might try the curls of bark as ‘boats.’

I had a break between the two groups. I found a chair in the shade and took pictures of birds at the feeders and nearby trees.

2018 07 IMG_1787.jpg

There were red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches, a red-bellied woodpecker, and a mockingbird. I was hearing the mockingbird long before I managed to see it.

The second hike was a bit longer. We walked along the edge of the forest then went a short way in…listening for birds in several places along the way. We heard birds…but didn’t see any except doves and vultures. There was a lot of other things to see: a deer, a tiger swallowtail, chicory, wineberry, sweet gum balls, lichen, a cicada’s shed.

In both groups we found a few feathers to talk about. I enjoyed the hikes…and I think the campers did too.