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.

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

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!

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.

Brookside Gardens – July 2019

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Even though the weather has been very hot this month, there are still plenty of flowers at Brookside Gardens that are weathering the heat.

The buttonbushes have all stages of flowers and seed formation now.

The green cones are forming on the bald cypress.

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The butterfly weed seed pods are bursting open even as the Monarch caterpillars are munching on their leaves. The common milkweed pods are still green.

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There are quite a few butterflies out in the gardens enjoying the flowers. The tiger swallowtails particularly enjoy the Joe Pye Weed. Last weekend I noticed more Monarch butterflies in the gardens. Maybe these are arriving from Mexico although it certainly is later than usual.

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I walk around the gardens before my shifts at the Wings of Fancy exhibit. There were only two this month because of the travel I did during the first half of the month. There are plenty of things to see like chipmunks and milkweed bugs.

I even found a feather on a leaf that I could get close enough for a macro shot.

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In the exhibit, the caterpillars are eating and growing. There was a Palamedes swallowtail caterpillar that had a ‘sun worshipper’ pose on a ‘excessive heat’ day.

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There are plenty of Monarch caterpillars of all sizes on butterfly weed in the caterpillar house as well.

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Inside the conservatory, I don’t have much time to take pictures of butterflies (lots of visitors) but I did manage a few. One day it was so hot that even the butterflies were desperate for water (on the floor) and not flying as much.

Butterflies in the Garden

Last weekend at Brookside Gardens there were a lot of flowers blooming (Joe Pye Weed and Coneflowers) in the high heat and attracting butterflies. Most of the butterflies were Tiger Swallowtails. I took pictures and then categorized them when I got home. The males are slightly smaller and less colorful.

The females are larger and have more blue scales.

And then there are the dark morphs of the tiger swallowtail that are all female.

While I was doing the categorization, I found one that was not a tiger swallowtail. It was a Spicebush Swallowtail! It looks very similar and I never try to distinguish these dark swallowtails in the field. I just take pictures and make the identification when I get home.

There was some butterfly drama just before I went into my Wings of Fancy shift. In the garden near the conservatory give shop – there was a butterfly moving oddly. I quickly determined that it wasn’t the butterfly moving itself; it was a praying mantis eating the butterfly under a flower! One less dark morph of the tiger swallowtail in the garden….

Brookside Gardens – June 2019

The plants at Brookside Gardens are lush this time of year. I took pictures before every shift with the butterflies…and sometimes afterward as well.

The gardeners that maintain the north conservatory succeeded in getting a lotus to bloom in the pool there. When I photographed it, there was a tiny insect on the flower….a little pollinator?

Now for the outdoors - Some days it was raining and I focused on water on the plants; some days I worked with lighting to get the background dark; other days I was intent on filling the frame with a single flower or the unfurling of a single frond. Some plants are still in bud and others are already making seeds. I find myself being pleased with how many I can easily identify but even happier to just savor the shapes and colors…remember the smells. June is a great month for gardens here in Maryland.

Brookside Gardens – Butterflies and more

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Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit was one of the places I volunteered in June – one of my happy places. One of my shifts was so cloud-covered and rainy that butterflies were still roosting in the fiscus at mid-morning.

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There were more clearwing butterflies in the conservatory that earlier in the season – enough that I saw one or two during most of my shifts.

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There aren’t as many paper kite butterflies this year…but they are still one of my favorites.

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The overall favorite for most people is the blue morpho; it’s one of mine too although for more than the blue color…I like the orange markings on the underside and body too. I manage to get some quick pictures during times when there are very few or no visitors in the exhibit.

And there were many other kinds of butterflies that posed for a picture at handy times.

And then there is the caterpillar house. Most of the caterpillars that were in the house during June were Julia Longwing or Zebra Longwing; both use passion flower as the host plant for their caterpillars.

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Toward the end of the month the eggs of the Palamedes swallowtail hatched….and the very small caterpillars begin to make their visible mark on the leaves. When they get bigger, they’ll have ‘eye spots’ to keep the predators away.

There were butterflies outside in the gardens too – mostly tiger swallowtails and skippers.

The bees enjoy the flowers too.

Sometimes a dragonfly would sit for long enough to be photographed.

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Birds like the gardens. A goldfinch and cardinal were near the conservatory one morning before my shift. I also saw a catbird that same morning but it flew away before I could get a photograph.

But the high point of the animals at Brookside was a box turtle! I had just exited my car and saw it emerge from a bed at the side of the conservatory and walk across the concrete in front of the service door to the north conservatory.

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It continued until it was close to the seal between the two doors then looked up like it expected the door to open. I wondered if it had – sometime in its life – spent some time inside the conservatory.

Roses at Brookside Gardens

May and June are the best time for roses at Brookside Gardens. It’s a feast of sights and smells…and a great place to photograph all stages of rose development and different lighting. I prefer to use my zoom rather than getting close…not tempted to step into a rose bed that way.

There are all kinds of roses – different colors, different petal density, climbers and bushes. The day I took most of these pictures, I overheard a gardener talking about the daily care that it requires to keep the garden looking so beautiful. Kudos to the staff and volunteers of Brookside!

Brookside – May 2019

I’m just now getting around to posting some pictures I took at Brookside Gardens in May: the butterfly exhibit, the conservatory – and everything blooming outdoors. So many subject to photograph – flowers, immature seed pods, seeds, leaves, garden furniture and fountains….peonies, poppies, magnolias, alliums, maples, dogwood…what’s not to like. Enjoy the big slideshow!

The side of the conservatory not used for the butterfly exhibit always has interesting plants in bloom – or photo worthy in other ways (like giant water droplets on green leaves).

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The door that volunteers and staff use is surrounded by greenery. Somehow it seems bigger this year.

I arrive 15 minutes before my shift in the butterfly exhibit. Sometimes I have a few minutes between the orientation and the arrival of the first visitors arriving to photograph butterflies.

May is a big month in the gardens. I have a series of Brookside Gardens rose pictures that I’m saving for another post.

Zooming – May 2019

It’s the end of the month – and time to select some images that I utilized the zoom on my camera to capture. I took over 2,000 images in May and at least half of them used that feature – so I had a lot to choose from.

There are quite a few birds in the slideshow this month. Can you find: red-winged blackbird displaying its colors, oystercatcher on the beach, laughing gull, least tern on a barrel, osprey on their nest, peregrine falcon with chicks, and several crowds of shorebirds. The bird feet are those of a mockingbird.

There is a painted turtle, ghost crab and horseshoe crab in the mix as well.

Enjoy the May slideshow!

Ten Little Celebrations – May 2019

May has been a busy month with travel and prep for more travel…lots of volunteer gigs and home maintenance too. As usual – it was easy to identify something to celebrate each and every day. Here are 10 that I’m highlighting for the month.

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Plantain chips. I made my own plantain chips using a plantain from the conservatory at Brookside Gardens. It was a spring celebration of Thanksgiving – good food from a local harvest.

Caterpillar on the hickory. I was hiking with second graders looking at habitats…and what lives in them (paricularly insects). When we came to a young hickory tree that had been planted on earth day, it had some holes in the leaves. It was a small enough tree that we could carefully look under the leaves…and we found a caterpillar! It was one of those serendipity momets…the children were pleased with their find and I celebrated sharing their experience.

Clean car mats. My husband and I both took the mats out of our cars and hosed them off – no more salt and mud that had accumulated over the winter! We picked a sunny day so they could mostly dry out in the driveway after we hosed them off. I am celebrating a cleaner car interior.

Good weather for 4th grade field trip. Earlier in May we were having a lot of rain…and I wondered how the back to back field trips were going to dodge the deluge. At this point I am celebrating not having a single rainy day field trip (even thouh I am prepared with a super rain poncho). The 4th grade field trip was a close call….it didn’t rain and we managed to step around the mud puddles.

A whole day at home. Between volunteer gigs and travel, there were very few days that I could just be at home. When it happened – I celebrated the day to recouperate.

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Horseshoe Crabs. I had never seen horse shoe crabs in action like I saw in Cape May. They are recovering after overharvesting….an ancient creature filling its niche in the web of life. Something to celebrate.

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Light on flowers. I missed most of the azaleas blooming this spring…but managed to get some spotlighted in the dappled light along the path near the stream at Brookside Gardens. I celebrated the photographic experience.

Pre-schoolers are Belmont. I’ve only managed to do one field trip with pre-schools so far this season. What fun they are! I talked to them about trees. We pretended to start out as seeds and grow into a forest…then have the breeze ruffle out leaves (fingers)…and then we talked about trees and wind. Some groups fell down in a heap when the really strong winds came! It’s easy to celebrate the outdoors with pre-schoolers.

Rainy day with butterflies – Mother’s Day. It rained on Mother’s Day and the morning started slow in the Wings of Fancy conservatory – the butterflies weren’t very active and there were not early visitors. I celebrated by taking some butterfly pictures with my phone. And then the ramp up of activity began. It became a busy morning.

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White morpho butterflies. The brilliant irridescent blue morphs are probably the most popluarl butterflies in the Wings of Fancy exhibit. I celebrated the butterflies that are new or not quite as common. The white morphos are one of the special ones I’m celebrating this year.

Spotlights at Brookside Gardens

On a sunny day before one of my Wings of Fancy volunteer shifts at Brookside Gardens, I took the path down along the stream away from the conservatories. It didn’t take long before I noticed the spotlights made by the sunshine through the trees and decided to use the spotlighting as the theme for my photography that day. I like to zoom in and photograph whatever plants are in the spotlight. It has the effect of darkening the background. Some of the flowers were past prime but the spotlighting rejuvenates them as ‘interesting’ photographic subjects. I collected quite a few images in about 15 minutes and a very short walk. Azaleas, ferns, beeches - oh my!

I had been so engrossed in taking spotlighted plants that I almost missed the squirrel that was watching me from a little further along the path. I retraced my steps to not interfere with the squirrel’s morning routine. It was a good day for us all in the garden.

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Plantains!

During one of my volunteer shifts at Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy Exhibit, I noticed that the big banana tree was gone (there were several little ones in the bed) and the green and yellow fruit was still on the pod laying in one of the beds. I had seen it blooming last summer (see the pictures here) and was thrilled to see that the fruit had ripened.

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A Brookside staff member explained that the fruit was so heavy that it was pulling the tree over, so the tree was cut down to make room for the younger trees. The big bunches of fruit were left in one of vacant areas of the bed. The fruit often ripens after it is cut from the tree and it happened in this case. The tree is a plantain – like bananas but without the sweetness. The fruit was a little different shape as well. The staff member used pruners to cut the plantains for people who wanted to them. I took a yellow one.

The recipes for plantain chips I found on the web seemed easy enough. They advised a green plaintain since the fruit would be firmer – easier to slice. On the downside, the green ones are harder to peel. I had a yellow one so making a few shallow cuts along the ridges of the fruit was enough to peel it (although still more difficult that a banana). I put parchment paper on a cookie sheet and sprayed it with cooking spray. I cut the plantain into slices with a knife and put the slices on the prepared parchment paper…sprayed them with cooking spray…and sprinkled on some garlic salt. I cooked them in a 350-degree oven until they began to turn brown. I hadn’t cut them evenly, so I took the thin ones out and then let the rest cook a little longer.

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Yum! I ate all the plantain chips in one sitting!

Yum! I ate all the plantain chips in one sitting!