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.

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.

Summer Camp Volunteering- Week 3

The theme for last week’s Howard Count Conservancy’s summer camps was ‘Water Wizards.’ The campers at both Mt. Pleasant and Belmont made terrific water themed Zentangles®! I started out the sessions by briefly talking about the water cycle…how water moves on our planet and in the atmosphere….honed for the 5-12 years old campers. I projected a simple diagram of the water cycle from the NASA website….and then used the same set up to enable the campers to see how I drew some water themed patterns on pale blue cardstock (using the camera on the iPad which was hooked to a projector).

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There were three groups at Mt. Pleasant. They all enjoyed frogs eggs and tadpoles, raindrops making ripples in a pond, mist….and clouds. The youngest group made rainbows! I used 4.5-inch squares for the youngest group (last of the group of 3 mosaics below); the other two used 3.5-inch squares.

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At Belmont, the session was on a hot afternoon and the campers appreciated the time to cool off inside. I took a picture of the room before the campers arrived – the cool and calm before a flurry of activity.

After a short discussion of the water cycle, the room was filled with very focused campers making Zentangle patterns. One of the counselors came in and commented about how quiet the room was. It wasn’t silent exactly…everyone was just busy. The first mosaic were made by the older group and are 3.5-inch squares…and some that finished early made mini-tiles on 2-inch squares. The younger group used the larger 4.5-inch tiles. Both groups enjoyed frog eggs and tadpoles, cattails (or seaweed), raindrops into a pond, and mist.

Each week I do Zentangles, there are a few campers from prior weeks that know the Zentangle basics…and others that are new. All are keen to learn some patterns and are tickled with the tiles they create. There’s always a crowd around the mosaic at the end.

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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.

Summer Camp Volunteering – week 2

The theme for last week’s Howard Count Conservancy’s summer camps was ‘Fantastic Beasts.’ I spent a morning at Mt. Pleasant and the next morning at Belmont. At Mt. Pleasant there were three groups of campers….45 minutes for each. I used the dinosaur and mammal track rock found at NASA Goddard (saw it back when I was in the HOLLIE program) to initiate the conversation about extinct animals and fossils. There were some fossil shells from Calvert Cliffs and some of the campers had been there to explore themselves. I had on my ammonite shaped earrings too.

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Then for some action: Two pans of water, a measuring tape and white board. A person put one foot into each pan (shoes on) and then stepped out and walked normally. The measurement team (usually two campers) measured heal print to heal print to determine the walking stride length. We measured the walking stride of the tallest and shortest in each group (and then everyone else because everyone wanted to know their stride length…or game it and take extra-long steps!). In the oldest group of campers, we measured the running stride (heel first and on toes). It was a great activity to further explore what information can be gleaned from tracks.

We transitioned into evidence of animals living today with some whelk shells and egg cases found on a beach. Some campers were surprised that the whelks were animals that still live in the ocean along the east coast of the US.

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One of the junior counselors had participated in a dinosaur dig in Montana…and shared some pictures for her adventure with the campers.

It was a busy 45 minutes!

At Belmont, there were two groups of campers making Zentangle® tiles. I introduced the session using the NASA Goddard rock, the welk shells and my ammonite earrings….and then showed them patterns for beasts. The first group (younger) made octopus/jelly fish and tracks. The second group experimented with an ammonite type pattern, tracks and shells. The theropod tracks were the most popular. Many made some big therapod tracks and then some small ones (moms with babies). A variation from one camper: a therapod track….then a blank area where the therapod flew….then more tracks. One camper made mammal tracks. Both groups enjoyed adding colors after they made their patterns with the black Sharpie ultrafine pens.

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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.

Zentangle® Butterflies at Summer Camp

I enjoyed making Zentangle butterflies with about 70 Howard County Conservancy summer campers last week. They were in 5 groups and 2 locations. The first three groups were done outdoors on picnic tables set up with blotter papers and pen/pencil in holders to keep them from rolling away. There was a little breeze, but the pen/pencil holder had just enough weight to keep everything in place.

I attached my sample butterflies to a plant hook and a pad of paper to use for pattern demonstration on an easel. This was the calm before the first group of campers arrived.

The campers overall were ages 5-12. The oldest of the three groups came first…the youngest were last. I presented different patterns to each group as we talked about butterfly body parts and symmetry. The campers were focused and were very creative both with the patterns (and making up their own) as well as adding color. I took a picture of the creations from each group (click on the image below to see a larger version).

The following day, I did two groups at the second location. This time I was indoors and used the projection technique with the iPad camera (that I had used during my session with the camp counselors back in early June) to demonstrate the patterns. The youngest group came first followed by the older group.  I corralled the butterflies for a picture at the end of each session (although one was missing from the older group and I ended up taking that picture later).

Overall, I was pleased with these sessions and I am getting better as a CZT as I gain experience. For example – the blotter papers get used for additional artwork rather than just blotter papers and then the next camper comments on what is on their blotter! The different age groups have different types of challenges which I will get better at detecting…but they all produced beautiful and interesting Zentangle butterflies!

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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.

Ten Little Celebrations – June 2019

There was a lot going on in June – the last of the spring field trip season with Howard County Conservancy, the Wings of Fancy shifts, helping my daughter move from Pennsylvania to Missouri….and there were a lot of little celebrations along the way.

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Springfield Art Museum – The first visit to a museum is always the best…because everything is new. This one was no exception….and it was free!

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Luna moth – Finding a Luna Moth at a rest stop in Missouri was the high point of a long day of driving toward home. I celebrated that it was there….and that it was a pleasant surprise in an unexpected place.

First week of CSA – I am always thrilled to get the fresh produce from the Gorman Farm Community Supported Agriculture. Every meal I prepare with the CSA veggies is a celebration.

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Frogs at Mt Pleasant – Finding the frogs in the small pond is like working a puzzle…you look carefully and finally see….and celebrate. I celebrated along with my hiking groups of elementary aged students too.

Perfect field trip weather at Belmont – I was braced for June field trips to be overly hot…but the weather for all of them at Belmont was near perfect. The pre-schoolers at Belmont celebrated being outdoors and I did too.

My summer office – I moved my home office to a room that doesn’t get direct sun in the afternoon (so doesn’t heat up) and celebrated that the new location provided a better vantage point to the bird feeder while I am working at my computer.

Kombucha – My new food find of the month was mint lemonade kombucha from Wegmans. I didn’t drink the whole bottle all at once…wanted to savor it so I had about 1/3 each day for 3 days. Yummy! I might not get it every week…maybe only for a celebration.

1st monarch butterfly and caterpillar sighting of the year – I celebrated a Monarch butterfly on some milkweed at Brookside Gardens and then a Monarch caterpillar on another milkweed nearby. It’s always a milestone for the butterflies to make it Maryland and start laying eggs. The milkweed is blooming and sweet…plenty of food for the caterpillars.

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1st Zentangle® class is history – I celebrated leading my first Zentangle class…and the tiles created by the students.

Fledglings – I celebrated seeing several fledglings come to our birdfeeder over the past few weeks: downy woodpecker, titmouse, Carolina chickadee, and catbird. Our maple tree seems to be a popular place for many of these birds….or maybe they just come through that tree from the forest and return to the forest the same way.

Leading a Zentangle® Class

I applied what I learned at the Certified Zentangle Trainer class (taken back in April) with a group of summer camp counselors last week…a prelude to working with the summer campers in a few weeks. The counselors were in their pre-camp training session. Most of the camp with be outdoor activities but on very rainy or hot days….creating Zentangle tiles can be a great option.

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I prepared for the session by developing a method to project my work on a screen (iPad on a tripod, Camera app, connector to allow display of the iPad screen on any projector/screen via HDMI cable) and making folded paper ‘trays’ to keep the pencil and pen together (not rolling around the table).

I also made variations of the tile I would coach them to make during the first session.

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The session with the camp counselors took a little over 30 minutes in all….and look what they created! Now one took an after lunch nap…they were all too focused on creating the patterns on their tile.

I am always impressed by class mosaics…how every tile expresses the individuality of the person that created it.

After the session we had a feedback session and agreed that the apprentice tiles (4.5 inches square) should be used for the younger campers….that the smaller ones (3.5 inches square) might appeal to the older campers that want to create tiles with more detail. Allowing more than 30 minutes would be good too!

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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.

Belmont Field Trips

BioBlitz for middle schoolers and Nature Tales for pre-K – the Howard County Conservancy field trips at Belmont had quite an age range.

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Early in the month before a middle school BioBlitz, a red-tailed hawk sat on the Carriage House roof watching the flurry of preparation below. It stayed until the first groups of students arrived to fly away.

The last field trip of the season was a pre-K group. My station was all about trees. I took a picture of it before they arrived. I’d had pulled some tulip poplar seedlings to show since the nearby sycamore trees that I used to talk a lot about had been cut down (before they fell on a nearby building).  The was the calm before the 56 4-year-olds with their chaperones arrived on 4 buses. I was glad that they came to my station in 4 separate groups rather than all at once! The weather was near perfect…the children thrilled to be outdoors…and a good time was had by all…and maybe they learned a little about trees too. It was a good finale to the spring field trip season.

Mt Pleasant Field Trips

Schools didn’t end until June 21st in our area so the Howard County Conservancy spring field trips were still happening into mid-June! As usual, I volunteered for field trips at both Mt Pleasant and Belmont. Today I’ll share some pictures I gleaned from before the school buses arrive at Mt. Pleasant….tomorrow I’ll do the same for Belmont.

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In late May – I noticed how lush everything was looking: the sweetbay magnolias, the blue flags, peonies, the new plantings around the flower pot people, and the trees along the gravel road toward Montjoy Barn.

By early June the flowers in the Honors Garden, like the columbines, were blooming.

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But the big draw of the Honors Garden – for me and for the children on field trips – were the green frogs in the pool. I would talk to the students before we came near the garden about walking very quietly…not talking…as we approached the pool so that we would see frogs. And I challenged them to find more than 4 frogs (or however many had been seen with my previous group). One group claimed to see 7…but I only saw 6. The pictures in the slide slow below were taken over several mornings before the buses arrived. Green frogs sound a little like a rubber band being strummed. It was fun to share the sights and sounds of the frogs with my hiking groups!

Mt. Pleasant – May 2019

I arrived at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant before one of the elementary school field trips – early enough to take a short hike and photograph some of the May sights along the trail. One of the first birds I saw was a small flock of gold finches near the Community Garden – eating ravenously.

Earlier in the week, when I was hiking with 2nd graders, we had spotted some caterpillars on a newly planted hickory tree. I never try to photograph things while I have a field trip group with me, so I was going back to try to photograph the caterpillars. The morning was cool…and I couldn’t find the caterpillars on the tree! The walk through the quiet area of new trees – invasive removed – was worth it anyway - a contrast to the noisy enthusiasm that would arrive on the school buses.

On the walk back, I was quite enough approaching a nest box to see the tree swallow at the hole. It looks almost like a plug – a perfect fit!

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There was a feather in the grass beside the mowed path. From a hawk? The feather was large…must have come from a large bird.

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The dew was still on the funnel spider webs. It’s hard to find them after the grass is dry.

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Dandelions had already had a first round of flowers…and gone to seed.

The tulip poplar (also called yellow poplar) had lots of buds…ramping up to blooms. The flowers do look a lot like tulips!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Mt. Pleasant – March 2019

I was at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant on a sunny cold morning last week – and took a few pictures. There were two things that have always been there and almost always on my walk from parking to the nature center that I don’t think I have photographed before: 1) The old tractor that has been in the same place for so long that it is sinking into the soil under it (or silt is running down the slope to the wagon shed and accumulating around the tires).

2) The hook closure on the blacksmith’s shed….probably made by the blacksmith!

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The flowerpot people were dressed for spring…but looked a little bedraggled. The March winds have probably made some adjustments.

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I took a picture of a pine on the way to a stop in the Honors Garden. The pines are still the main greenery around.

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In the Honors Garden, the sun was highlighting last season’s cone flower seedpods.

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But the reason I was in the Honors Garden was to check out the little pond. As I walked up a frog swam rapidly through the water to a new hiding place. It was too cold for a lot more activity.

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This little pond is a favorite of the local Wood Frogs and they have been busy. There were egg masses in the water….soon to be tadpoles if they are not too far out of the water and freeze before they can develop. I posted about the frogs here back in March 2016….but it was a warmer day and I noticed the frogs more than the eggs.

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I continued to the Nature Center for the training session scheduled for the day.

Signs of Spring

Last week, a kindergarten class was the first field trip of the ‘spring’ at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm. The temperature was in the 30s and there was a little breeze – very wintery feeling. The children and I had our coats zipped, hoods up, and gloves on. We hiked and looked for signs of spring….and remnants of other seasons.

We saw daffodils coming up and snow drops blooming…signs of spring. We looked at holly with its shiny green leaves and red berries which is often symbolic of winter. One holly was leaning over the snow drop bed.

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We saw evidence of squirrels around: lots of opened black walnut shells which had been their food all during the winter. We searched the trees for squirrel nests but decided that the strong winds recently must have blown the nests away.

There were some trees that had been cut down recently. We noted that the centers had been rotting which was probably why they had been cut. The largest stump was near the farm house and the children crowded onto it for their teacher to take a field trip picture!

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The children were surprised to see the witch hazel in bloom and learning that it normally blooms in late winter. They saw the brown leaves on the ground and still clinging to the branches of the tree – correctly identifying them as the leaves from last summer/fall.

There was a winter jasmine with buds of all sizes – and a single flower. It was another sign of spring on the way. They were surprised at the different sizes of buds and identified the ones that were about ready to open.

In the old orchard, we looked at the buds on the apple trees and the pear tree – deciding that the pear tree would probably bloom first based on way the buds looked.

By the end of the hike – they were ready for a little warm up in the nature center then back outdoors for a focused lesson starting with looking for animal tracks in the muddy areas.

It was a good start to the ramp up of spring field trips!

Skunk Cabbage

Every winter, I hike the trail to a wet area at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm to see the Skunk Cabbage coming up. I was a little later than usual this year, but it’s been a cold February and the skunk cabbage was still blooming last week. I found all stages of its early development after slogging through the muddy trail to get to the location. Some of the plants appear damaged (outer part black or brown) but the center might still be alive and able to continue development. Most were near or in water; it’s been a very wet winter and these plants like to be wet. They come back year after year from a rhizome; this stand appears to be about the same size as previous years which caused me to wonder if the plants are producing any viable seeds.

The best picture of the morning was a bloom (like a golf ball (spadix) inside a purplish hood (spathe)). I’d read that the inside of the spathe is warmer than the surrounding air and may be attractive to insects/spiders. Sure enough – there appears to be a spider web inside this spathe!

Twigs and Witch Hazel

I have been looking more closely at twigs of trees recently and trying out simple dichotomous keys. As an example: here is one I looked at during a class on winter tree identification. Looking at the full branch – it was obvious that the leaf scars were opposite. Next, we needed to look at the leaf scars in more detail. There were hand lenses for everyone but I used my 15x lens clipped to my phone so I could share what I was seeing. The leaf scar was D shaped and had three bundles. And the new growth was red. We had to break the twig to smell it…its didn’t smell rank, so it was a RED MAPLE.

It turns out that multiples buds at the twig tip is indicative of maples and oaks…and that maples are opposite, and oaks are alternate. So – it’s possible to take a picture looking up into a tree and make a tentative identification. For example – this was a picture I took in my neighborhood with alternate branching and multiple buds at the end of the twigs – an OAK.  I had been using the relative height of the trees in my neighborhood (oaks are taller) but this identification is better and maybe easier too for the street trees planted by the builder 25-30 years ago – oaks and maples.

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I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the crumpled bark on the red maple twig. I wonder if they smooth out as the twig grows when the weather warms?

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On a more colorful note: be on the look out for witch hazels. Some bloom in the fall but others bloom now. There is one at Howard Country Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant location that I am watching. Hopefully bitterly cold weather will not damage the flowers that are beginning to unfurl.

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mt Pleasant in January 2019 – Part 2

Continuing the images from last week’s hike at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant….

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I noticed a bluebird box with lichen growing on its roof. I wondered how long the houses lasted. This one had a plaque below it saying it had been installed in 2009 so it’s held up for 10 years!

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There was some farm equipment near the edge of a field – covered in vines. It must not have been used for at least one season…and maybe longer. Nature is taking over! I didn’t get close enough to determine what kind of vines they might be – mile-a-minute or oriental bittersweet (both invasive) would be a good beginning guess.

With the record amount of rainfall we got in 2018, there was a root ball of a tree that fell – probably last spring.  What a dramatic change it must have been for the organisms around the roots before it fell…there would be a complex story to document different organisms came along after the tree feel and the elements alternatively dried out and filled in the hole (with water or soil washed into the hole). Nature is always in motion!

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A beech tree had been cut down and the big logs left in place.  Maybe the tree had fallen and was cut up to clear the trail or maybe it was a standing dead tree that was cut before it could fall. The center was rotting. The beech bark looks so smooth from a distance but often looks wrinkled upon closer inspection.

Ranger, the barred owl, is back in his quarters near the nature center. He seemed very calm as we hiked by. There aren’t school fieldtrips with lots of students to crowd around his space during the winter; it’s easier for him to be Zen.

It was good to be back at Mt. Pleasant for a hike…maybe I’ll go again sometime with my husband…wear boots that can get muddy and hunt for skunk cabbage peeking through the muck.

Mt Pleasant in January 2019 – Part 1

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My first hike at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant was last week on a cold, blustery day after a night rain. We were prepared for the cold and managed to work our way around the muddy parts of the trails. The sun played hide and seek with the clouds. I was taking pictures of winter trees. I am very familiar with a black walnut near the rock wall on the meadow side.

The nuts on the ground all around it would give it away even if I didn’t know it was a black walnut. I am always amazed that the squirrels can get the shells open with their teeth.

The path along the wall was in relatively good shape – still mostly covered with grass. We didn’t go all the way down to the Davis Branch…but cut across the meadow mid-way down the hill.

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We took the long way around to an overlook of the Branch since the lower trails were too muddy to attempt.

The water was not high, but everything looked wet. I was noticing the beech trees – easy to identify by their smooth bark.

One of the root balls that had been placed upside down in the restored part of the stream had been washed downstream by an earlier flood…and was still balanced where I’d seen it last fall. It will stay there until the next big flood. It had a collapsed pillow-like orange fungus growing on it.

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A river birch is easy to identify with its curly bark.

As we turned back toward the nature center, I noted that one of the trees across the smaller stream had finally rotted enough to collapse.

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The only ‘bloom’ I saw on the hike was the beginning of the witch hazel bloom on the tree near the farmhouse. The streamer like petals are still curled up in the opening flowers. I’ll have to remember to look at the tree every time I go to Mt. Pleasant over the next month or so!

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Ten Little Celebrations – December 2018

It was easy to find 10 little celebrations in December before today. I divided the month into three segments: before I went to Texas, in Texas and then after I got back from Texas.

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Before I went to Texas there was the Howard County Conservancy’s Natural Holiday Sale (ate lots of cookies and bought suet garlands from the garden club),

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A glorious hike along the Trolley Trail between Banneker Historic Park and Ellicott City,

The Maryland Water Monitoring Conference and managing to find a replacement travel mug in a store (since I didn’t have time to wait for an online order before I left for my travel to Texas.

While I was in Texas, I enjoyed the birds at Josey Ranch Lake,

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Two sunrises (the first and last mornings in Texas!),

Listening to vintage to modern Christmas music…getting in the mood for Christmas and making progress on a Christmas themed jigsaw puzzle that took us almost the whole week to finish.

Afterwards, I celebrated being home again – the usual for me after being away for a week – and staying indoors on some cold, wet days.

Hope everyone is enjoying today’s holiday – Merry Christmas! It’s always of time of year to savor.

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