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.

Fledglings through the Window

I moved my home office to a room that does not get as much direct sun on summer afternoons…and discovered I have a better view of our bird feeder through the window. One of the first birds I noticed on the feeder was a downy woodpecker that seemed to be coming very frequently.

And then came the explanation…the parent was showing the way to the feeder to a fledgling! It could have been more than one fledgling because these pictures were taken over several hours….and then I haven’t seen the birds again. Perhaps they are finding plenty of food in the trees behind our house. They are – after all – woodpeckers.

A few days later – I saw a titmouse that was very tentatively perched on our deck railing. It didn’t go to the feeder but succeed in fluttering off toward the maple tree…maybe back to the nest.

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Fast forward almost a week and I saw 2 types of fledglings: 1) There were parents and fledgling Carolina Chickadees at the bird feeder (there were several smaller and somewhat clumsy birds with the two adults)…moving too fast for me to get a picture. 2) A crabby fledgling on the deck railing in the rain. I think it was probably a Catbird fledgling. It didn’t go to the feeder but flew off to the sycamore.

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Overall, it’s been a busy month at our feeder. In some cases, it was probably the first meal away from the nest for the young birds…and certainly fun to watch from my summer office window. I enjoy these kinds of distractions!

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.

Zooming – June 2019

So many aspects of nature to photograph in June: flowers and butterflies, frogs and birds…bunnies.

There were photos around home or close to home…and then in Missouri and Ohio. I’ll be learning the route between home and Missouri with two more trips in July…I’ll see how different the places look a month later.

There’s beauty to be found all over if we take the time to look for it!

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!

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!

Community Supported Agriculture – Hurray!

The Gorman Farms CSA summer season started last week. As usual – I am enjoying the bounty and not buying any produce at the grocery store. I’ve had stir fry and salads…seasoned mostly with garlic scapes and spring onions that were part of the share. Will I be able to use all the first share before I pick up the next one? Probably not. I can always use the bunch of kale to make chips; they always getting eaten fast. I’ve discovered that I like to process the salad greens in the Ninja or food processor to make very green slaw rather than tradition bigger chunks of green.

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When I got the veggies home – I just put them in the crisper as they came from the farm. It means there is a little more prep to use them than there would be if I did the first round of prep before I put them in the refrigerator. It also means that they won’t last quite as long as they would in a bag or more airtight container. Maybe I’ll do the work when I pick up the share this week.

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!

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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Our Front Yard

The milkweed is up in the front flowerbed. Hopefully some monarch butterflies will show up soon to lay eggs on it and my monarch nursery will be in business for this year.

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The day lilies are still just green – no bud stalks yet. I’ll try to cut the buds before the deer eat them (enjoy them in vases indoors) and just leave the greenery behind. There are some black eyed susans that should offer some yellow to the beds once the temperature is warm enough.

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The smell of mint rises as I pull weeds – I try to leave the mint behind.

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There are plenty of weeds and grass to pull in the front flower beds. It helps to have the day lilies shading out some of them.

The ninebark bush has some blooms this year and seems to be healthier. Maybe the deer did not eat it as much this past winter.

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I have one iris that is about ready to bloom. I cut it to take inside a few days after this picture was taken. The other irises have leaves but no stalks yet. They do seem to be recovering from whatever ate most of the rhizomes year before last.

Virginia creeper is growing on the oak. I’m leaving it for now because I like the contrast it makes with the day lily leaves around the base of the tree.

Over all – I’m slowly making progress to get the front flower beds looking lush with greenery and weed-free. The Next chore will be trimming the bushes. There is one I will wait on; it has a catbird nesting in it.

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!

A Few Minutes Observing…Brookside in the Rain

Photography in the rain is always a challenge….and best done quickly before the camera gets raindrops on the lens! I had two rainy days that I was at Brookside Gardens before my Wings of Fancy shift and took a few minutes to photograph a few things near the conservatory.

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On the first morning – I photographed the stream as I crossed the entrance bridge. The rain was light, so the water was not high…but the color of the rocks normally dry above the surface of the water is more vivid since they were wet from the rain.

There were flowers in pots along the way.

I turned to take a picture of the rain garden area near the conservatory entrance before I went inside.

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On the second morning, the two buckeye trees that are at the edge of the parking lot were shedding their flowers. The flowers retained their color on the pavement as the water rippled and moved them into clusters.

It was raining a bit harder this second day and the water droplets were accumulating on the flowers…and rolling off. I was juggling my umbrella while I took the photos!





Red-Headed Woodpecker at Blackwater

Another bird we saw at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was a Red-headed Woodpecker. There is a lot of standing dead wood in the refuge because of the water level changes in recent years. Trees less tolerant to wet roots or brackish (becoming saltier) water are dying. One area along the wildlife loom was almost all dead and the woodpeckers were having a heyday based on the numbers of holes we saw…and then we saw the red-headed woodpecker. It wasn’t at work…just looking around in the forest and didn’t notice when we got out of the car (quietly….didn’t turn the engine off or close the doors).

It posed very nicely on the snag – one that the tree top had already fallen from.

So many woodpeckers have some red on their head…but this is the one that gets the name. It is in this area for both breeding and wintering. This part of Blackwater is prime habitat for it…at least for now.

Blackwater Osprey Drama

We saw more Osprey at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge than we did bald eagles (see previous post for the bald eagle pictures).

There was an occupied nesting platform near the beginning of the wildlife loop (to the left – labeled Little Blackwater River on the map). There was a bird on the nest on both days we drove the loop. Since we knew the nest was there and we were using the car as our blind, my husband and I had already positioned ourselves on the left side of the car with camera supports on the doors on the second day; his was a metal frame that the camera mounted on and mine was a neck pillow turned downward over the door frame…enough for my smaller camera (it was an experiment and worked…good to know for when I travel…yet another reason to take a neck pillow along).There were osprey vocalizations almost immediately and then the male swopped in and there was mating action on the nest.  It was a good thing we were already prepares for photography! The whole sequence below took place in about a minute.

The male flew off to a snag further along the wild life loop afterwards.

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Further along the loop there was an osprey on a post closer to the wildlife loop – an opportunity to get some bird portrait shots.

We took the turn off onto the part of the loop that goes by Pools 5a-c…and there was another osprey nesting pair! These two seemed to be doing a bit of nest rearranging and watching the skies for danger. It was a very windy day – ruffled feathers.

This part of the drive exits near the Tubman Visitor Center.

Overall – osprey were the dramatic stars for the Blackwater Wildlife Loop!

Brookside Wildflowers

I enjoy the boardwalk between Brookside Gardens and Brookside Nature Center in the spring. Earlier this week the boardwalk was my short walk before by shift in the Wings of Fancy exhibit. There are many native plants in this area that are looking good this spring. The plants are growing luxuriantly at this point – many in bloom.

Clumps of columbine

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Jack-in-the-pulpit (but they are green…sometimes hard to see)

Mayapples (the flower is sometimes hidden under the umbrella of leaves)

Skunk cabbage (with cypress knees poking up among the leaves)

Several kinds of ferns

Forest azaleas

And others.

Of course there are birds too….red-winged blackbirds are calling everywhere and robins are searching leaf mulch for a tasty worm!

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It was a productive 10-minute photo shoot!

Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy – April 2019

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The Wings of Fancy live Butterfly Exhibit at Brookside Gardens opened in April. I am volunteering there again this season and my first shifts were toward the end of the month.

The Wings of Fancy live Butterfly Exhibit at Brookside Gardens opened in April. I am volunteering there again this season and my first shifts were toward the end of the month.

On the first morning there was a little rain as I arrived, and the outdoor temperature was cool. The sun came out and it warmed up a little as the day went on. The heaters were on in the conservatory to make a comfortable environment for the butterflies. I went in to do some photography before the exhibit opened for the day. The golden-edged owl is new this year and it tends to open and show its colors more than some of the other owls.

The Julia Longwing is around this year. There were a lot emerging from chrysalis during my 1st shift.

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The White Peacock had a lot emerging my second shift and I had groups of pre-schoolers observing! They were very excited and full of questions.

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The Malachites are available from two vendors this year – one in US which means that the chrysalises from that vendor can be in the emergence case in the exhibit.

The zebra longwings are always striking.

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And there are lots of other species too.

The big favorite of most visitors is the Blue Morpho. I like it for more than the metallic blue. The markings around the edges and ‘eye’ spots are interesting too. The orange color is supporting too.

The second day, I didn’t go in early or take my better camera - I still got two decent pictures with my cell phone. It was a little cool, so the butterflies were sitting around more…always good to go at 10 (when the exhibit opens) while it’s still cool!