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.


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!


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.


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

Monarch Butterfly Portraits

The number of Monarch Butterflies seem to be less this summer than last; it’s very sad. I’ve been taking portraits every time I see them dreading the year when we won’t see any at all.

Sometimes I get a zoomed picture and see the gender quite clearly. Males have a black spot on each hind wing.

2019 08 IMG_5109.jpg

The females don’t have the spots. The thickness of the veins on the wings are another indicator. The males have skinny veins and the females have thicker ones.

2019 08 IMG_5087.jpg

Gleanings of the Week Ending July 20, 2019

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

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Conceal – National Geographic Society Newsroom – Starting out with bird images this week. The first picture in this series … a little owl … is my favorite.

Ghost orchid pollination revealed for first time in incredible photos – I heard about ghost orchids at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival…so enjoyed this article (includes a video)

Centennial E7 - Night of the Killer Smog - Third Pod from the Sun - AGU Blogosphere – A little history of air pollution events that spurred the Clean Air Act of 1970.

Biomedical bleeding may impact horseshoe crabs' spawning behavior and movement -- ScienceDaily – My interest in horseshoe crabs has increased since the Cape May Birding Spring (birding) Festival.

BBC - Future - The poisons released by melting Arctic ice – Observations of a warming Arctic….some surprising even to scientists that study the area.

When Will Renewable Energy Prices Stop Dropping? | CleanTechnica – The question becomes…where the tipping point is when almost everyone is using renewable energy for just about everything….at home…on the road…at work.

How Much Nature Is Enough? 120 Minutes a Week Doctors Say | Children & Nature Network – The study included data from 20,000 people in England and was conducted from 2014-2016. 120 minutes a week was the answer. I wonder what factors might make it different – age, culture, environment, etc.

Clouds and Rain Carry a Menagerie of Photosynthetic Microbes | The Scientist Magazine® - Life in the atmosphere.

Are doctors treating more thyroid cancer patients than necessary? -- ScienceDaily - New research may help change treatment practices for patients diagnosed with low risk thyroid cancer. Sometimes doctors opt for maximum treatment and the treatment ends up being worse than the disease would have been.

Monarch Butterflies Born in Captivity Have Trouble Migrating South Study Says: NPR – I like that the schools in my area are getting their Monarch caterpillars (or eggs) from the wild to raise in the classroom and then release. These Monarchs will migrate!

Gleanings of the Week Ending March 2, 2019

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

Good News for Eastern Monarch Butterfly Population - The National Wildlife Federation Blog – Now to sustain the improvement into a trend….and stop the decline for the western population.  

Joshua Trees Could Take 200 to 300 Years to Recover from Shutdown Damage | Smart News | Smithsonian – A very sad result of the shutdown.

Physician-targeted marketing is associated with increase in opioid overdose deaths, study shows -- ScienceDaily – Hopefully with the opioid crisis getting more attention…the targeted marketing is reduced or eliminated. The study used data from before 2016. Things have gotten a lot worse since 2016 but maybe there is a lag between prescription opioid use and opioid overdoses.

Rocking Improves Sleep, Boosts Memory | The Scientist Magazine® - A research topic….and maybe a trend in new bed purchases.

America colonization ‘cooled Earth's climate’ - BBC News – More than 50 million people died and close to 56 million hectares (an area the size the France) they had been farming returned to forest. The drop in CO2 is evident in Antarctica ice cores and cooler weather.

The World’s ‘Third Pole’ Will Lose One-Third of Ice by 2100 - Yale E360 – The Himalayas and Hindu Kush mountains are the source of water for nearly 2 billion people. The region has lost 15% of it’s ice since the 1970s. The current estimate is the river flows will increase until 2060 (flooding) but then will decline. There will be more and more bare rock rather than snow covered rock.

Oregon Launches First Statewide Refillable Bottle System in U.S.: The Salt: NPR – It’s starting with beer bottles. Reuse is better than recycle is better than landfill. If given a choice between buying something in glass or plastic…I choose glass.

BBC - Future - The ‘miracle mineral’ the world needs – Phosphorous. Thermic compost piles rather than mineral fertilizers. It’s economical and environmentally a better way.

Top 25 Wild Bird Pictures of the Week – Raptors – As usual – great photographs of birds from around the world.

What happens to the natural world if all the insects disappear? – Big perturbations of food chains. The article ends with a question: If we dispossess them, can we manage the planet without them? It would be a very different planet.

Gleanings of the Week Ending September 15, 2018

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

BBC - Future - How China’s giant solar farms are transforming world energy – Giant solar farms that, when viewed from the air form Giant Pandas. All over the world…but in China particularly…there are more and more enormous solar farms. It’s good for the immediate future but there are still issues with what happens when the solar panels need to be recycled (i.e. in 30 or so years).

New research shows how children want their food served -- ScienceDaily – I didn’t find this a challenge…my daughter always enjoyed her food. It seems more likely to be challenging in places like school cafeterias or other institutional settings.

Photos Show the Icy Glacier Landscape of Northeast Greenland – Life lurking in the ice waters. It’s a difficult place to dive.

Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance (Rutgers NJAES) – Maryland is not that far from New Jersey so this list works for us – although I wish they would mark the plants native to North America. I’d rather plant natives.

How This Popular Garden Plant May Spread Parasites That Harm Monarchs | Smart News | Smithsonian – Aargh!!!! We need to be sure we are not planting tropical milkweed in areas where it is not native….the orange butterfly weed – which is also a milkweed – is native across most of North America and a good plant to have in the garden for Monarch butterfly caterpillars.

New color-generation mechanism discovered in ‘rainbow’ weevil -- ScienceDaily – The researches from Yale propose that this mechanism might be useful for screen displays to enable the same true image from any angle and to reduce signal loss in optical fibers.

What Ötzi the Iceman’s Tattoos Reveal About Copper Age Medical Practices | Smart News | Smithsonian – There have been papers coming out about additional discoveries from the remains found in the Alps in 1991 over the years --- there was a lot we could learn and new technologies have come along to enable more than anyone thought about at first.

Night-time habits of captive flamingos -- ScienceDaily – The forage and roam! Evidently, they are more active at night in the wild as well. During the day they tend to rest and preen…that’s when courtship displays happen as well.

Muscle Clocks Play a Role in Regulating Metabolism | The Scientist Magazine® - Circadian rhythms are not just from the brain! There are timekeepers throughout the body. The peripheral clock in muscles was confirmed in 2007 and it turns out that it is important to glucose metabolism. There is still a lot to learn about all the body’s timekeepers!

BBC - Future - Are hot springs the future of farming? – Maybe there is not one strategy that is the ‘future of farming’ – but this is an interesting idea that we may see in places where it can be done effectively.

Milkweed Buds

June is the time the milkweeds bloom. In our area the buds on the common milkweed are about ready to open in our area. They are turning from green to pink. There is a fragrance around the plants already.

There are no Monarch caterpillars that yet. I have seen any Monarch butterflies (i.e. no eggs either). Hopefully they will start appearing soon. There are plenty of plants in my yard and other places I’ve been recently. People are planting milkweed for the Monarchs, so I hope we have butterflies show up! Other insects depend on the plant as well but none of the others have the cachet of the Monarch.

There are other kinds of milkweed too. I’m not sure how well the butterflies like them – but they are getting ready to bloom as well. I did notice that some of the leaves looked like something was eating them but didn’t see any in action.

Back to the common milkweed – when they start blooming they should be full of bumble bees and butterflies….a great place to point a camera for insect pictures!

South Padre Island and Bay Cruise – Part 1

2017 11 IMG_5843.jpg

Back to the posts about our experiences at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival…Our fourth day field trip was to South Padre Island and included a bay cruise. The first stop for our bus was at The South Padre Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary. The place is two woodlots across the street from each other and surrounded by hotels and condos on South Padre Island. There are bird feeders and baths…plantings... a ‘rest stop’ for birds. It was very quiet when we first arrived; a Cooper’s Hawk had just caught breakfast and was feasting near the back. The Monarch butterflies were still active.

Eventually the birds became active – since the hawk was busy with its prey. There was a Couch’s Kingbird eating monarch butterflies: posing on the wire for photos. One of the guides had seen the birds eating Monarch’s the previous day as well. Was it the same bird? Supposedly Monarch’s taste bad and make birds sick (chemicals they absorb from the milkweed they eat at caterpillars); something is different about the butterflies or the birds.

Orange crowned warblers shared the space in the bushes and water with the Couch’s Kingbird. These are smaller birds but share the yellow color.

There was a Great Kiskadee as well…more yellow.

2017 11 IMG_5847.jpg

One has to look hard to see the Yellow-rumped warbler.

A Ladder-backed woodpecker posed on a telephone pole.

There was a Hummingbird on an agave…too far way for an excellent image but the bill is dark so probably not a buff-bellied hummingbird. Maybe a Ruby-throated hummingbird female?

2017 11 IMG_5851.jpg

Last but not least – a butterfly. Maybe Great Southern White?

2017 11 IMG_5928.jpg

I have two more posts from this field trip…coming out tomorrow and the next day.

Gleanings of the Week Ending September 16, 2017

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

Two places to look at bird images: Stunning Winners of the 2017 Bird Photographer of the Year Contest and Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week #104 – I can’t resist. Birds are such interesting subjects for photography….and challenging enough to engage photographers the world over.

This is how Pittsburgh is taking climate action – Now that my son-in-law is in Pittsburgh for his post doc, I am learning more about the city. It’s moving way beyond its heavy industry history. The Phipps Conservatory was one of the places mentioned in the article as a place that generates all its own energy and treats/reuses all water captured on site! We visited the place last March (see blog post here).

‘Rubber material’ discovered that could lead to scratch-proof paint for car – Wonderful if it can be made available at reasonable cost.

Silicon Valley Courts Brand-Name Teachers, Raising Ethics Issues – School needs to prepare students with skills they will need as they get older….so it can’t stay be anchored in the past. The challenge is to not set a new high-tech anchor that is expensive and potentially a dead end or not very effective. The pace of change that adults and children have in their lives is ramped up; perhaps a life skill we all need it how to cope with that pace of change without being overwhelmed.

How self-driving cars will change the American road trip – I’ve been thinking about this recently and was disappointed in this article in that it hypothesized the cars stopping every 180-200 miles. If I was on a road trip and only stopped every 3 hours or so….I’d be very stiff by the end of the day. Does the author think that the interior of self-driving cars will be different enough that people can somehow move around a bit more rather than just sitting relatively still? What about children and older people that can’t ‘hold it’ for 3 hours? If the cars or autonomous enough – will we be more likely to be traveling through the night and the car just stopping when it needs to for charging with us sleeping through everything?

Exploring Europeana in Czech, Irish, Slovak and Slovenian – One part of my family is Czech so this post caught my attention. I don’t speak the language but I’m interested in the art my ancestors might have seen before they left in the late 1800s.

West Coast Monarch Butterflies Flutter Toward Extinction – The numbers of west coast monarchs have declined by 97% since 1981. Very sad. Monarchs are declining all over the US not just the east coast ones that migrate to Mexico.

We could lessen the toll of hurricanes – but we don’t – A timely article after Harvey and Irma – so much destruction…of places and people’s lives.

New Guide: Energy Efficiency at Home - ASLA has created a new guide to increasing energy efficiency through sustainable residential landscape architecture, which contains research, projects, and resources.

Volunteering at Wings of Fancy at Brookside Gardens XI-XIV

The first 4 shifts at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy in August were not as hot as some of the shifts in July and I settled into the rotation. The discovery station always seemed to be the most crowded hour of the shift. There is so much there: butterflies emerging from chrysalises, plants that butterflies are laying eggs on, and touch samples (laminated butterfly wings for young children…butterflies that have succumbed for adults and older children).

Before the 11th shift, I was a little late and only had time to take a few pictures along the walk up to the exhibit…but one was a Monarch butterfly; they’ve become rare enough to be a little celebration every time I see one.

The little hike before the 12th shift was on the nature center board walk where I saw a spider excise a leaf that had been blown into its web; it was a neat job and the web was left intact.

A beetle was crawling down one of the big trees.

I walked back toward some of the formal gardens and saw a dragonfly in the mulch

And some odd growths on a bald cypress (fungus?).

It was raining before the 13th shift (and for the rest of the day). I took two quick pictures with my cell phone before going into the conservatory to start my shift…some very well cypress cones

And flowers in a wet garden bed.

The 14th shift was on a bright and sunny day. I went overboard with pictures! There a spicebush butterfly fluttering around the rose garden – this is one of the few images I got that was not blurred with its motion.

The roses in the garden were covered with water droplets from morning dew…somehow I like the flowers even better with the droplets.

There was a goldfinch enjoying one of the other plants. It contorted itself to get ‘the goodie’ from the plant.

As I walked back toward the conservatory – a Monarch butterfly was enjoying some flowers…and I zoomed to focus on how it was using its proboscis.

Previous posts re Volunteering at Wings of Fancy: prep, I, II-IV, V-X.