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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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.


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!


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.


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.

Gleanings of the Week Ending December 8, 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.

Parts of the Ocean Floor Are Disintegrating—And It's Our Fault | Smart News | Smithsonian – Ocean acidification has a downside – already.

Drought Persists in the Southwest – The drought had been long…like the one in the 1950s…but there are a lot more people living in the region now than there were in the 1950s. 7 states have drafted drought contingency plans.

Body clock researchers prevent liver cancer growth in mice -- ScienceDaily – Our circadian clock has a broader role that just the sleep/wake cycle.

Get a New Perspective on Prague With These Spectacular Drone Photos – A city at sunrise. Hopefully the drone didn’t awaken anyone.

Floating Solar Is Best Solution for Colorado Town’s High Electric Bills | CleanTechnica – A small town with limited available land is installing solar panels over its waste water plant.

Which country is best to live in? Our calculations say it's not Norway – Two metrics are compared. Using the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) – Norway is ‘best.’ But there are issues with that indicator. The Human Life Indicator (HLI) has Hong Kong at the top…with Norway at 9.  The US is 10 on the UN HDI but falls to 32 on the HLI scale largely due to lower longevity and high inequality in ages of death when compared to other countries like Canada (which was 10 on the UN HDI index and 17 on the HLI scale). Maybe these indexes are not that useful for individuals but may be helpful in comparing the broader implications for government actions of all 189 countries analyzed.

Punctuated earthquakes for New Madrid area, Missouri, U.S. -- ScienceDaily – The 1811 and 1812 earthquake is well known…but what about the earlier ones? Recent analysis shows quakes around 1450 AD, 900 AD and 2300 BC.

How do pregnancy tests work? | Compound Interest – They’ve only been around since the 1970s – biotech on a stick!

BBC - Future - Why we are living in the age of the chair – Furniture that has changed lives …relatively recently in human history.

Florida monarch butterfly populations have dropped 80 percent since 2005 -- ScienceDaily – A 37-year study of Florida where the monarchs come up from Mexico to recolonize much of the east coast. No wonder we are not seeing as many in Maryland when the numbers in Florida have dropped by 80%.

Brookside Gardens at end of September – part II

Yesterday I posted about plants…today is about birds and butterflies. We’d gone to Brookside Gardens to photograph hummingbirds – realizing that it was near the end of the season for them. The garden area full of salvias was still full of flowers.

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There were a few birds, but they did not stay long. The only image I managed was a hummingbird in a tree….using the zoom to advantage. The bird looked very rounded and in good shape to continue south.

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I also photographed a male and female monarch (the male has a black node on each hind wing). They too were probably heading south and stopping at the garden to refuel.

Ten Little Celebrations – September 2018

Every month when I look at the notes I’ve made for each day of little celebrations – I enjoy them again. Many times, it’s hard to pick just 10 for this blog post. Here are the picks for September 2018:

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Volunteering on the last day of Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy exhibit – It was good to be there for the good-bye day…and know that the next exhibit will open again in April. I enjoy being in the butterfly house and interacting with visitors…it’s a happy place.

Window cleaning – I am surprising myself at how satisfying cleaning the windows (taking the panes apart and cleaning all surfaces except the one on the outside) on a rainy day can be. Instead of spring cleaning – I’m doing fall cleaning! I celebrated the difference clean windows make.

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A monarch butterfly emerging – Caterpillars crawled up from our front flower bed to make chrysalises at the top of the window frames. I finally managed to notice one that was still emerged - hanging from the bit of chrysalis still attached – and then crawling up onto the lentil to finish drying. Celebration!

Yummy zucchini bread – I made a double batch of zucchini bread from squash frozen earlier in the summer. We enjoyed it for days. I celebrated the spicy flavor…helped me feel ready for fall.


Howard County Conservancy volunteers and staff – With the training for fall field trips, we always have a pot luck lunch and this one – for me – was a celebration of those people (and that they are all such foodies)!

Elementary School Butterfly – What a celebration when the first Monarch butterfly emerged from a chrysalis I took to the elementary school! I wasn’t there for the excitement but got the description from the teacher. They even found another chrysalis on the fence around their school garden while they were releasing their butterfly.

Haircut - I told the stylist – with some trepidation - that I wanted it short….and celebrated the results.

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A birthday spent at Longwood - This is a great place to spend celebrating a family birthday…better than a too-sweet cake!

Yard work – Just as the window cleaning – I celebrated the results. It’s good to know that I’m ending the month in relatively good shape when it comes to the yard…before a lot of leaves have fallen.

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Lacewing larvae – Celebrating seeing (and recognizing) a new-to-me organism (looks like lichen since it covers itself with pieces of the stuff)!

Zooming – September 2018

The zoom on my new camera (60 vs 40 optical zoom…and then comes the digital zoom too) makes it even easier to stand well out of the flowerbed, get a good angle, not scare the butterfly or bee. It’s easier to hold myself steady using the viewfinder rather than the screen like I had to previously. Sometimes I use the monopod…but other times I find that I can simple hold myself steady enough that the camera image stabilization does the rest.

The images I selected this month are from several places: Longwood Gardens, home, Brookside Gardens, and Howard Count Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm. Some of my favorite places to be.

Enjoy my picks of zoomed images for September 2018!

Monarchs of September

Back in August it seemed like we were seeing more Monarch butterflies that at any time during the summer. They seemed to be everywhere. And they were laying eggs.

Toward the end of the month, there were large caterpillars and smaller ones too.


Then – I only found large caterpillars

And the chrysalises. Some still looked like jade pendants and others were already beginning to become clear – the monarchy colors coming through.

The elementary school that I delivered chrysalises and caterpillars too had their first butterfly emerge last Tuesday – 11 to 12 days after the chrysalis was made. When they released it, the butterfly flew away to the south! Hopefully it is not waylaid along its journey by Hurricane Florence.

Just this week I have had two butterflies emerge and fly way. They were both on the same window frame – opposite corners. On Wednesday morning – the first one emerged and stayed near the empty chrysalis until it flew away.

The second one emerged on Thursday morning. It crawled up onto face of the lintel. It took several hours for it to fly away – perhaps because it was a cloudy day and the humidity was about 90%. It is clearly a male based on the dark nodes on the lower part of the wings.

With all the diseases monarchs have these days – there have been disappointments too…at both the caterpillar stage and the butterfly. I’ve observed deformed butterflies probably caused by the parisite  Ophryocystis Elektroscirrha (OE) – and lethargic, shriveled caterpillars probably from Pseudomonas bacteria (aptly named ‘Black Death’)…so having an apparently healthy butterfly emerge is something I need to keep trying to help the Monarch butterflies! It’s a lot harder to raise healthy Monarchs now than it was back in the 1990s.

Zooming – August 2018

Bugs and flowers and butterflies and spider webs and seed pods and bird feet– oh my! I really do enjoy the extra zoom capability of my new camera. I am using the monopod if I can anticipate going to 65x…since it’s too difficult to compost the picture otherwise. I might eventually give in and use a tripod although not when I am going to be moving about. Lugging a tripod is never going to be something I want to do!

Enjoy the show!

Outdoors at Brookside Gardens

I try to take a few minutes before each shift volunteering at Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy to walk around outside in the gardens. There is a lot going on in August. I am featuring some of my favorite things I noticed and photographed in this post.

Button bush and cone flowers and sunflowers – with and without bees.


Joe Pye Weed in bloom…very popular with the tiger swallowtails. One morning I photographed a dark morph female with several of the yellow and black versions.

Monarchs are more prevalent in the garden than they were earlier.

I can never resist checking the gingko tree near the conservatory. I like the way the leaves look outlined in gold of the morning sunshine.

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The sumac is a plant I am tracking this year. I recognize the seed heads but want to capture how the seeds develop. This will take me further into the fall since they don’t look like they’ve changed too much during this month.

There are always a lot of funnel spider webs in the low pines around the conservatory….and sometimes the spider is visible.

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There are several kinds of datura in the garden.

I had never nptoced what the seed pod looked like before.

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Some of the trumpets hang downward and I appreciated that the screen on my new camera can pivot so I can see what the camera is seeing when it is point straight up! I’ve always wanted to photography the unfurling flower.

The bald cypress has the scale insects like it did last summer but seems healthy enough to survive. The cones are beginning to form.

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The cannas are beautiful this time of year. Some are producing seed pods.

This is the view from the ticket taker table for Wings of Fancy. I ended up doing the job when no one had signed up for it….a  last minute change of plans.

There are milkweed plants close to the entrance to the caterpillar house and there are often insects on the plants other than caterpillars. When there are no visitors in the area…I roam around and take pictures; more on the caterpillars tomorrow.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in August 2018 – Part II

Last week we made our last trip to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens for this year. Today’s post features the insects and a turtle that we saw. There were a few monarch butterflies; there are so few these days that I always celebrate even if I just see one!


The insects my husband wanted to photograph were dragonflies. There were several species flying in the garden but the only ones that sat long enough to photograph were the blue dashers. They like to perch while they survey their surroundings. I photographed individuals on a dried flower (note how battered the wings look),

On signs,

A lotus pod (did something take a bite of the pod?),


And on other vegetation.

My favorite critter of the visit, was a Eastern Painted Turtle. It was getting some sun at the edge of a pond and looking very Zen. It was not still. When I first saw it, the front legs were tucked in. Then it stretched them out and turned itself toward me. I was on the other side of the pond an appreciating the zoom on my camera to capture the turtle without disturbing its morning.

Morning Walk at Mt. Pleasant (part 1)

Earlier this week, I took a morning walk at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant. I stopped by the nature center first to leave some comments on a new BioBlitz guidebook; my plan was to hike down to the Davis Branch. I forgot my camera at home so was ‘roughing it’ with my Samsung Galaxy S7 and clip-on macro lens.


I stopped near the Honors Garden to look at the sweet bay magnolia…and noticed some eggs under one of the leaves. The only way I know to figure out what they might be would be to isolate the leaf and wait for them to hatch! I didn’t do that…so it will be a mystery. Maybe a ‘leaf footed bug’?

I walked down toward Montjoy barn and noticed that the pear tree in the old orchard looks terrible – many bare branches. It’s an old tree and I hope it sees another season.


Near the demonstration garden at the top of the path, an Augochlora sweat bee was slow enough that I got a picture!

Some id references: http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Documents/CommonBees.pdf and https://www.insectidentification.org/insects-by-state.asp?thisState=Maryland

I saw a flock of goldfinches as I walked down through the meadow. They kept moving just ahead of me all the way down the hill. I regretted leaving my camera at home. There were also lots of dragonflies and butterflies and gnats in the meadow. I should have sprayed my clothes and hat with insect repellent for the gnats.

When I got down to the stream, it was cooler because I could easily stay in the shade. I walked down stream a little and saw what looked like one of the trees purposefully upended as part of the upstream restoration that must have been sweep away by one of the recent rains. It is now caught on some rocks and other tree debris and will ‘slow the flow’ in its new location too.


When the water is high – there are two paths for the stream in the old ‘beach’ area. The one in the upper left is the main channel; the one in the middle of the picture is no longer flowing and will dry up if we don’t get another big rain this week.


I took the narrow path along the stream. There is high vegetation on both sides. Sometimes it opens enough for sun loving plants like milkweed to grow…and this skipper landed just in time for me to take a quick portrait.

There was a vista of a restored area of the stream. The pools look a little larger than I remembered – possibly because it has been so rainy recently. One part of the path was very muddy and I wondered if there was an intermittent spring there.


There were two butterflies on a Joe Pye Weed nearby. Rather than use the digital zoom on the phone, I clipped the area I wanted when I got home. It’s easy to identify the two butterflies: tiger swallowtail and monarch!

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I hiked back to Montjoy barn on the sunny side of the stone wall. I didn’t stop along the way since it was hot and sticky. When I got to the shade near the barn I looked more carefully at the vegetation and found a new-to-me orange, white, and black insect. I had no idea what it was but I took several pictures and then identified it when I got home: an ailanthus webworm moth. It’s an insect that followed the invasive Tree of Heaven to our area. Aargh!

Tomorrow I’ll post about the plants I saw along my hike.

Wings of Fancy Volunteering Retrospective

I enjoyed volunteering at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit. The seasonal exhibit ended on September 17th and I’m missing it this week; I’m already keen on volunteering when the 2018 exhibit starts next April. I started later this year because I only decided to volunteer for in in May…but even so – I managed 26 shifts during the summer months and the first weeks of September. I’ve posted about the earlier shift previously…but am including the last 7 (all in September) in this post.

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Shift XX was a sunny day and I enjoyed a walk in the gardens – flowers and butterflies.

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Shift XXI was wet and there were times that the only people in the conservatory were volunteers! I took some pictures inside the conservatory with my cell phone.

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I parked near the Brookside Gardens Visitor Center rather than near the conservatory for Shift XXII. I hadn’t noticed the horsetail and gingko planting in the bed around the conservatory before…and the brightly colored bench. As I walked down on to the conservatory, I noticed a rotting stump with bright yellow function growing on it.

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The moon was still out when I got to Brookside prior to Shift XXIII. Along the butterfly walk (the path to the ticket taker for the exhibit) the gold finches were enjoying seeds and there was still a Monarch caterpillar on one of the milkweed plants.


Shift XXIV was rainy – again. I manage a picture of a spider web that held big drops of water. Attendance was light enough that I took pictures inside the conservatory.

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It was a sunny day again for Shift XXV…but attendance was light again. I took a series of Monarch pictures: caterpillars and two mating pairs.

For the final shift, I was fixated on palpi (structures that start on either side of the proboscis and then lay between the eyes) again because I had seen so many blue morphos that appear to not have any. Evidently the blue morpho frequently breaks its palpi while the owl butterfly (second picture) does not!

And so – a fond farewell to Wings of Fancy…until 2018.

Road Trip to Nebraska for the Eclipse

We were in Nebraska for the eclipse last Monday having driven from Maryland --> Pennsylvania --> Ohio --> Indiana --> Illinois --> Iowa --> Nebraska on the two days prior to the eclipse. I am writing about the road trip to Nebraska today and will be posting about the rest of our eclipse adventure over the next week.  We started out very early last Saturday. Our only stop in Maryland was the South Mountain rest area which is becoming a familiar stopping point for us on the way to Pittsburg or State College.

On Saturday, we were heading to Pittsburgh to pick up our daughter along way. We stopped at the rest stop/welcome center to Pennsylvania then two service areas along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It’s a scenic drive and I enjoyed a peanut butter cookie purchased at the North Midway stop. We arrived at the Pittsburgh (Squirrel Hill) apartment by mid-morning.

We were back on the road and into Ohio shortly. We stopped at rest areas along the toll road (fortunately our Maryland E-ZPass tags worked for the entire trip). The first two areas had a round area where there were several options for lunch; my daughter and I chose Panera Bread at the first stop and my husband got his McDonalds lunch at the second. The third stop had a barrel vault roof.

We continued into Indiana making a rest stop along the highway and then at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for a hike (more on that in a subsequent post) and then to our hotel in Lansing, Illinois. The next morning, we were off again after a hearty breakfast at the hotel. There were two rest stops as we crossed the state. There was a Monarch not quite warm enough to be fluttering around. It seemed to have lost a lot of scales since it looked more brown than orange.

Iowa has some themed rest stops depicting the history and energy production of the state. The tall white obelisk in the second picture is a blade of a wind turbine! The art work inside (glass etching and floor tile) was appealing.

And then we were in Nebraska – making one rest stop before arriving at our hotel in York, Nebraska. The day we arrive was clear but the forecast for eclipse day was lots of clouds. We were looking at maps and the track of the eclipse….trying to figure out whether we should head west or east on eclipse day.

Ten Little Celebrations – August 2017

August has been a busy month – volunteering (primarily at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy) and the solar eclipse road trip. There has been plenty to celebrate.

Monarch Butterflies. The population of Monarchs in Maryland is so reduced from 15 years ago that I celebrate whenever I see them. Brookside Gardens has a few and they are strong enough flyers that I’ve seen them even on rainy days where most of the other butterflies are hiding under leaves.

Orange dead leaf butterfly resting on my hand. An orange dead leaf butterfly kept me company for the last 20 minutes of one of my Wings of Fancy shifts! It settled onto my hand and used its proboscis to get whatever was on my skin. Periodically it opened its wings – flashed their brilliance for a second or two before looking like a dead leaf again. (picture from back in July...not when it was on my hand)

Emerging Atala butterfly. I was at the discovery station talking with a group of children in front of the discovery station when an Atala butterfly emerged. Its wings were folded so tight that they were almost not visible! The was a great experience for the children…and for me too.

Emerging pipevine swallowtails. One day there were three swallowtails that emerged during the hour I was at the discovery station at Wings of Fancy. There was a different audience of families each time. Someone would comment that one of the chrysalises was moving and then – the butterfly would be pulling itself out. The wings would be very wet but noticeably start expanding almost immediately.

Cantaloupe. We’ve has some great watermelon and cantaloupes from our CSA this year. They are probably all worth a little celebration but there was one cantaloupe that was spectacularly sweet – and that’s the one I’m thinking about as I write this.

August sunrise. Somehow being up and observing the sunrise is my favorite way to start the day. It is something to celebrate even if it potentially happens every day!

Orange striped oakworm caterpillar. Yes – it eats oak leave…but they don’t kill the tree. They are beautiful caterpillars and I celebrated seeing one for the first time!

Spider web on the mailbox. I celebrated a spider web that was naturally misted (with fog) and being in out at the right time to photograph it. As a secondary little celebration – I was relieved that the ants that crawled up my legs, while I was concentrating on photography, did not bite me!

Glow. I celebrated thinking about the glow of light in flowers and glow of interactions with people…sometimes those two things bring out similar emotions.

A day at home. Sometimes with a lot going on, a day at home is just what I need…and worth celebrating.

Celebrating Butterflies – Part 2

Continuing my August post about butterflies in the Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit --- what a difference lighting makes. Both pictures below are the underside of the malachite butterfly week. The most colorful butterflies often have reflective/physical color rather than pigment…and so light makes a tremendous difference.

I looked more carefully at the color patterns on the butterfly wings and noticed that the ribs of the wing play a role in the pattern of some butterflies

And others where the ribs were not part of the pattern.

Another two butterflies were the ribs are part of the pattern – and even are boldly outlined on part of the wing – are the Queen

And the Monarch butterflies.

There is always something new to notice in the butterfly exhibit!