Zooming – September 2019

The images I selected for this month reflected the season and many of the places visited during the month. Season reminders…

  • The flowers of autumn like sunflowers and autumn crocus,

  • Hummingbirds eating to fatten up for migration,

  • Seed pods of the golden rain, maple, buckeye, and dogwood trees

Reflections of the places I visited:

  • Patuxent Research Refuge (north tract) – sunflower and hummingbird,

  • Longwood Gardens – waterlily, sunflower, tower,

  • Brookside Gardens – insects and flowers and tree seeds,

  • Mount Vernon – the greenhouse and beautyberry

Overall it was a good month for getting outdoors to capture the beauty of summer and early fall. I am anticipating a lot of leaf photography for October.

Enjoy the September 2019 slide show – hurray for cameras with good zoom lenses!

Hummingbirds

It was a little late for the hummingbirds at the north tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge last week. During the summer the feeders near Visitor Contact Station have a lot of ruby-throated hummingbirds; by this time of year, a few females and juveniles are left. They will soon all be migrating southward. At this point they are fattening up for the long flight. Next year my husband and I will go earlier in the season and – hopefully – have a chance to photograph both males and females.

While I was sitting on the bench waiting for the hummingbirds, I photographed some nearby milkweed seeds. The plants were looking the season: leaves curling and scared. I did see a good-sized Monarch caterpillar and a few milkweed tussock moths caterpillars as well. The seeds always draw my attention this time of year – the bright white of the fibers, the tight package of seeds in the pod and then the fluff bursting up and out…floating the seeds away in the fall breeze.

There was a sunflower that I photographed from the bench as well. The lighting was just right to naturally darken the background once I zoomed in to almost fill the frame with the flower.

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Overall – a good early fall morning at Patuxent Research Refuge.

Red-Spotted Purple

The other butterfly that seems to be doing great in our area of Maryland are the red-spotted purples. They are smaller swallowtails than the most prominent swallowtails in our area – the tiger swallowtails. They can look a little like the dark morph of the tiger swallowtail but they are smaller and a closer look at the markings show they are different. There was a red-spotted purple caterpillar that hatched on the black cherry plant where the Brookside staff had pinned the cecropia moth cocoons back in April. The moths emerged…and the red-spotted purple caterpillar grew, pupated, and emerged as a red-spotted purple. Now – in September, I am seeing lots of these butterflies. They seem to like country roads and gardens. I saw several at Brookside Gardens over the past few weeks.

And at the north tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge….along the road and in the visitor center parking lot.

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I didn’t get out of the car to identify and photograph the butterflies flitting on and over the road to Belmont Manor and Historic Park…but they were the right color and behavior.

It’s great that we have some butterflies that are apparently doing well even if the Monarch butterflies don’t seem as prevalent this year in our area.

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!

Patuxent Research Refuge – Part II

Continuing about our visit to the Patuxent Research Refuge last weekend (map)…

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At the very beginning of the Loop Trail near the visitor center, we saw a blue dasher on a sign! A great way to start the morning at Patuxent.

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After leaving the bird blind on the Loop Trail, we crossed the bridge heading toward the Cash Lake Trail and began to realize that it was getting hotter every minute…the hike was going be a short one. Looking back toward Lake Reddington, I took one landscape picture

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Then zoomed in for waterlily pictures. The bright sunlight made the water look very dark.

There was a thistle blooming nearby….and going to seed.

After photographing the herons, we came back to the Viewing Blind at the end of boardwalk. I noticed something fly into the tree and was lucky enough to zoom in to find it – a cicada! It was probably the highlight of the trek for me.

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On the way back to the car I noticed the milkweed…looking too good to have very many Monarch caterpillars.  There don’t seem to be many Monarch butterflies this year in our area – noticeably fewer than last year. I hope they are more numerous elsewhere.

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Patuxent Research Refuge – Part I

Last weekend, we spent an hour at the south tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge – that’s the area that includes the visitor center (map). We got there early enough that it wasn’t overwhelmingly hot (and before the visitor center was open). We stopped at a recent addition along the Loop Trail: a bird blind with bird feeders: seeds, hummingbird, and suet. They are still working on the area; as time goes by it should become a better and better place to see birds. In just a few minutes, I saw and photographed three different birds in the area: a male Red-winged Blackbird with patches just beginning to show,

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And a juvenile Common Grackle.

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We walked down to the Cash Lake Trail and out onto the pontoon lake crossing part of the trail. There were two Great Blue Herons out on the lake in the shallow water.

Note the water lilies in bloom around the herons. I’ll post about other things (not birds) we saw in our short visit tomorrow.

Patuxent Research Refuge

I attended the Patuxent River Conference last week. The conference was informative – lots of up-to-date information about the river. One of the branches of the river (the Middle Patuxent) is through the forest – downhill – from my house. The conference venue was the Patuxent Research Refuge and there was opportunity to look around the visitor center and onto a nearby trail. It has been awhile since I had visited the place and the visitor center was in better condition that I remembered.

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The displays in the visitor center had been updated. The one I found most poignant was the whopping crane display. The Patuxent Research Refuge tried for years to raise whooping cranes to establish a new migratory flock but this year the effort was stopped. The whopping crane we saw down in Florida during the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival (see my post here) began its life at this refuge.

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During the morning break – a mockingbird sat in a nearby tree. It had quite a repertoire of songs.

I remember the timber wolf sculpture in front of the visitor center but the colorful screening on the front windows of the visitor center was new to me.

The refuge biologist let a hike during the last session of the day. A prescribed burn had been done on some of the areas around the visitor center to clear out biomass…keep the area grassland habitat rather than forest.

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We hiked over the causeway and into the forest. The Refuge is doing an inventory of the forest trees and taking core samples to determine the age. One of the corers got stuck in an oak and they are still trying to get it out!

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The trees are not leafed out…but some are easy to identify. Beech trees are easy any time of year.

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A lot of the pines at the refuge were planted about the same time and are dying off together too. There are quite a few that have fallen over. But there are still a lot of trees that fill in the canopy. This will be a very shady area when the trees leaf out.

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It was a good day for a conference and a visit to the refuge!