Ten Little Celebrations – April 2019

April has been a busy month – only at home for a week out of the month and not all at the same time. There was plenty to celebrate with spring in full swing and the travel to see it in different places.

Certified Zentangle® Trainer (CZT) class. There were so many perspectives of the CZT class to celebrate: the beauty of the creations everyone was making, the conversations, the food…the challenge of being a student…the Zen.

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Train ride home. I don’t go many places where taking the train is feasible…but the CZT class was one of them. I celebrated the low stress hours going home…a fitting finale to the class.

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4th and 5th grade field trips. The early April field trips happened with great weather and the students enjoying being outdoors to learn about the Patapsco heritage (land, water, and rocks) and BioBlitz. It’s always inspiring to see their curiosity and enthusiasm --- celebrating a spring field trip.


Getting to Dallas. I had to travel to Dallas quickly and it was easier than a thought it would be. And I celebrated that I was less stressed by the rapid change in plans (maybe the Zentangle class providing an added benefit.

Spring days. Noticing the rapidly developing blossoms of spring is fodder for many celebrations – oxalis is probably one of my favorites right now. It blooms when the sun is shining!

Rainy day (spent indoors). After busy days – having a rainy day spent indoors is something to celebrate…with homemade soup for lunch!

Josey Ranch Pocket Prairie. A little bit of prairie – carefully tended by volunteers – in a Dallas suburb! Right now it is a celebration of spring wildflowers.

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Cedar waxwings. Birds are migrating and there are serendipity sightings of birds that don’t stay around the area long. I celebrated seeing a small flock of cedar waxwings last week.

Botanical reminders of my grandmother. Many flowers in my parents’ Carrollton yard were planted by my grandmother…good memories to celebrate.

Home again. Providence, Rhode Island to home to Carrollton, Texas to home to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Smith Island to home. I like to travel…but coming home is celebratory too.

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Zooming – April 2019

The accelerating change of the seasons in Maryland and Texas…so much to see and do. I’ve picked a few of my favorite images captured with the zoom on my camera. There are insects in at least two of the flower images (maybe a third)….the little critters enjoying the spring bounty. Enjoy the April slideshow!

Josey Ranch Lake

After visiting the Pocket Prairie, I headed over toward the lake. The highlight of this part of the walk was a flock of cedar waxwings feeding around the blooms of a tree. I think they may have been eating tiny insects that were attracted by the blooms. They were very active – chowing down before continuing their migration. I didn’t get any great pictures of them, but I saw enough to identify them while I watched them feed! For some reason – a tend to think of them as slightly larger than they are (maybe because they have a crest like a cardinal, and I lapse into thinking they are the same size).

Otherwise the lake was a disappointment. There was a lone Canada goose and a few mallards. The birds that winter there have already moved northward. There were still a few coots around; they were all on the shore. Perhaps they stay for the summer too. The lake was almost empty.

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The resident boat-tailed grackles are noisy and have a lot of attitude. I took two sequences. On that was walking on the sidewalk as I headed back toward the car…

And another in the front of the drive near the library….I think he might have been warning me to come no closer!

Josey Ranch Pocket Prairie

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Last week I discovered the Josey Ranch Pocket Prairie near the Carrollton (Texas) Public Library. At first it looked mostly like a sea of plants blowing in the breeze…then I began noticing the flowers.

I walked around the path slowly using the zoom on my camera to see the flowers better (and photograph them). There were a lot to see. Some I recognized – the bluebonnets, Indian blanket, Indian paint brush, and pink evening primrose. Others I didn’t. I’ll have to go back and get more detailed pictures to identify them. Spring is a great time to see wildflowers!

I’ll have to remember to take a turn around this pocket prairie when I come to Carrollton in the summer and fall…see it in difference seasons. There seems to be a group of volunteers maintaining the area. There were piles of some invasive plants that had been pulled out and were ready for pickup. The rain garden area seemed almost new. If it rains while I am here – I’ll go over in my rain gear to see how it works!

A Carrollton Garden – Part II

It’s been more than 8 years since my grandmother died – but there are still many plants in the garden at my parents’ house that she started. The pink preference sage all came from a plant from her sister’s garden.

The oxalis was something she saw first in her sister’s garden then ordered some from a catalog (we think). It is growing so profusely these days that some of the plants are being potted to be part of the floral decorations for my niece’s wedding.

The bees like the flowers too.

The evening primrose is self-propagating around a rose bush my grandmother got as a birthday present (the rose bush must be over 20 years old now) and she planted the primrose seeds at its base.

I’m not sure where the daisy-like flowers came from, but they’ve been in the garden for a long time. These days they bloom in enlarging clumps in the front yard garden under the big mulberry and beside the red yucca.

The continuity of plants – passed between family members and through generations. Remembering her…in her garden.

A Carrollton Garden – Part I

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I am visiting my parents this week in Carrollton TX and their garden is responding to the warmer weather. Mounds of oxalis line the large patio – carpeting the partial shade area under the mulberry trees.

Various kinds of iris are in bloom. The Dutch iris blooms seem to last longer than the other kinds.

The mulberry trees are a fruitless variety. The trunks of the largest trees have a lot of color when they are wet. Most of the trees have small branches emerging along the big branches. The larger branches have been thinned to allow more sunlight to reach the ground so all the little branches that are within reach of the pole clippers are snipped from the trees keep the canopy open.

The pecan tree is finally old enough to bloom and may produce some pecans this year. Hopefully the nuts will be the paper-shell variety.

The red yuccas are not blooming yet but the seed pods from last fall are still on the stalks. Some of them look almost black (like they were burned). I like the shapes of the empty pods.

More pictures from the garden tomorrow.

Up Close Irises

There was a large vase of irises from the garden to welcome us to my parents’ house last week. Over the course of the evening, I took several opportunities to photograph them at close range – with and without the macro lens. I like the curves of all parts of the flower - from bud to full flower to spent flower. Today - savor the color and shapes of irises!

Texas Wildflowers in Natural Colors

Whitehouse, Eula. Texas Wildflowers in Natural Colors. 1936. Available from Project Gutenberg here.

This was my favorite botanical book for March….and maybe beyond that too. Eula Whitehouse lived from 1892-1974 and spent the latter part of her career in Dallas – working at Southern Methodist University from 1946 until her retirement; her books and collections are the core of what became BRIT (Botanical Research Institute of Texas). She assisted in organizing the Dallas County Audubon Society in 1954.

The book was self-published first in 1936 and remains a favorite among many Texas botanists. It was published privately and distributed through the Texas Book Store in Austin and then, in 1948, through Cokesbury Bookstore in Dallas. The version available online at Project Gutenberg shows both dates. I’ve included a few sample images below.

I grew up in Texas and found myself wondering why the nature day camps I attended during my elementary and middle school summers didn’t use her book as a reference as we tried to learn about the wildflowers we saw around us.

Eula Whitehouse published a study on the evolution, or succession, of plant communities at Enchanted Rock (in Texas) as part of her doctoral research at the University of Texas in the 1930s. In the late 1970s, Lady Bird Johnson urged The Nature Conservancy to purchase Enchanted Rock to be set aside for posterity. I like that there is a linkage via Enchanted Rock between Eula Whitehouse and Lady Bird Johnson – two women that were deeply involved in preserving wildflowers of Texas.

For more information about Eula Whitehouse, see pages at BRIT and Texas State Historical Association.

YE Thinking: Favorite Images

Looking for a way to summarize my year in pictures for this last post of 2019, I selected 3 favorite photos from each month – not an easy task for me. Many of them are from at home…some from other places close to home…then Socorro NM and Carrolton Tx. It’s been a good year! Enjoy the slide show….celebrating 2018!

Zooming – December 2018

It’s been somewhat cold this month – but no snow yet. I’ve enjoyed photographing our transition to winter using the zoom on my camera to set the frame of the scene and/or to enable me to stay out of the mud (we’ve had lots of rain) or indoors and warm. There is still a little green left…and the sky sometimes seems brighter when its clear and cold. Enjoy the December 2018 Zoom slideshow!

Travel Day

A week ago, I got up in Texas and got ready to fly home to Maryland. As I got my breakfast, I noticed that the sunrise was spectacular. I quickly grabbed my camera to take some pictures from the backyard. The colors were changing fast. There was a little breeze that caused me to notice the windchimes and I decided to take a silhouette of them with the colors of the sunrise in the background.

Looking back toward the house, there were some hazy clouds that reflected the color. What a great start to my last day in Texas!

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My strategy for the trip was to pack small bags rather than large ones. I was flying on Southwest so there was no charge for checking two of them. I carried my back pack and tote on the plane. The tote was holding a red poncho that I wore on the plane (and is a good substitute for a blanket). The strategy worked well for this trip. It’s great to not have to lift heavy luggage.

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It felt good to get home later that day. I always savor being ‘home again’ after being away for a week.

Josey Ranch Birds – Part II

There was finally another sunny day in Carrollton TX and I headed over to Josey Ranch Park again. I was lucky enough to arrive about the same time two women arrived with food for the birds. Two swans were at the boardwalk before the women could make their way from the parking lot to the boardwalk; the swans must recognize the signs of a forthcoming meal. The pigeons and seagulls flew in quickly.

After the crowd of birds gathered to enjoy the feast – the coots seemed to be arguing – chasing each other and churning the water. The northern shovelers in the background did not hurry over like the other birds.

How many birds can you identify in this picture? (see the bottom of this blog post for the most prominent ones). This is a good picture to see the relative size of the birds as well.

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There are not very many mallards at the lake this time of year. The light changes the green coloring of their head; sometimes the feathers look black!

Lesser Scaups are more prevalent.

The Great Egret is there every time ago – must be a resident.

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Pigeons are on the roof of the nearby senior center and library except with there is food! Iridescent neck feather and red eye – oh my!

The Northern Shovelers are not quite as numerous as the Lesser Scaups and they seem relatively used to people being about.

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I managed to get a seagull taking off from the lake – watch the one to the center right.

Birds in the ID quiz picture: swan (partial) on the far left, Canada geese in the upper third, ducks with large bills and rust colored sides are male Northern Shovelers, ducks with light sides and brown heads (yellow eyes) are male Lesser Scaups, coot in lower right (black with pointy beak), pigeon (partial) on bottom margin, gull?  Inflight in the upper left.

Rainy Day in Texas

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I stood at open sliding glass doors to take some rainy-day pictures last week when I was in Texas. The colors of the wet foliage were bright for such a cloudy day. Even the raw wound from where a big branch had been cut from a tree was colorful.

A squirrel surveyed the yard. I thought the animal might have heard my camera

When it darted off through the treetops.

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A few minutes later – another squirrel was on the ground. The face and paws looked lighter, but it might have just been the light.

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A couple of days later, the sun was out again….and I got a different perspective of the garden, but it was cold enough that I took the pictures from an open sliding glass door again…quickly to not let the heat escape from the house.

Josey Ranch Birds – Part I

After the sadness of seeing the dead crow, I headed over to the Josey Ranch Lake to see the birds that were still very much alive. The day was still cloudy…but the birds didn’t seem to care.

There were Lesser Scaup – which I had seen during precious visits to Carrolton during the winter and early spring (February 2015, January 2017, and March 2017).

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The Northern Shovelers are there for the winter as well.

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The Great Egret is there all through the year.

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As are the Mute Swans.

Canadian geese are not as common. I had not seen them before this year at this small lake in Texas.

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American Coots and pigeons were plentiful and sometimes were in mixed groups on the shore.

The sea gulls – far from any sea – seem happier on the water.

Texas Sunrise

I was in Texas last week (Carrollton near Dallas to be precise). They were experiencing their first round of cold weather. The first morning I got up to early enough to see the sunrise (not hard this time of year).

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The garden still had a surprising amount of green I wondered how long it would be before the plants succumbed to frost. There were some that already had dried to brown (leaves and flowers) but the soft greens of oxalis and sedum

And the brighter colors of kale dominated the view.

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I took my pictures and hurried back inside…it was cold. Little did I know that the next 3 days would be cloudy…and then wet.

Ten Little Celebrations – June 2018

The ten little celebrations for June started out like other months:

  • Celebrating the last of the spring field trips and the end of schools. I enjoy hiking with school groups….but am always ready to have a summer break!
  • The Frederick MD garden day was full of garden treasures. I celebrated formal gardens…a children’s’ garden…and most of all a woodland garden.

 

  • My daughter managed a weekend to drive down for a weekend visit. She is closer now that she lives in Pennsylvania rather than Arizona, but we are all so busy that we don’t see each other any more frequently.

Then something unique happened: my mother fell and broke her femur…and I went off to Texas for almost 3 weeks. The rest of the little celebrations were all stem from that event:

  • The surgery to fix the break happened within 24 hours and was success.
  • I managed to get to Texas before she left the hospital – barely.
  • She walked about 100 feet with a walker before she left the hospital….and only spent 2 days at a rehab place before going home.
  • I manage a short walk around Josey Ranch lake while one of my sister was with my parents and saw 4 types of herons in about 30 minutes…two were ‘firsts’ for me: a yellow crowned heron and juvenile green herons. It was my only photography away from my parents’ house and was short…but very satisfying.

 

  • Last but not least – the physical therapy milestones just before my left: my mother walked down a paved alley and across a grassy lawn with her walker….and we’d already gotten a cane to be ready for her next milestone! The she – and the whole family – celebrates every milestone!

Zooming – June 2018

I am late getting out the posts that I normally write toward the end of the month….this is a catch up week after being in Texas for almost 3 weeks! As usual – it was easy to find favorite pictures taken in June that used the zooming capabilities of my camera. There are all the usual suspects – birds, butterflies, and vegetation. Can you pick out which ones were in Texas and which were in Maryland?

Enjoy the June slideshow!

Texas Vegetation

Dallas in June – hot and mostly dry. There is some native vegetation that thrives in the heat. Everything benefits from a little water. The red yucca has become more and more popular in recent decades. It looks delicate but is prolific enough to sometimes be used in public landscaping.

Crape myrtles need extra water but do well in the heat. I photographed a crape myrtle with white blooms in the early morning on the day the sprinklers watered the garden.

The desert willows are even more resilient to the heat and dryness since they are native to the desert southwest and have only recently become common in landscaping in Dallas.

The blue run juniper my parents planted year ago to fill in around the other plants in their front yard (replacing grass) is mature and full of blue ‘berries.’

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June is the peak of summer vegetation color in Texas!

Josey Ranch Lake – Other Birds

I’ve posted about the herons and mallards at Josey Ranch Lake earlier this week. There were some other birds at the lake.

The grackles are probably the most numerous birds at the lake. I like to photograph the birds showing their attitude.

The next most numerous birds are pigeons. Most of them were on the roofs of the senior center or library – surveying the lake or grooming.

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A Great Egret was feeding in the shallows near the Great Blue Heron….the lake seems to have enough food to support quite a few birds.

I saw one swan. I wondered if something had happened to the others. In April I saw two and several times in previous years that have been 3 or more.

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Josey Ranch Lake - Mallards

When I first got to Josey Ranch Lake, I thought I all I would see was Mallard Ducks and grackles! All the ducks I usually see when I visit Texas in the winter had gone north to their nesting grounds. When I looked closer at the Mallards, I realized that the ones that appeared to be napping in the shade were either molting males or juveniles just getting their adult plumage. I decided that they were probably juveniles – maybe the same ones I had seen as ducklings in April.

A pair of males on the lake also looked scruffy – probably juveniles getting their plumage.

Then I saw a female with a large number of mid-sized ducklings on the lake….probably the second group of the season. The lake is a good place for duck families evidently!