Belmont in January 2019

Last week, I attended a lecture for Howard County Conservancy volunteers at the Belmont Carriage House – arriving early to walk around a bit before the lecture. There was still quite a lot of snow on the ground.

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I stayed on the cleared roads until I made the trek up to the old cemetery.

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The old tulip poplar looks even more ancient in the winter with all the hollows and bark injuries more clearly visible. It had a lot of seed pods from last season just as the younger trees do.

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One of the people I was hiking with pointed out an ash tree on the Patapsco Valley State Park side of the cemetery that had evidence of emerald ash borer (the lighter color on the bark). This tree will have to be cut down before it falls on the cemetery taking down fences and stones.

On a positive note – the hemlocks in the cemetery seem to be thriving. A few years ago they were infested with wooly adelgid but they were treated and it seems have saved them.

The wind must have ‘pruned’ the holly in the cemetery. A branch was draped from one of the headstones – no footprints in the snow around the headstone.

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There were lots of deer tracks in the snow as we walked up to the cemetery and back. We didn’t see any rabbit tracks. Maybe a coyote?

We circled back along the row of white pines. The snow stands out even on a very cloudy day.

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It was time to head back. I stopped near the mailboxes to take a picture of the pond with the bald cypress standing just to the left of it. It does have a classic cypress shape but if I wasn’t familiar with the tree, I’d have to hike down to the pond and see the cypress knees that surround it for a definitive identification.

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Thoughts from Belmont

I’ve spent more time at Belmont this week because of some extra classes held there. Three thoughts: 1) On the road into the park I thought about the pine trees cut a few years ago because they were damaged by pine bark beetles and now the ash trees being marked with yellow tape for removal because of the emerald ash borer. They are big trees along the drive toward the Manor House…will leave some large holes.

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) Looking down the road from the front of the manor house, I thought about the way it slopes down hill for about a mile – I coast all the way down to Rockburn Branch when I leave. It traverses the boundary between the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. Maryland’s highest elevation is in the far west of the state…and it slopes down to the sea through two mountain ranges (Alleghenies and Appalachians) to the Piedmont and then the coastal plain to the sea. Belmont is a place to see one of those transitions. Water in Piedmont streams and rivers babbles along…and moves more slowly once it gets to the coastal plain.

3) There is a butterfly meadow being created near the Carriage House nature center. Right now, it is dirt that has been covered with plastic to kill grass and unwanted plants…ready for planting of milkweed and other plants that provide food for the butterflies and caterpillars. The big sheets of plastic had not blown entirely way in our recent winds but hadn’t stayed spread out as intended either. There were some bright yellow plants in the dirt. On closer inspection they were grass…with the (yellow) xanthophyll pigments lasting longer than the (green) chlorophyll pigments when it tried to grow under the plastic! The grass will be pulled before the meadow plant seeds are sowed. I also noticed a relatively large (and old) shelf function on a dead tree in the brambles behind the butterfly meadow project. There were lots of birds back in that area too…but not easily visible on the cloudy day.

A lecture and walk around at Belmont

Earlier this week, I attended a lecture about the history of the Patapsco River Valley at Belmont Manor and Historic Park and then took a walk around the grounds. It was a sunny day – but cold and breezy. I put on all my layers. There are some changes since the last time I was there. Much of the meadow and field areas have been mowed and some new trees have been planted. The shorter grass somehow made it seem even more wintery – to seedpods or long grasses to add texture to the landscape.

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The bald cypress down by the pond stands out because of its location and because it seems to be a slightly different color that the trees behind it. I’m glad the area around it is soggy enough that they didn’t mow around its base – scarring its knees. We didn’t make the trek down there to check. Hopefully I’ll hike down sometime before the bluebirds and swallows start moving into the boxes…and protecting their territory.

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Up at the front of the manor house, many of the trees look like they’ve been pruned – either intentionally or by winter weather.

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Along the road into Belmont, the ashes are being cut down. Some were already gone, others just had tape around them. It’s evidently a project this winter. They are being killed by the invasive emerald ash borer.

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We hiked around the fence behind the manor house to a hemlock that had been invested with wooly adelgid (another invasive insect). The tree looks better; there were some new cones and growth from last summer; I’m glad the park is trying to save it. Underneath the tree – there was a scattering of feathers. Some relatively large bird met its end here.

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We hiked on around to the Belmont cemetery. I noticed some holes within the hollow up high in a very large tulip poplar…a home for a woodpecker or maybe just a pantry that contained a lot of insects. The hemlocks at the cemetery looked healthier too. Some of the dead branches had been removed and they had new growth and cones.