Brookside Gardens – Butterflies and more

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Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit was one of the places I volunteered in June – one of my happy places. One of my shifts was so cloud-covered and rainy that butterflies were still roosting in the fiscus at mid-morning.

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There were more clearwing butterflies in the conservatory that earlier in the season – enough that I saw one or two during most of my shifts.

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There aren’t as many paper kite butterflies this year…but they are still one of my favorites.

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The overall favorite for most people is the blue morpho; it’s one of mine too although for more than the blue color…I like the orange markings on the underside and body too. I manage to get some quick pictures during times when there are very few or no visitors in the exhibit.

And there were many other kinds of butterflies that posed for a picture at handy times.

And then there is the caterpillar house. Most of the caterpillars that were in the house during June were Julia Longwing or Zebra Longwing; both use passion flower as the host plant for their caterpillars.

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Toward the end of the month the eggs of the Palamedes swallowtail hatched….and the very small caterpillars begin to make their visible mark on the leaves. When they get bigger, they’ll have ‘eye spots’ to keep the predators away.

There were butterflies outside in the gardens too – mostly tiger swallowtails and skippers.

The bees enjoy the flowers too.

Sometimes a dragonfly would sit for long enough to be photographed.

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Birds like the gardens. A goldfinch and cardinal were near the conservatory one morning before my shift. I also saw a catbird that same morning but it flew away before I could get a photograph.

But the high point of the animals at Brookside was a box turtle! I had just exited my car and saw it emerge from a bed at the side of the conservatory and walk across the concrete in front of the service door to the north conservatory.

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It continued until it was close to the seal between the two doors then looked up like it expected the door to open. I wondered if it had – sometime in its life – spent some time inside the conservatory.

Zooming – October 2018

The fall foliage had not been as colorful as usual this fall…but there has still been a lot to see outdoors – aided my the zoom on my camera: Canadian geese, a common buckeye butterfly, webs of funnel spiders on a root ball of an overturned tree, colorful ferns, milkweed seeds spilling out, tiny mushrooms in mulch, a spider web highlighted by water droplets, and a female cardinal with fluffed feathers. Enjoy the slide show!

A Few Minutes Observing…a female cardinal

Taking pictures through my office window with my new camera is a bit more challenging than it was with the old camera; getting the lens camp off takes too much time. But there was a female cardinal that stayed perched on the gutter long enough for me to get a portrait.

It was a cool breezy day and the bird’s feathers are fluffed…the crest is a little rumpled too (a bad crest day?).

I noticed some leaves in the gutter; it’s not clogged yet but it could get that way with more leaves flying in the next few weeks.

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Right now – most of the leaves visible from my window are still green…with a few patches of color. The tulip poplar leaves go to yellow and

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The maple will go to red. Eventually.

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And that was my few minutes observing through the window!

Photography through a Window – April 2018

The juncos were in out backyard and frequent visitors to our feeder and birdbath at the beginning of the month…and then they left for their nesting grounds to north and west. We won’t see them here in Maryland until it gets cold again.

The big story of month for our backyard was more about trees than birds. The red maple bloomed and made seeds. I am watching for when the seeds helicopter away from the parent. Of course, some of our backyard birds (cardinals and goldfinches) were in tree for some of the pictures. They like to snack on the tender seeds.

The tulip poplar leaves are unfurling with the pods from last summer still holding a few seeds.

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The sycamore is still looking very much like it has all winter; it is always one of the last to leave out.

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The tree I haven’t photographed yet is the black walnut. I noticed last time I walked around that it had some leaves unfurling but it’s location requires that I walk to it rather than trying to photograph it through a window!

Birding through a Window – March 2018

I was out and about more during March than earlier in the year so I wasn’t around to see birds through my office window as much. I did catch the birds that seem to always bee around: the blue jays,

The cardinals,

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The mourning doves,

The juncos (they’ll be leaving for their nesting grounds in the north soon),

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The titmouse, and

The Carolina wren.

There are the ones I see less often – so continue to view them as special:

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the pileated woodpecker and

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The northern flicker.

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There seemed to be more flocks of birds in the yard and around the feeder/bath: cowbirds,

Crows,

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Grackles,

Starlings, and

Robins of course (I always associate springtime and flocks of robins coming through…some staying for the season and others continuing northward).

All in all – a good number of birds around in March through high winds and snow….the swings of temperature. It’s been a wild weather month.

Gleanings of the Week Ending March 24, 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.

Top 25 Migratory Wild Birds – National Geographic Blog – Lots of birds on the move this time of year.

Photobook Captures Diverse Beauty of 100 Different Types of Chickens – Who knew there were so many kinds of chickens!

Some states now advocate coexistence with–rather than killing of–coyotes – National Geographic – We have an overpopulation of deer in our area…and we hear coyotes more frequently. The only time I’ve seen them is a blurring running away from me. I’m cheering them on this spring; maybe they will help limit the size of the deer population.

BBC - Future - Why being a loner may be good for your health – Being alone is not the same as being lonely!

Strange and Unbelievable Facts About Shrews – Cool Green Science – I’ve never seen a shrew – or maybe I just didn’t realize what I was seeing. Watch the 2 videos!

Migrations and Other Colorful Natural Phenomena – Appreciating the natural world…

State-by-state causes of infant mortality in the US: State-by-state analysis links sudden unexpected deaths of infants (SUDI) to high proportion of full-term infant mortality in the U.S. -- ScienceDaily – I was surprised at the variability within the US.

Are Bird Feeders Helping Cardinals Expand Their Range? – Cool Green Science – A positive for bird feeders? I know we have cardinals that visit our feeder area almost every day…all year long.

Historical Sign of Chesapeake Winter, the Canvasback, Still Brightens the Bay – National Geographic – There numbers are greatly reduced…but they still are quite a site. I am already planning a field trip for next winter!

Zion National Park – I came close to visiting this park but the Federal Government shut down that October….it’s a place I’ll eventually visit. It’s also a great place for this article to use for a photography tutorial.

Birding through a Window – February 2018

I’ve posted many of my bird pictures for the month already (bluebirds bathingbefore (woodpeckers) and after the Great Backyard Bird Count) so this post will have the ‘best of the rest.’ There were birds that just come to the birdbath – like the blue jays (we have a small flock that makes the rounds in our neighborhood most days with a stop at our bird bath…one bird at a time)

And the flickers (sporadically).

Sometimes the little birds visit the bird bath together. I managed to photograph a chickadee, goldfinch, and nuthatch together. It’s interesting to see how chunky the nuthatch is compared to the other two birds.

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I saw the nuthatch and chickadee several times during the month…but didn’t get any more worthwhile pictures. The goldfinches comes to the feeder and bird bath more frequently. They are still in their winter plumage…I keep looking for the more brilliant yellow feathers to appear.

At the bird feeder – a house finch and downy woodpecker shared for a few seconds. The woodpecker is a little bigger than the finch…but they both are light enough that their combined weight does not pull down the metal ‘flowers’ to cover the seed holes (the squirrel proofing of the feeder).

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The house finches are probably the most frequent visitors to the feeder. We have a resident group that makes rounds in our neighborhood.

The resident cardinal pair prefers seed on the ground but has developed a technique to flutter near the feeder and get seed when there is not enough scattered around underneath.

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A mockingbird came to the bird bath recently….which is unusual for us. They are around our neighborhood (I hear them and see them) but we haven’t had one that frequents our deck…maybe this one will stick around.

Birding through a Window – January 2018 (1)

I was at home more in January than December…and saw a lot more birds through the window. I posted about the bluebirds back on the 16th but they have continued to visit our bird bath and deck; most of the time I don’t have my camera but I did manage to photograph one just yesterday – perched on the old weather station pole.

The blue jays are regular visitors too. They come to the bird path, the maple, the sycamore and the tulip poplar…staying still long enough for good pictures.

The cardinals alert me to their presence with their chirps. Both the male and female come to the deck for seed and I often see them in the trees around the yard and into the forest.

When we had the very cold days, the Carolina Wrens were entirely missing; I didn’t see them or hear them. But they have returned now that it is a little warmer. They are heard more often than seen.

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The doves were missing during the cold days as well but now they are back and frequent visitors to our deck.

More birding through the window from this month in tomorrow’s post.

Mt. Pleasant – December 2017

I took a short walk around Howard County Conservancy’s Mt Pleasant Farm yesterday morning after delivering the reports of the conservation easement monitoring. This was probably the last trek there until January, so I took the opportunity to look around at the signs of winter. There were still some patches of snow in shady places and I realized this was the first time I’d been at Mt. Pleasant when there was snow on the ground.

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Montjoy Barn has its doors closed. The ramp retained some snow.

The path to the meadow was soggy and icy at the same time.

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I walked a little ways down toward the stream until I decided the wind was making it feel very cold. I did a quick zoom series on a round of hay in the field on the other side of the trees that mark where the stream divides the meadow from what’s beyond.

There was a large clump of grass with curly seed heads moving in the wind. I headed back toward the parking lot.

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The high point of the walk about was tracks in the little bit of snow. There would have been more and better ones if I’d gotten there earlier.

Just as I turned to leave I noticed a fluffed cardinal in a tangle of branches. He was on his way to the bird feeders in the Honors Garden.

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Las Estrellas

Our first field trip of the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival was to Las Estellas – a Nature Conservancy preserve near Rio Grande City. The vans left at 5:30 AM…normal for birding festivals. The day was cool and gray…thankfully not wet. We had a rest stop along the way and spotted a Cooper’s Hawk on a light fixture in the parking lot. Not a bad way to start a birding week!

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The preserve is not one that is open to the public. It protects some endangers Star Cactus. The previous weeks had been dry, so they were hard to spot – flush with the ground and blending in with the pebbles and sand. Once we spotted one, our eyes became more trained and more were spotted.

This will tree was in an area that is sometimes full of water. There was still a little water in the lowest part of the area – often enough to keep other plants from growing.

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Walking around the preserve gave us a preview of many of the south Texas plants.

We could see the wind turbines through the mists. South Texas is evidently as much a part of wind energy in Texas as West Texas.

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There were migrating butterflies that we saw in the air – but they weren’t settling anywhere (no photos). There two types of small butterflies that I managed to photograph: Reakirt’s Blue

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And American Snouts – with very unusual mouthparts!

We didn’t see a lot of birds; the weather was cool and damp so they were not very active. A Northern Cardinal and a Green Jay were about all we saw; at least they were colorful.

On the way to our next destination, we saw a Harris’s Hawk. I managed to get a blurry picture through the van window…but it is good enough to identify it!

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Next stop was Rancho Lomitas. I’ll post about our experience there on Sunday.

Volunteering at Wings of Fancy at Brookside Gardens XV-XIX

The 5 most recent shifts at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy have not been overly hot – unusual for August here in Maryland. Before the 15th shift, it was damp. I took some pictures under a bald cypress of a Cypress Gall (Midge) that had not matured enough to kill the small branch and some developing cones. When I walked over to the boardwalk toward the nature center I walked through a spider web that has been built overnight; not the best way to start the morning. I brushed myself off and headed into the conservatory. The shift was a special one for photographers – so not crowded at all and calmer than the public shifts.

It was raining for the entire 16th shift. I managed to find some dry spots under trees along the stream when I got there for my walk around the gardens prior to the shift. Some big rocks have been added to the stream bed to stabilize the banks. There is one area that eroded perilously close the fence and the road just beyond.

The slide show below is the rest of my walk. I moved fast when I was being rained on but took pictures when I found a sheltered place: 1) of a curve in the stream, 2) in the rose garden under the crepe myrtle trees, 3) a waterlily (note the ripples from the raindrops into the pool), and 4) under the cypress trees that kept the butterfly bench mostly dry. Wings of Fancy got off to a slow start that day because the ticket seller was late…and it was raining harder. The conservatory leaks! The tiny space between the ticket taker awning and the caterpillar house becomes a little waterfall when it is raining hard! But the exhibit was a good rainy day activity for people once they got into the conservatory.

The 17th shift was not rainy. It was an early shift for photographers again and I relaxed before hand with a good walk around the gardens noting blooms (sumac, joe pye weed, sunflowers) and then some oddities on the bald cypress (something that looks like tiny yellow ‘flowers’, and a fuzzy caterpillar with horns), jewelweed growing near the boardwalk on the way to Brookside Nature Center (the plant is supposed to be good for treating poison ivy…but it often grows in locations the poison ivy does), and a cocoa tree in the part of the conservancy not used for the butterfly exhibit.

The 18th shift was sunny – but not too hot. I’m paying more attention to the tiny yellow blobs on the bald cypress; one of them had red filaments. The rose garden is beginning to bloom more now that the high heat of summer is over.

The rest of the garden has benefited from the rain too and looks lush. I enjoyed trying to photograph the skipper butterflies on the Mexican sunflowers.

The 19th shift was sunny and cooler than I excepted; as I was walking around I was glad I was going to be in the conservatory once my shift started where it would be warmer. I talked to one of the Brookside staff about the tiny yellow blobs on the cypress; it’s not something they have seen before.

I headed up toward the scent garden and saw a dragonfly in the air. It landed on one of the maples…and sat while I managed to find him in the foliage for a zoomed image. The maple leaves are beginning to change color for fall.

Another sign of fall in the gardens – a cardinal molting and getting new feathers on its head. This is not bald…but all the new feather shave not come in so the crest looks scruffy and around the eye still needs additional feathers to look ‘normal.’

I walked over to the boardwalk to photograph the jewel weed again and got side tracked when I noticed a spider near one of the flowers. It took long enough to get the photograph I wanted that i hurried to the volunteer entrance to get into 'flight attendent' gear and ready for the shift. It was a busy morning in the exhibit.

The Wings of Fancy is over for 2017 on September 17….I’ll most about the last of my shifts just after ‘the end.’ It’s been a great volunteer experience!

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