Gleanings of the Week Ending September 21, 2019

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.

These Caterpillars Can Detect Color Using Their Skin, Not Their Eyes | Smart News | Smithsonian – A little surprise…but insects probably have a lot of adaptations developed over eons that are challenging to imagine.

Five weird and wonderful ways nature is being harnessed to build a sustainable fashion industry – New dyes from enzymes, ‘leather’ from mushrooms, lacy fabric made from plant roots that grew that way (watch the video), cellulose for fabrics derived from manure!

Aesthetics of skin cancer therapy may vary by treatment type -- ScienceDaily – Hopefully these findings will guide doctors to use the more aesthetic treatments…since they all have about the same recurrence rates a year after treatment.

On the Alabama Coast, the Unluckiest Island in America - Yale E360 – Dauphin Island…when does everyone decide that these places can’t be saved…should not be rebuilt. It’s not something we are dealing with very well as individuals or as a nation.

Deer browsing is not stopping the densification of Eastern US forests -- ScienceDaily – Deer hurt the understory but the canopy is more impacted by the greater density of the big forest trees (because of fire suppression) and that red maples are growing in areas where young oaks, hickories, or pines would have grown previously. But wouldn’t the deer browse young trees? In our area – the forests have also changed quite a lot in the last 20 years with the decline of the hemlocks and now the ashes. This study – done in Pennsylvania – did not comment about those issues.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: September – These photographs are always worth a look….birds are so beautiful.

North America has lost 3 billion birds – And fresh from looking at the wonder pictures of birds….this sobering news: North America has lost 25% of its bird population and it’s all happened in the last 50 years. More than 90% of the loss is in just a dozen bird families that includes the sparrows, warblers, blackbirds, and finches. Grassland birds have suffered a 53% loss. Potential causes: habitat degradation, urbanization, and the use of toxic pesticides.

Staying at elementary school for longer associated with higher student attainment – My daughter didn’t seem to have a problem transferring from elementary to middle school after 5th grade…but the middle school was next door to the elementary school, and she was doing well in school. The results of this research will have to overcome the school building infrastructure in many areas. Change happens slowly with school systems. So far I haven’t seen a change in start times for high schools even though there are studies that say that early starts are not good for high school students (in our area, they have always started before the elementary and middle schools).

Spotted in Kenya: a baby zebra with polka dots – I hope there is a follow up story on this baby. Will the pattern make it more susceptible to fly bites? Another note from the article: Zebras are accepting of difference…animals with atypical coat patterns fit right into the herd.

Drought Reveals Lost “Spanish Stonehenge” – The Dolmen at Guadalperal has resurfaced from the Valdecanas Reservoir in western Spain due to lower lake levels from dry, hot conditions this year. It has been submerged for 50 years. Hopefully someone will make a good 3D tour of the place.

Deer Treat


Earlier this week I trimmed our cherry and plum tree – one long and horizontal branch from the cherry and a lot of little branches from the red-leafed plum. Both were low and making it more difficult for my husband to mow underneath the trees. I took the cut branches to the back of our yard (the edge of the forest).

The morning after my pruning – I noticed a doe and her fawn feasting on the still green leaves of the cherry branch where I had left it near the forest. It must have seemed like quiet a treat to get tasty leaves that were previously too high for them to reach. I took some pictures through the window of my summer office. They enjoyed the leaves long enough for my husband to see them too. Before they left, the doe sampled the plum leaves too; those leaves must have not tasted as good as the cherry leaves since the duo continued their amble back into the forest.

Fawn in the Backyard

Back in mid-June not long after I moved into a new home office that doesn’t get as much afternoon sun (and get hot) during the summer, a fawn moved through the backyard and stopped log enough for me to get a picture. I didn’t see any other deer around but maybe the doe was just out of my field of view.

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The fawn still had lots of spots but was sure footed enough to not still be in the ‘hiding’ stage of its life. A few days before I had seen a doe move through the yard with a large belly that seemed to move a lot; I wondered if she was in labor and hoped she made it back into the forest before giving birth.

Our area has a significant overpopulation of deer that is impacting our forests and yards; we are plagued by deer tick borne Lyme disease. For those reasons, I am in favor of the deer control measures the state and county governments are implementing…but I enjoy watching them move through our yard from my office window and have resigned myself so never having the day lily buds fully bloom.

A few minutes observing…Deer in the Snow

I see the deer coming and going from the forest behind our house via my office window. These were coming from the forest into the neighborhood looking for edibles. The managed hunts might have made a dent in the population since I haven’t seen as many this winter as in years past. I like not having all the evergreens and trees in the neighborhood eaten to the height the deer can reach, but also enjoy seeing them around.

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They also seem more likely to pause and thoroughly look around and listen these days before continuing the trek into the neighborhood.  Once they feel secure, they move ahead almost in single file like in this sequence…a minute of ‘action’ in our backyard.

It is a good break from my other office activities to observe something outdoors. Photographing birds or deer or squirrels – or just watching them – for a few minutes is like a mini-vacation!

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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Sunrise and Sunset

One day last week I had serendipity photo ops first thing in the morning and just as the day was ending. In the morning I looked out the front of the house and saw three deer munching on the day lily leaves around our oak. By the time I got my camera, there were only two left. I trimmed the leaves more than a month ago as they began to look ragged and was surprised that they grew back. They are probably some of the most tender green leaves around right now. The day was cloudy and wet so even though the sun had been ‘up’ for about an hour, it was still relatively dark.

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Near sunset I noticed the color reflected on the clouds. They were moving rapidly so the shapes were changing. Our sycamore was already in silhouette with the vibrant color in the background.

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A few minutes later the clouds still looked very orange. I zoomed to some distant tulip poplars that still had a few leaves.

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Back to our sycamore in silhouette – the cloud has the shape of some creature with two big eyes and a toothless mouth…maybe a little like Jabba the Hutt.

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Then the color was down in the trees. We don’t have a clear few of the sunset since there is a forest to our west. It was a nice end-view for the day.

Gleanings of the Week Ending September 15, 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.

BBC - Future - How China’s giant solar farms are transforming world energy – Giant solar farms that, when viewed from the air form Giant Pandas. All over the world…but in China particularly…there are more and more enormous solar farms. It’s good for the immediate future but there are still issues with what happens when the solar panels need to be recycled (i.e. in 30 or so years).

New research shows how children want their food served -- ScienceDaily – I didn’t find this a challenge…my daughter always enjoyed her food. It seems more likely to be challenging in places like school cafeterias or other institutional settings.

Photos Show the Icy Glacier Landscape of Northeast Greenland – Life lurking in the ice waters. It’s a difficult place to dive.

Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance (Rutgers NJAES) – Maryland is not that far from New Jersey so this list works for us – although I wish they would mark the plants native to North America. I’d rather plant natives.

How This Popular Garden Plant May Spread Parasites That Harm Monarchs | Smart News | Smithsonian – Aargh!!!! We need to be sure we are not planting tropical milkweed in areas where it is not native….the orange butterfly weed – which is also a milkweed – is native across most of North America and a good plant to have in the garden for Monarch butterfly caterpillars.

New color-generation mechanism discovered in ‘rainbow’ weevil -- ScienceDaily – The researches from Yale propose that this mechanism might be useful for screen displays to enable the same true image from any angle and to reduce signal loss in optical fibers.

What Ötzi the Iceman’s Tattoos Reveal About Copper Age Medical Practices | Smart News | Smithsonian – There have been papers coming out about additional discoveries from the remains found in the Alps in 1991 over the years --- there was a lot we could learn and new technologies have come along to enable more than anyone thought about at first.

Night-time habits of captive flamingos -- ScienceDaily – The forage and roam! Evidently, they are more active at night in the wild as well. During the day they tend to rest and preen…that’s when courtship displays happen as well.

Muscle Clocks Play a Role in Regulating Metabolism | The Scientist Magazine® - Circadian rhythms are not just from the brain! There are timekeepers throughout the body. The peripheral clock in muscles was confirmed in 2007 and it turns out that it is important to glucose metabolism. There is still a lot to learn about all the body’s timekeepers!

BBC - Future - Are hot springs the future of farming? – Maybe there is not one strategy that is the ‘future of farming’ – but this is an interesting idea that we may see in places where it can be done effectively.

Deer in the Back Yard

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There is a doe with two fauns I’ve seen moving through our backyard several times this month. The fawns still have spots but are moving through the neighborhood with the same caution and grace as the mature deer. I’ve seen then coming and going from the forest.

Last fall there was at least managed hunt in the forest near our neighborhood and I’ve noticed an improvement this summer – not as many trees with lower branches thoroughly munched and our day lily leaves are still green (maybe it helped that I cut the flowers before the deer could notice how delicious they were).

The deer move slowly through our neighborhood but keep moving. I’m not sure where they are heading when they leave the forest, but our backyard is no long a prime stopping place. I managed to get a few pictures from an upstairs window on one of their saunters.

Zooming – March 2018


I use the zoom on my camera for some many reasons – to frame the picture I want (taking out some items in the foreground),

To get a shot that looks close up without having to get close to the object either because what I want to photograph is too high, there is a barrier, or I don’t want to go traipsing through ice and snow.

Sometimes I use the zoom to get a better view than I can get with my eyes – particularly with wildlife that would not sit still if I moved any closer to them.

Icy Crystals on Grass

Last week when I took my walk at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm, there were ice crystals all over the grass on the paths. It was early enough in the day that the sun had not been out long enough for the ice to melt completely. The ice was in feathery crystals along the stems.

When I got to the bridge over the little stream near Hodge Podge Lodge, the moving water looked on the verge of freezing; the places that were shallow and slow over rocks has crystallized overnight.

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The largest crystals were on some straw near the skunk cabbage. They make the straw ‘fuzzy’ although there are some that look like nodules too.

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In one place the ice had melted but there were lots of tracks – deer and human! It must have been wetter when they came through since I did not leave any tracks at all!

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Skunk Cabbage – Take 2

Yesterday I was at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm and hiked down to take another look at the skunk cabbage. It had progressed a little since I saw it three weeks ago (post with pictures here) but it wasn’t a far along as it was on February 11th last year (post here). There were spathes (hood structure, wine with vertical lighter speckles) but I didn’t see any with visible spadix (looks like a golf ball inside the spathe).

When I first got to the location where I always see the skunk cabbage, I had a hard time spotting it at first. They like to grow near the water and this time a year, they can be some of the more colorful things around although one ‘color’ I spotted turned out to be a wet rock and oak leaf with the sun shining through – glowing. Then I started seeing them everywhere!

Sunk cabbage is one of the earliest ‘wild flowers’ and in some cases will pull itself deeper in the muck if the weather becomes really cold. With the amount of muck around some of them – I think our weather recently might have been slowing down their development – they had to deal with cold rather than bloom!

Earlier this week, it rained a lot and there were plenty of deer tracks on part of trail where it had been very muddy. Unfortunately, there were some deep ruts made by a vehicle that closed one of the trails…very sad that someone was so thoughtless, and it is not the first time it has happened. Hope the person is caught and prevented from doing it again.

Winter Tracks

We are getting another round of very cold weather now and I’m remembering some tracks I saw from my front door during the cold just at the year began. I took pictures through the narrow windows from either side of the door – it was too cold to open the door. The tracks stayed for days until the snow sublimated rather than melted! The ones on the front sidewalk include deer…not sure what the rounds ones were.

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The ones on the front porch were smaller but came right up to the front door! Maybe a squirrel? I thought of a chipmunk at first but haven’t seen any recently. We have lots of squirrels.

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We are well supplied with food and have no appointments for the next few days…so we are staying warm inside and recovering from colds until it warms up. Our forecasted high for today is 30 degrees and cloudy. A good indoor day!

Yard Work – August 2017

I am not a gardener. My husband keeps the yard mowed but leaves the trimming of bushes and weeding (and planting) to me…but I am always a little behind. The bushes seem to grow faster every year. There was a time when the invasive vines almost took over!

Recently, I’ve set a goal to work outdoors for an hour every morning I am at home and it’s not raining. It’s surprising how much can get done in an hour. One hour I cut the day lily leaves that has started to look ragged (the deer ate the flowers earlier in the season).

There was a pile of the leaves cut from around the oak to carry back to the brush pile at the edge of the forest.

I found a small plant that looks like a little evergreen at the base of the oak tree. It had been protected by the day lily leaves. Maybe it will survive the browsing deer.

The milkweed in our front flowerbed has new sprouts. The plants come up from roots left behind when we cut or pull the large plants. I will let the young plants stay to accommodate any egg laying Monarch butterflies.

In a second hour this week, I pulled weeds in another bed since it was too wet to use the electric hedge trimmer. I carried two loads to the brush pile. I uncovered some very wet and colorful shelf fungus growing on a weed covered log.

There was a fallen sycamore leaf that had grass poking up through the lacey holes probably made by an insect while the leaf was still on the tree.

I noticed that the spicebush growing at the back of our yard (in the forest) is a different color green than the trees around it.