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.

Dragonflies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

The lotuses and water lilies are blooming at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens from late June into July. The wetlands are attractive to dragonflies too; I saw 5 different kinds when I went on a late June weekend. I found a good reference to help me identify them from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.

The first one we saw – and the most numerous – were the blue dashers. They like to perch on the vegetation in the lotus and water lily ponds.

Along the boardwalk out into the Anacostia River wetlands, there were quiet a few autumn meadowhawks. They weren’t as good about staying put for a picture as the blue dashers.

Also on the boardwalk, there was a common whitetail with black bands on its wings.

There was a green eastern pondhawk on a sunny spot of the boardwalk as we were walking back along the boardwalk.

It wasn’t until I got home as was looking at my pictures that I realized I had photographed another type of dragonfly among the lotuses: a common baskettail. It was a pleasant surprise!

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Tomorrow I’ll post the other images from our walk around Kenilworth Gardens.

Gleanings of the Week Ending December 1, 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.

How to feed a cat: Consensus statement to the veterinary community: Reducing stress-related eating problems -- ScienceDaily – Puzzle feeders and putting food in different places….make meal time more interesting!

Examining Grad Student Mental Health | The Scientist Magazine® - There are a lot of stressors during graduate school….and many students become depressed or develop other mental health issues. Students, faculty and university administrators are noticing that more needs to be done to help grad students through the challenges of this phase of their education.

Why Fall Color Has Been So Meh in Parts of the U.S. This Year | Smart News | Smithsonian – This article came out a few weeks ago….just getting around to putting in the gleanings. The explanation of why our area had such a lack luster fall is interesting and it might become the norm as the area gets wetter and warmer.

BBC - Earth News - Legless frogs mystery solved – Predatory dragonfly nymphs eat legs of tadpoles! This is an article from 2009…but it was news to me. We find dragonfly nymphs in almost all the streams and rivers around where I live…but I haven’t seen any legless frogs.

2 Solar Ovens Reviewed | CleanTechnica – I wonder how many people living in their RV or travel trailer make use of this type of oven to minimize propane and/or electricity usage.

Large-Scale Tar Production May Have Fueled Viking Expansion - Archaeology Magazine – Tar to waterproof ships. I was reminded of the ‘Connections’ series that often showed how a key technologic advance enabled something historically significant.

Yellowstone streams recovering thanks to wolf reintroduction -- ScienceDaily – The willows are growing taller along the banks of streams, making the banks more stable…since the wolfs are back and impacting elk browsing.

Gaudí's El Capricho, an Early Gem Located in North Spain – It’s hard to see it as a place that people would really live!

How invasive earthworm feces is altering US soils -- ScienceDaily – Asian jumping worms are changing the soils of the Midwest and East Coast of the US….and not for the better.

Why did Tutankhamun have a dagger made from a meteorite? – When Tutankhamun died, iron was rarer than gold. The Egyptians did not know how to process iron from ores…but they did know that iron meteorites came from the sky which might have made the material symbolic for them. Objects made from it would have been reserved for high-status people.

Ten Little Celebrations – August 2018

I thought August might be a slow month with the summer camps ending and nothing new starting….but the month developed….not hard at all to pick 10 little celebrations to highlight.

Solitary hike – Usually I hike with other people – most recently with summer campers. Hike my myself at Mt. Pleasant was a change-of-pace and something to celebrate. Getting a artsy picture of two butterflies on Joe Pye Weed with a clear blue sky background was the image to remember of the morning.

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Surviving a long hike – Then there was the much longer hike with camper up and down…across a stream and along muddy paths. I celebrated when that hike was done!

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Blue Jay feather – A special feather is always a celebration for me…and from several perspectives: finding one on the ground, photographing it, remembering my daughter’s feather collection when she was very young, and realizing that know what kind of bird it came from!

Weekend in State College – Deciding to take a weekend trip – spurt of the moment. And dodging the rain to enjoy every minute! Celebrating family.

Butterflies – August seems to be my peak month for butterflies roosting on me in the butterfly exhibit. It’s special every single time.

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Hummingbirds – Last weekend my husband and I attempted to photograph hummingbirds at Brookside gardens for two mornings. We were reasonably successful (a post about our experience is coming) but we’ll both improve with more practice. The birds are fast movers. Both of us are celebrating the photographs we got with the birds in focus!

Blooming bananas – Seeing something familiar but in a little different stage of development….I’m celebrating being in the conservatory at the right time.

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Rulers for 25 cents – I celebrated that several stores in our area had wooden rulers for 26 cents. That’s inexpensive enough I can have my own supply for field trips with children just learning to measure sizes of what we find on our hikes.

Dragonflies – I haven’t found dragonflies in the wheel formation (mating) but I did find two at our neighborhood storm water management pond that were half way there! I celebrated the photographic opportunity and an still looking for the wheel.

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Sweet potato leaves – Yummy sweet potato leaves. Our Community Supported Agriculture must have harvested part of the sweet potato crop in August so we got leaves in one of our shares this month. I hope there are still some left for later since we normally get them in late September. They are probably my favorite salad green….and I get them a couple of weeks a year….so worthy of celebration when they are available.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in August 2018 – Part II

Last week we made our last trip to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens for this year. Today’s post features the insects and a turtle that we saw. There were a few monarch butterflies; there are so few these days that I always celebrate even if I just see one!

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The insects my husband wanted to photograph were dragonflies. There were several species flying in the garden but the only ones that sat long enough to photograph were the blue dashers. They like to perch while they survey their surroundings. I photographed individuals on a dried flower (note how battered the wings look),

On signs,

A lotus pod (did something take a bite of the pod?),

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And on other vegetation.

My favorite critter of the visit, was a Eastern Painted Turtle. It was getting some sun at the edge of a pond and looking very Zen. It was not still. When I first saw it, the front legs were tucked in. Then it stretched them out and turned itself toward me. I was on the other side of the pond an appreciating the zoom on my camera to capture the turtle without disturbing its morning.

Neighborhood Walk – August 2018

I started out about 7:30 AM. The temperature was in the mid-70s already and the humidity was high. It was better than waiting until later when the forecast was for 90 degrees. The birds were quiet again; it was well after sunrise. I did see a robin with a grub (or caterpillar).

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The storm water pond sometimes has egrets or herons…but not on this morning. The frogs were noisy at the pond although I didn’t see them. It seems like there were enough of them to attract the herons as they have in previous years.

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I did notice two dragonflies flying over the pond attached to each other – the male clasping the female behind the head. He landed on some grass in the pond – too low for them to complete the ‘wheel’ that is the next phase of the mating choreography. I didn’t stay long enough to see the finale.

A female purple finch (white eyebrow) flew to one of the dried reeds.

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On the way home there were quite a few mushrooms in one yards – on both sides od the sidewalk. They were not all the same kind either. I wondered if the owners had done something in that area that made it good for mushrooms since I didn’t see others during my walk.

I returned home – ready to be in the air-conditioned house for the rest of the day!

Belmont Hikes with Summer Campers III

Yesterday I was at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont for photography hikes with the summer campers. We could hike because the rain moved out during the night and the morning was sunny. The cardinal flowers near the entrance were blooming well after the deluge of the previous days.

I started off the younger group with an activity looking at sycamore leaves from the branches I had cut from my tree at home: looking at the holes made by caterpillars and comparing the sizes of the leaves. We made a pattern on the pavers of the patio in front of the Carriage House as a subject for our first photographs.

We found a very small caterpillar on one of the leaves.

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Then we went around to the other side of the house and looked at the pollinator garden and the surrounding vegetation.

The older group of campers went to the formal gardens behind the manor house. There were three kinds of butterflies that I managed to photograph….but missed the monarch that some of the campers managed to catch on the cone flowers. I took the common buckeye, a cabbage white, and a hairstreak (maybe a gray hairsteak). The last one was new to me….had to look at it closely when I got hope. It looks like it has antennae on both ends!

We gathered around the water feature in the gardens and enjoyed the variety water lilies and a lotus growing there. There were bees – usually head down – in several flowers.

Dragonflies are hard to capture with cell phone type camera (which is what most of the campers were trying to use) but everyone saw them…and I managed a picture.

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Behind the formal gardens – the campers with cell phones experimented with the macro lens to photograph lichen.

There were tree roots damaged by mowers that look like eyes in the soil!

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Overall – a good day for hiking and photography!

Belmont Hikes with Summer Campers II

The hike last week with summer campers at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont location was about plants and animals of Maryland through history. I thought of using the barn whose walls are stones from the are to start off with geology but decided that opted to stay with plants and animals.

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We talked about trees we see at Belmont today that were here when the Europeans arrived (like oaks and tulip poplars and beech and holly and white pine)…new ones (like gingkoes and English Elms and dawn redwoods that have been planted as landscaping trees). We also talked about trees that are missing like American Chestnuts and Elms; more recently the ashes have been cut down and the few remaining hemlocks are struggling.

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We talked about animals like deer and fox and rabbits that we still sometimes see. We looked for signs of the overpopulation of deer – noticed that the deer don’t seem to like holly but that other trees tend to not have any branches within deer reach! We were looking for signs of things as we hiked – and feathers are always a favorite…evidence that birds are around. On one hike we found a dried mushroom with the gills still visible underneath the cap; some of the campers have observed mushrooms in their yard and shared their observations.

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We saw a lot of dragonflies in the air over the meadow and talked about how the insects had gotten smaller over time…a hold over from last week’s camp theme: fossils.

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It was a good morning hike!

Kenilworth Gardens – Buttonbushes and Dragonflies

There are other things to see beside lotuses and waterlilies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. One of my favorite plants to photograph is the buttonbush in bloom. They were in all stages of bloom development last weekend.

The plants are very attractive to insects. Bees are frequently visitors

As are the small skipper butterflies.

There was one large tiger swallowtail that seems to be methodically getting nectar and staying on once of the balls for a long time…great for picture taking.

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We always look for dragonflies when we visit Kenilworth and last weekend was no exception. There did not seem to be as many of them. The first one I managed to photograph sat on some lotus petals in the deep shade…and was a very small dragonfly.

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The next one was on top of a canna stalk and was the larger variety. It did not stay very long but I did manage to zoom in for close up.

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On my way back toward the visitor center I was photographing water lilies and noticed that one had a dragonfly on it! The zoom helped again since it was another small one.

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Gleanings of the Week Ending February 10, 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 - The world’s most nutritious foods – A short video and a list. I found that I ate quite a few from the list!

Bumper-Crop Birds: Pop-Up Wetlands Are a Success in California – Cool Green Science – Creating habitat for birds where and when they migrate…through the California Central Valley.

Interview with Photomicrographer Justin Zoll About His Microscopy Series – I was surprised to get ideas from Zentangle from crystals!

A search for insomnia genes involving 1.3 million people is the largest genetic study ever - MIT Technology Review – Lots of people in the study…956 different genes linked to insomnia but genes explain less that 10% of the overall chance that a person has insomnia.

Amazon, JPMorgan, Berkshire creating new health care company – Hopefully these big companies will be able to find ways to make health care better and more affordable for their employees…and then be the model for everyone else.

Frogs Through Time, Modern Portraits of Species Discovered Two Centuries Ago – National Geographic Blog – Looking at frog species documented by the Spix and Martius expedition to Brazil…using their drawings and modern photographs.

This is your brain: This is your brain outdoors: Neuroscientists find differences in brain activity depending whether people are outdoors or in a lab -- ScienceDaily – Most studies have been done indoors … until this one. Until relatively recently in our history, we spent a lot more time outside so I wondered if the warping our brain activity by spending long stretches of time indoors is changing us in more ways that we realize.

Researchers create digital map, cultural history of Carlsbad Caverns  and A day in the park: Carlsbad Caverns National Park – Using LiDAR to create a very detailed map of the cave. The article reminded me that tt’s been a lot of years since I visited the park…maybe it’s time to plan a repeat.

Magnesium makes chromosomes: A new chemical tool, MARIO, shows how free Mg2+ ions regulate chromosome shape -- ScienceDaily – It appears that a mineral we know we need … is key in ways we had not anticipated!

The Prairie Ecologist – Photo of the Week – Pictures of dragonfly larvae that frozen near the surface of a pond! We find dragonfly larvae frequently when we do stream surveys – when things are not frozen. Next time we get many days of very cold weather I’ll take a walk to a local stream (or pond) to see if I find any larvae on the surface.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

The second day of the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, we did not have any formal field trips scheduled. It was cool and cloudy – not a good day for butterflies, so we shifted our plans back to a focus on birds and headed for the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.Some of the first things we saw on our hike was insects – still with the cold: two dragonflies

Two caterpillars, and

A queen butterfly…not fluttering about.

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I was pleased to see a land snail on one of the small trees. We’d seen a lot of shells on the ground (i.e. dead) at both Las Estrellas and Rancho Lomitas. We were told that sometimes roadrunners get hungry enough to crack the shells against a rock to get to the tasty morsel inside.

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Ball Moss is something I had never seen. It is like Spanish Moss – also abundant on trees in the refuge.

Then we saw some duck: Northern Shovelers and Blue winged teal.

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A group of chachalaca were in the trees beside the trail. It was hard to get pictures through the foliage and branches…we’d get better pictures on another day.

As we walked across an empty parking lot, we spotted a kiskadee on an electrical line

And then a flash of orange in the trees – an Altamira Oriole was on the move. It eventually made it way to the electrical pole as well.

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The refuge has a swinging bridge through tree tops. On the day we were there, the birds were hunkered down but it was still work the climb and the look down into foliage.

At a bird blind, I finally got some good pictures of the green jay.

We made our way back to the visitor center and had a snack on our way to nearby Estero Llano State Park (topic of tomorrow's post). In this area of Texas there are a series of state and federal lands that make a wild life corridor…more meaningful than each standalone park or refuge.

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.