Birds at Brookside

The last day of the Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy exhibit (Sunday before last) started out with some easy bird sightings. I didn’t have my best camera for getting the action…but I did get some identifying shots. The Red-Bellied Woodpecker really does have a red belly! I heard this bird before I saw it; for some reason it was being very noisy up in the trees along the stream near the conservatory parking lot gate.


There was a scruffy looking Robin. I’m not sure if it was a juvenile or a molting adult. It seemed to be the only bird of the morning that was still.


The Downy Woodpecker was very active…moving about in the trees so quickly I couldn’t tell if it was finding things to eat or not.

All three of the birds were seen in the same area and I heard catbirds and cardinals. It was a good day for birds if you looked quickly. Many of these birds stay around for the winter and will be easier to see after the leaves are off the trees. I continued my walk up to the fragrance garden wondering if there were any hummingbirds left in the salvia garden. I saw one within seconds of arriving…and took a picture. Most of the birds have already left…but this one still seemed to be enjoying the salvia.


And after that…I was ready for the last day with the butterflies.

Zooming – September 2019

The images I selected for this month reflected the season and many of the places visited during the month. Season reminders…

  • The flowers of autumn like sunflowers and autumn crocus,

  • Hummingbirds eating to fatten up for migration,

  • Seed pods of the golden rain, maple, buckeye, and dogwood trees

Reflections of the places I visited:

  • Patuxent Research Refuge (north tract) – sunflower and hummingbird,

  • Longwood Gardens – waterlily, sunflower, tower,

  • Brookside Gardens – insects and flowers and tree seeds,

  • Mount Vernon – the greenhouse and beautyberry

Overall it was a good month for getting outdoors to capture the beauty of summer and early fall. I am anticipating a lot of leaf photography for October.

Enjoy the September 2019 slide show – hurray for cameras with good zoom lenses!

Hummingbird at Brookside


The day after I saw the Question Mark butterfly at Brookside Gardens, I was back for another shift at the Wings of Fancy exhibit. This time the big ‘find’ out in the gardens was a hummingbird that was on the plants in the area just before the entrance to the exhibit’s caterpillar house. The bird would make a round visiting flowers…then sit.

That made it easy to get pictures. It is a female – probably a female ruby throated hummingbird. All the hummingbirds around here are feeding as much as they can…fattening for the migration flight.


For those near Montgomery County, Maryland…this is the last weekend for the Wings of Fancy exhibit at Brookside for this year. If you want to see the butterfly exhibit, this is the last chance.  


It was a little late for the hummingbirds at the north tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge last week. During the summer the feeders near Visitor Contact Station have a lot of ruby-throated hummingbirds; by this time of year, a few females and juveniles are left. They will soon all be migrating southward. At this point they are fattening up for the long flight. Next year my husband and I will go earlier in the season and – hopefully – have a chance to photograph both males and females.

While I was sitting on the bench waiting for the hummingbirds, I photographed some nearby milkweed seeds. The plants were looking the season: leaves curling and scared. I did see a good-sized Monarch caterpillar and a few milkweed tussock moths caterpillars as well. The seeds always draw my attention this time of year – the bright white of the fibers, the tight package of seeds in the pod and then the fluff bursting up and out…floating the seeds away in the fall breeze.

There was a sunflower that I photographed from the bench as well. The lighting was just right to naturally darken the background once I zoomed in to almost fill the frame with the flower.

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Overall – a good early fall morning at Patuxent Research Refuge.

Gleanings of the Week Ending August 3, 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.

Dive beneath the pyramids of Egypt’s black pharaohs – The challenge of excavating a 2,300-year-old tomb that is submerged in rising groundwater.

Another Fire in Greenland – There have been more reports of fires in the far north this year. Evidently warm dry air causes Arctic circle landscapes (that are not ice and snow) to be very flammable…fires start and burn quite easily.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Pigeons and Doves – National Geographic – I was surprised at the diversity of these birds.

Call for green burial corridors alongside roads, railways and country footpaths -- ScienceDaily – I wonder how many other countries have a similar problem. Space for burials is probably already a challenge for almost all large cities.

How the sound in your office effects your mood – Aural architecture….how we listen to buildings, the sound within buildings, and how we react. It isn’t considered very often in the current built environment except for things like concert halls and sound proofing. Maybe in the future it will be. One segment of the article talked about the need for quite and nature sounds in city soundscapes…much better than sirens and traffic noise.

Air pollution speeds up aging of the lungs and increases chronic lung disease risk -- ScienceDaily – A large study…another reason to do everything we can to improve air quality.

Banding Hummingbirds – Banding larger birds has it’s challenges but a hummingbird….I’d never heard someone describe it. Kudos for the people that have the touch to do it well.

Engineers develop chip that converts wasted heat to usable energy -- ScienceDaily – Interesting idea…I wonder how long it will take to get this type of technology into laptops and solar panels?

How a Pokémon-like Card Game Is Changing the Way People Learn About the Environment – What a good idea. I hope more teachers start introducing their students to the Phylo game!

Solar panels cast shade on agriculture in a good way – Research from the University of Arizona…how solar panels could shade plants to help them survive in a hotter environment…and the plants help cool the air under the solar panels as they produce electricity! The plants that might do best are the leafy greens that tend to wilt in the mid-day heat. The leaves grow bigger in the shade too! Production of nutritious food and renewable energy in the same system.

Brookside Gardens at end of September – part II

Yesterday I posted about plants…today is about birds and butterflies. We’d gone to Brookside Gardens to photograph hummingbirds – realizing that it was near the end of the season for them. The garden area full of salvias was still full of flowers.

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There were a few birds, but they did not stay long. The only image I managed was a hummingbird in a tree….using the zoom to advantage. The bird looked very rounded and in good shape to continue south.

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I also photographed a male and female monarch (the male has a black node on each hind wing). They too were probably heading south and stopping at the garden to refuel.

Cloudy Day at Brookside Gardens

Last weekend we went to Brookside Gardens to photograph hummingbirds. The garden area they frequent still had lots of blooms.

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I photographed other parts of the area: some favorite sculptures,

Seed pods,

A rabbit eating breakfast,

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Mushrooms under the roses,

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And at artsy shot of an orange flower with a spiral shaped bud.

The best observations of the morning were bumblebees nectar robbing. The bee makes a hole in the base of the flower and then drinks the nectar. The shape of the flower would be a tight squeeze for these bees. Still – this is a case where the bees are not acting as pollinators since they bypass the flower structures entirely.

But hummingbird photography was disappointing. The lighting was not as good as the previous visits and there were not as many birds coming to the flowers. I only managed 3 pictures worth sharing.

So – the nectar robbing saved the day!

Brookside Hummingbirds

My husband and I made the effort to get to Brookside Gardens early enough last Saturday and Sunday for some hummingbird photography; I’d seen photographers at ‘the place’ before my shift at the butterfly exhibit. The hummingbirds come to the bed of cardinal flowers and salvias in the fragrance garden that is in bright sunlight in the morning. It was a good opportunity for me to experiment with my new camera. I set the camera for continuous shooting (as fast as it can go when the button is held down) and savored how much easier the viewfinder is when trying to follow fast moving birds. I was pleased with several sequences from Saturday.

On Sunday there were not as many birds, but I had learned to zoom a bit more…make the bird bigger in the frame

I was also luck enough to track a flying bird to the magnolia tree and get a still portrait!

My husband was taking pictures at the same time with a big lens and much more expensive camera. His camera does a better job of ‘freezing’ the wing motion than my point-and-shoot strategy. He caught the hummingbird in the magnolia with is beak open!

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!


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.


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.

Mt. Pleasant Nature Photography on a Rainy Day

This is the week I do nature photography with summer campers at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant and Belmont. The photography day at Mt. Pleasant was very rainy. It was the first time the weather kept us from the hiking/photo shoot. I cut some lower hanging branches from the sycamore in my yard and we used them for photography and to study the size variation…and the holes in the leaves. All three groups of campers (grouped by ages 5-12) did something with the leaves.


There were a few critters that we found on the covered porch of the nature center: a daddy-long-legs that become very interested in the pile of sycamore leaves,

A slug on a log that had come in from the floor of the nearby forest, and a house centipede that seemed to be just escaping the rain. All three critters stayed around for the 3 hours we were working.

I got some other things out from the storeroom: snake skin, antlers, skulls, honey comb, a nautilus shell, pelts from a racoon an fox.

One of the most popular items was a talon from a red shouldered hawk.


I had my clip on macro lens for campers that were using cell phone cameras. The tattered butterfly wings were popular objects for that experimentation.

The very last group was the luckiest of all because it stopped raining for a little while and we went out into the Honors garden a few steps from the porch. The campers took pictures of flowers and

An Achemon Sphinx moth that was wet and twitching on the ground near one of the flower beds – probably after being bitten by a spider.


I had a few minutes between groups and was thrilled when a couple of hummingbirds braved the sprinkles of rain and came to the feeder!

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I would rather have hiked with the campers…but we managed a ‘next best’ on a rainy day in Maryland.

Gleanings of the Week Ending March 31, 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.

 4 Psychology Lessons That Can Teach Us About Inspiring Climate Action | CleanTechnica – Good ideas – particularly if anticipating a lot of disagreement or people being too depressed about the prospect of the future for Earth to take action.

Top 25 Wild Raptors – National Geographic – From around the world…no bald eagle in this group of photos.

After 250 Years of Dams, Rhode Island River Restored for Migratory Fish – Cool Green Science – Maryland is also removing dams. Bloede’s Dam (see blog post about it here)

Hummingbirds Make an Incredible Journey North – Cool Green Science – This little birds make a very long journey. Hope our recent cold weather has not made is a problematic year for them.

Saving Terrapins From Drowning in Crab Traps – Cool Green Science – Hopefully this can be a success story for terrapins around Long Island…time will tell.

Elusive Deep-Sea Anglerfish Seen Mating for the First Time | Smart News | Smithsonian – I’d only see pictures of dead specimens or drawings. The 2.5 minute video shows a living fish moving slowly through the water with filaments that glow surrounding it. Still very fierce looking but also a slow moving graceful beauty.

Drug-related mortality rates are not randomly distributed across the US -- ScienceDaily – The map says it all. The hotspots for drug-related deaths in the US are not necessarily where historically high drug use happened.

The 20 most beautiful libraries in the U.S. - Curbed – I’ve only been in one of these: the reading room of the Legal Research Library at the University of Michigan; it was part of the campus tour when my daughter visited the university before she added it to her short list that she would apply to for her undergraduate studies. I remember it being very quiet even though people were walking around – cork floors are quiet floors!

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Is Much Larger and Chunkier Than We Thought | Smart News | Smithsonian – Ugh! It was bad even before the more precise measurements came in. There has to be a way to start cleaning it up and keeping more garbage from getting into the ocean.

Landscape Photography Series Tells “Winter’s Tale” of Snowy Forests – Hopefully we’ve had our last bought with snowy weather here in Maryland. I do enjoy the snowy forests…for a little while.

South Padre Island and Bay Cruise – Part 1

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Back to the posts about our experiences at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival…Our fourth day field trip was to South Padre Island and included a bay cruise. The first stop for our bus was at The South Padre Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary. The place is two woodlots across the street from each other and surrounded by hotels and condos on South Padre Island. There are bird feeders and baths…plantings... a ‘rest stop’ for birds. It was very quiet when we first arrived; a Cooper’s Hawk had just caught breakfast and was feasting near the back. The Monarch butterflies were still active.

Eventually the birds became active – since the hawk was busy with its prey. There was a Couch’s Kingbird eating monarch butterflies: posing on the wire for photos. One of the guides had seen the birds eating Monarch’s the previous day as well. Was it the same bird? Supposedly Monarch’s taste bad and make birds sick (chemicals they absorb from the milkweed they eat at caterpillars); something is different about the butterflies or the birds.

Orange crowned warblers shared the space in the bushes and water with the Couch’s Kingbird. These are smaller birds but share the yellow color.

There was a Great Kiskadee as well…more yellow.

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One has to look hard to see the Yellow-rumped warbler.

A Ladder-backed woodpecker posed on a telephone pole.

There was a Hummingbird on an agave…too far way for an excellent image but the bill is dark so probably not a buff-bellied hummingbird. Maybe a Ruby-throated hummingbird female?

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Last but not least – a butterfly. Maybe Great Southern White?

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I have two more posts from this field trip…coming out tomorrow and the next day.