Gleanings of the Week Ending May 4, 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.

Exploring the Parks: White Sands National Monument – Another place I want to return to and spend a bit more time. I’ve been once when we were on the way from Dallas to Tucson. I posted about it back in 2013. We stayed long enough to have a picnic, walk along the boardwalk trail, and photograph cliff swallows at the visitor center.

New Analysis of Depression-Era Fossil Hunt Shows Texas Coast Was Once a 'Serengeti' | Smart News | Smithsonian – Research on collections made by the Works Progress Administration and mostly just stored since the 1940s….Other states than Texas probably have research projects on these collections as well.

IYPT 2019 Elements 020: Calcium: Teeth, bones and cheese | Compound Interest – Another article in the International Year of the Periodic Table series. Did you know that the human body contains about 1 kilogram of calcium?

Image of the Day: High Contrast | The Scientist Magazine® - The milkweed bug! The milkweed is just beginning to come up so I haven’t seen any of these bugs yet this year…but they’ll come out soon enough. I’ll try to remember some of this article next time I see the bug with a group of field trip hikers!

12 Famous Flower Paintings, from Monet to Mondrian – A little eye candy. Notice that there are insects with the flowers in the Ambrosius Bosschaert painting.

An invasive, thorny tree is taking over Africa – can it be stopped? – It’s not just the US that has problems with invasive plants and animals brought from elsewhere in the world. The Mesquite tree that is problematic in Africa came from South America.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the week: April and Waterbirds – Catching up a little on the series…two this week and there are still some left for the next gleanings collection.

‘Exquisitely Preserved’ Skin Impressions Found in Dinosaur Footprints | Smart News | Smithsonian – The prints are from a small theropod. Not only do they show the impression left by skin…they also indicate the dinosaur was in Korea earlier than previously thought (10-20 million years earlier).

Electric Cars Could Be as Affordable as Conventional Vehicles in Just Three Years - Yale E360 – EV technologies are developing rapidly. In 2015, batteries made up 57% of the EV total cost; today it’s down to 33% and by 2025 the projection is 2025. I know that I have enjoyed my plug-in-hybrid and that my next car will probably be an EV.

Clean Tech Jobs Lead Employment Statistics in Many US States | CleanTechnica – The map is worth the look. Solar panel installer or wind turbine service technician is the fastest growing type of job in 11 states!

Gleanings of the Week Ending March 9, 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.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: January and Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: February and Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Feathers and Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Forest Birds – From National Geographic. There are multiples this week since I seemed to have a backlog in my gleanings holding area. Enjoy the colorful, graceful images.

'Upcycling' plastic bottles could give them a more useful second life -- ScienceDaily – Now that many countries that used to take our recycle waste have stopped accepting it, we are suddenly facing the problem of what to do with ‘recyclables’ closer to home. Making materials that have higher value is one way to keep more of it from ending up in landfills.

Soundscapes of Arizona’s Aravaipa Canyon – Cool Green Science – Listen to some nature audio…if it’s too cold to get outside and into the wild right now! These would make great backdrops to a meditation practice.

Image of the Day: Prickly Legs | The Scientist Magazine® - Froghoppers gain traction for jumping by piercing plant surfaces with their spiny legs! (Note: froghopper nymphs are spittlebugs!)

Photography in The National Parks: A Winter Shutdown Stay in Olympic National Park – I want to go! This is a national park I haven’t visited.

What kind of bug is a bug? | The Prairie Ecologist – A little entomology lesson.

Alaska in Flux: Slumping Coastlines – A comparison of a coastline between 1992 and 2018 …showing land slumping in to the Beaufort Sea. An airport is closer to the water now than in 1992.There is also a map showing that quite a bit of Alaska is wetter that is was in 1984. Lots of changes in the Alaska land.

Work Underway to Return the Shine to Thomas Jefferson Memorial – The Jefferson Memorial is probably my favorite in DC. I’m glad it’s getting the renovation it needs to look good into the future.

14 keys to a healthy diet | Berkeley Wellness – A little update based on most recent recommendations (for example, dietary cholesterol is not something to worry about since it has little effect on most people’s blood cholesterol).

Infographic: How Ginger Remodels the Microbiome | The Scientist Magazine® - I like ginger and am including it more consistently in my diet. It’s another food to boost gut health!

Smartphone Nature Photography – part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post….

Identification. Sometimes I take a lot of photos so I can identify something later. This was the case with these caterpillars. They were devouring dogwood plants at Brookside Gardens last summer. They remind me of lemon bars (yellow custard underneath powdered sugar). I defaulted to thinking they were a moth or butterfly larvae…but they turned out to be a dogwood sawfly larvae!

Stories. Some pictures tell a story. If you are aware at the time…make sure you take the pictures of the whole story. This Achemon Sphinx Moth was discovered by summer campers going out between rain showers during a nature photography activity. Moths are more active at night and usually are hiding in foliage during the day. This one was on the ground and twitching. I knew from experience in the Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy exhibit that it had probably been bitten by a spider. We took our pictures and left it where it was. I regret that I was too busy helping campers to keep my camera at the ready to shoot the moth being pulled between two rocks – presumably by the spider that never did make itself visible.

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Insects. Insects can be very fast moving and difficult to photograph no matter what camera you have. They often are slow or immobile when it is cooler. Cool mornings are good to find cicadas – silent and still…but maybe not dead. Butterflies can be under leaves roosting if it’s cool…or it is dusk and they are seeking a place to spend the night. Then there are masses of milkweed bugs that are prevalent in the fall. They are moving but there are so many that it’s easy enough to get a good number; I always try to figure out how many instars are shown in the same picture.

And sometimes it is just luck. This blue morpho sat on my wrist while I was at the exit of last summer’s butterfly exhibit at Brookside Gardens. I had my phone on the lanyard so was able to pull it out and one-hand the phone to take the picture.

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Specimens. There are nature photography shots that might be of specimens rather than out in the field. The shot of the blue morpho wing was from a specimen that had died using the 15x macro lens. I’ll try the 60x next summer. I included the label in the picture of the dogwood tree cookie…for documentation; I liked the irregularity of the rings.

Wet day color. Sometimes a rainy-day hike is a good thing. The color of fungus is often more intense on these days – and the phone handles the raindrops better than more traditional cameras.

Light. Sometimes an image is made by something special about the light – spotlighted ferns, the shadowing of a sectioned Nautilus shell, a sunrise.

Clipping. Because the camera only has a digital zoom, I often take the picture without zooming then make a clip after I get home. In the example below – the two butterflies (tiger swallowtail and male monarch) are clearly identifiable even though the clip has a painterly look.

So – go out and take some pictures! The only blooms we have outdoors right now are the witch hazels. There are other winter opportunities too: tracks in the snow (or mud), seed pods, snow landscapes, and ice crystals. And maybe a squirrel will be close enough and still enough….

Zooming – September 2018

The zoom on my new camera (60 vs 40 optical zoom…and then comes the digital zoom too) makes it even easier to stand well out of the flowerbed, get a good angle, not scare the butterfly or bee. It’s easier to hold myself steady using the viewfinder rather than the screen like I had to previously. Sometimes I use the monopod…but other times I find that I can simple hold myself steady enough that the camera image stabilization does the rest.

The images I selected this month are from several places: Longwood Gardens, home, Brookside Gardens, and Howard Count Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm. Some of my favorite places to be.

Enjoy my picks of zoomed images for September 2018!

Training for Fall Field Trips

Early September is training time for Howard County Conservancy’s fall field trips for Howard County Schools. The content of the field trips had not changed this year; that meant I could take pictures rather than focusing totally on learning the material as we took the example hikes.

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Montjoy Barn

The barn is one of my favorite places. It dates from the 1700s and was moved to Mt. Pleasant in 2003. It has doors on two sides that make a great frame for pictures…and the pegs used in its construction surprise children and chaperones alike during the elementary school hikes.

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Stream Assessment

We used the Davis Branch at Mt. Pleasant for the stream assessment training. We’ll be doing the student science activity with 9th graders in many streams and rivers around the county this fall. There is an abiotic component (testing the water) and then wading into the stream to look for macroinvertebrates.

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Meadow

The hikes through the fall meadow are a joy with second graders studying insects or soil….or sometimes taking a tangent from the assigned topic to observe vultures soaring or small flocks of gold finches enjoying the seeds of meadow plants.

The volunteers are trained…primed for the fieldtrips to begin!

Mt. Pleasant in July 2017 – Part II

Continuing from my Monday post about last week’s walks before and after photography session with summer campers at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm….The areas around the nature center were easy enough to walk around and through several times. There were cone flowers in the Honors Garden that were very attractive to the tiger swallowtails and other butterflies.

There were flowers growing up through the rungs of a bench that survived the campers (they managed to sit on the bench and not the flowers!).

We saw a cicada killer resting on one of the benches too.

I liked the view of Queen Anne’s Lace from below. The campers decided it looked like a tree.

All cone flowers are not pink!

In the quiet one morning – before the campers were anywhere near – I saw a cat bird in the garden (only heard it when the campers were around)

And a butterfly was interested in the pickerel weed at the small pond

Where there was a water strider moving around on the surface of the water.

Somehow some plants look otherworldly to me – as if they are two unrelated things glommed together. This is an example!

There were also early instars of an insect (maybe milkweed bugs) on one of the plants.

In the Garden Club garden with the ‘Flower Pot People’ there were mating milkweed beetles

And bugs

And several different instars of the milkweed bugs all on one plant!