Zooming – May 2019

It’s the end of the month – and time to select some images that I utilized the zoom on my camera to capture. I took over 2,000 images in May and at least half of them used that feature – so I had a lot to choose from.

There are quite a few birds in the slideshow this month. Can you find: red-winged blackbird displaying its colors, oystercatcher on the beach, laughing gull, least tern on a barrel, osprey on their nest, peregrine falcon with chicks, and several crowds of shorebirds. The bird feet are those of a mockingbird.

There is a painted turtle, ghost crab and horseshoe crab in the mix as well.

Enjoy the May slideshow!

Belleplain State Forest

We got up at 3:30 AM to get to our first organized field trip of the Cape May Spring (birding) Festival by 5:30 AM – a very early start to the day at Belleplain State Forest.  As the sun came up, the forest was full of bird song. We heard a lot of birds…saw fleeting glimpses of a few. I am in awe of people that can identify birds by simply hearing them! I enjoyed the morning light for photography of the forest itself while I listened to the birds and tried to spot them with my binoculars.

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The mountain laurels were in all stages of their bloom. They like the shade under oaks but sometimes the sunlight streamed through the canopy to spotlight the clusters of blooms. The buds look very pink…the petals make a ‘balloon’ before they open into the full flower that looks white with red specks.

On one of the early stops – before it was fully light – I noticed a tree full of burls. These are swellings in the trunks or big limbs of trees that are covered by bark. They are part of the tree’s response to stress like injury or disease. Because of the number of them in this case, it’s more likely to be a disease of some kind.

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The only easy birds to photograph during the trip were some Canada Geese (with goslings) on a small lake.

The lighting makes quite a difference. I liked the green background but the painterly look (nearer the limit of the digital zoom) of the bright picture is also appealing.

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There was moss growing over the roots of a tree near a lake – a carpet melded to every nook and cranny of the surface with the roots on the surface showing through.

Some Virginia Creeper was growing on a stop sign.

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There were wet woods along the road. Some frogs croaked. There were water bugs on the surface – interference patterns and the tree reflections.

One of my favorite pictures of the morning was the tip of a pine branch – dying or dead – spotlighted – surrounded by green.

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 Overall – it was a great morning to be out in the forest – getting a fill of the forest before be headed to the shore.

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

We visited Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge last weekend…an afternoon and the next morning. The afternoon was very wet so the picture of the visitor center sigh with plants growing through it was taken the next morning in the sunshine.

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The growth around the visitor center was very green…dogwoods were in bloom and pine pollen was everywhere.

The growth around the visitor center was very green…dogwoods were in bloom and pine pollen was everywhere.

On the first day we drove down the main road toward the beach. It was raining and we didn’t try to take any pictures. The wildlife loop is only open to cars after 3 PM and there was a lull in the rain about that time. We started around. I noticed thistles in bloom (attractive to bees),

Heard lots of red-winged blackbirds and managed to photograph one eventually,

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And photographed a glossy ibis almost out of camera range.

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Near the end of the wildlife loop there were a few of the Chincoteague ponies munching on the wet grass….about that time is started raining again and we headed to our hotel for the night.

The next morning was very breezy and almost cold. Our trip to one of the islands in the Chesapeake Bay was cancelled – winds made it unsafe for small boats. So – we bundled up and headed to the beach at Chincoteague. It is a narrower stretch of sand than when we first saw it more than 35 years ago and when we flew kites here with our daughter about 20 years ago. The gulls were not flying. Only the laughing gulls were at the beach and they were on the ground near the parking lot rather than at the water’s edge.

It was a little disappointing to see only people and roiling water at the beach.

As we started back, we saw a few herring gulls in shallow water protected by the dunes.

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The group of birds a little ways from the herring gull was the high point of the morning at Chincoteague: royal terns and black skimmers (and laughing gulls)!

I’ll post later about the egrets and a heron we saw at Chincoteague. Even with the rain and doing most of our photography using the car as a blind, my husband and I both enjoyed the spring birding opportunities at Chincoteague.

Mt. Pleasant – March 2019

I was at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant on a sunny cold morning last week – and took a few pictures. There were two things that have always been there and almost always on my walk from parking to the nature center that I don’t think I have photographed before: 1) The old tractor that has been in the same place for so long that it is sinking into the soil under it (or silt is running down the slope to the wagon shed and accumulating around the tires).

2) The hook closure on the blacksmith’s shed….probably made by the blacksmith!

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The flowerpot people were dressed for spring…but looked a little bedraggled. The March winds have probably made some adjustments.

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I took a picture of a pine on the way to a stop in the Honors Garden. The pines are still the main greenery around.

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In the Honors Garden, the sun was highlighting last season’s cone flower seedpods.

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But the reason I was in the Honors Garden was to check out the little pond. As I walked up a frog swam rapidly through the water to a new hiding place. It was too cold for a lot more activity.

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This little pond is a favorite of the local Wood Frogs and they have been busy. There were egg masses in the water….soon to be tadpoles if they are not too far out of the water and freeze before they can develop. I posted about the frogs here back in March 2016….but it was a warmer day and I noticed the frogs more than the eggs.

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I continued to the Nature Center for the training session scheduled for the day.

Icy Trees

Last week, we had some icy weather. It caused schools to close or start late. I was glad I could just stay at home and enjoy the scene through my office window. The zoom on my camera allowed me to get some pictures of the ice coating the vegetation. Many times, it looks like water droplets simply froze before they could fall to the ground. The sycamore had one last-season leaf catching the icy bits. The ice on the stems was coating the buds that looked enlarged…maybe getting ready for spring.

The remnants of a seed head from last summer collected flatter panes of ice.

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The evergreen bushes are sometimes damaged by the ice because their leaves hold so much of it. It seems that ours all came through the ordeal without any breakage.

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The Thundercloud Plum tree is showing its color even in the winter. Once the ice is gone, I’ll have to check to see if there are any split branches; the tree has had problems in previous ice storms. This time we were fortunate that it was relatively calm; ice followed by wind is what causes most breakage.

The next day I noticed that the icicles on the sycamore were quite a bit longer.

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 The red maple had very red buds. Hopefully the ice protected them rather than destroying.

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The shelf fungus on a tulip poplar back in the forest supported a mini ice flow

The trees that had the hardest time were the pines. Each needle became encased in ice. It remined me of art glass. The pines in our neighbors’ yards survived without breakage but I noticed as I drove to my errands the next day that there were some pines that did not fare as well. There were some significant branches that were ripped from trees along my route. Fortunately, there were enough people that had been out before me and all the branches were moved off the roadway.

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Zooming – December 2018

It’s been somewhat cold this month – but no snow yet. I’ve enjoyed photographing our transition to winter using the zoom on my camera to set the frame of the scene and/or to enable me to stay out of the mud (we’ve had lots of rain) or indoors and warm. There is still a little green left…and the sky sometimes seems brighter when its clear and cold. Enjoy the December 2018 Zoom slideshow!

Last Fall Field Trip

The last Howard County Conservancy fall field trip was a little later than usual this year – December 4th. It was cold…but not wet as so many of the field trips were this season. I bundled myself up in several layers and took a few pictures of Mt. Pleasant before the buses arrived. The flower pot people are dressed up for Christmas.

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The pines have delicate ‘flowers’ – some of which will eventually become cones.

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Dried seed pods and flowers are all that remains of the gardens…bright colors muted to almost parchment now.

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I like the seed pods that still hold a few seeds.

Most of the students came dressed for the cold and I modified the field trip, so we could all keep our gloves or mittens on. I had two very enthusiastic hiking groups and we kept moving to stay warm! It was a good ‘last field trip’ for the season.

Mushrooms at Centennial Park

On the foggy morning I spent at Centennial Park last week, I found some tiny mushrooms in the raised bed across the pathway from the boat rentals. They were growing in the mulch and were ‘fruiting’ because of the very wet conditions we’ve had recently. Some were very hard to spot because their color’s were not that different form the mulch – and they were small. I stood far enough back so that I could use the zoom to photograph them without climbing into the mulch.

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There were some birds nest fungi that were mostly empty nests although a  few of the ‘eggs’ were still nearby.

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My favorites were brightly colored like these very small red mushrooms (note there is a centipede just to the left of the mushrooms).

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My favorites were some tiny orange mushrooms with yellow stalks and edges. They seemed to be glowing – standing out in their drab surroundings.

I walked over to some pine trees near the parking lot while I waited for my husband to finish his brisk walk around the lake. There were some larger mushrooms coming up through the pine needles.

Icy Day

Earlier this week we had about 24 hours of icy coated trees (and streets were impacted enough that schools closed for the whole day). I was glad I had no reason I had to be out and about; I could enjoy the ice through the windows of the house – or open doors to get a clearer picture. I noticed how different the types of trees looked with the ice. The pines droop over very quickly from the added weight of ice coating their needles. The tulip poplars develop little icicles on their more horizontal branches, but the seed pods didn’t seem to accumulate any ice.

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When I first looked at the maple, I thought it hadn’t accumulated ice as much as the other trees. When I zoomed in with my camera I saw that it did have ice accumulation and the buds were already dark red. I don’t think the buds will be damaged by the ice since they are still closed.

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The sycamore had a thin coating of ice and longer icicles. I was surprised that the lone seed ball from last summer does not appear to have ice on it!

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I worried the most about the plum tree in our front yard. It has a lot of small branches that are almost horizontal and tends to be coated with ice rather than icicles forming. It glistened in the morning sun (that didn’t cause very much melting because it was so cold).  Fortunately, there was very little breeze so I don’t see any breakage.

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First Snow of the Season

We had our first snow of the season on Saturday and I got up early enough yesterday to catch some color from the sunrise.

It was the non-disruptive kind of snow: melted quickly on the streets and sidewalks but stuck to the trees and grass. On our asphalt driveway, there were clumps of snow on Sunday morning and they all were associated with a leaf!

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It was very cold on Sunday morning, so I took pictures through my office window of the backyard – the sun making the forest look rosy in the background, the pines and tulip poplars holding clumps of snow, a junco comfortably sitting on the snow-covered deck railing waiting for a turn at the bird feeder.

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A few minutes later – I took a few pictures through a picture from another room. The color of the morning light was fading but the pines and forest were still a pleasant scene.

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I opened the garage door and leaned out to take a picture of the milkweed that are still standing in our garden. In past years the plants have lost their leaves before the frost but this year the leaves are still there, and their curls catch the snow.