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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Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

The day after the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival ended and before we headed back to San Antonio for our flight home, we visited the Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park. Our original plan had been to spend the morning at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas but the morning was cold and wet…not conducive to butterfly activity. So we changed our plans. It was still cold and wet but some birds in the park didn’t care. This Northern Mockingbird called attention to itself with is song(s).

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There was an area near the nature center with paved walkways – some of them intermittently covered. We walked around the area – everything was very wet.

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We took the tram into the park and got off at the first stop. There was a small butterfly garden near the bird blind (where there was no action) and the rain held off for long enough for there to be a little activity. I spotted a Painted Lady,

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A Skipper (not sure what kind),

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Queens in abundance, and

We hiked a little further and came to another bird blind…and there was plenty going on there. A Golden Fronted Woodpecker enjoyed the suet.

The Plain Chachalacas were also coming in to the feeders for a snack.

Green Jays were around as well.

It started raining harder do we found a dry place to stand until the tram came bay again. There were more people on the tram for the return visit, so we got the seat on the back of tram…riding backwards. It was a good way to end our visit. I want to go back again on a day when the weather is better!

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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!

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.