Spotlights at Brookside Gardens

On a sunny day before one of my Wings of Fancy volunteer shifts at Brookside Gardens, I took the path down along the stream away from the conservatories. It didn’t take long before I noticed the spotlights made by the sunshine through the trees and decided to use the spotlighting as the theme for my photography that day. I like to zoom in and photograph whatever plants are in the spotlight. It has the effect of darkening the background. Some of the flowers were past prime but the spotlighting rejuvenates them as ‘interesting’ photographic subjects. I collected quite a few images in about 15 minutes and a very short walk. Azaleas, ferns, beeches - oh my!

I had been so engrossed in taking spotlighted plants that I almost missed the squirrel that was watching me from a little further along the path. I retraced my steps to not interfere with the squirrel’s morning routine. It was a good day for us all in the garden.

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Zooming – February 2019

So many pictures captured with the zoom feature of the camera:

  • The framing of a sunrise so that no post processing is required

  • Birds photographed only because my presence was not detected

  • Documenting an oddity like a unique squirrel tail

  • Plants filling the frame…but the bit of background a blur

I estimate that most of the pictures I take use the zoom on my camera. The advantage of positioning myself at the right angle but not needing to be overly close is not to be underestimated. Before modern lenses, sensors, and autofocus photography was much more challenging. Now it is much more about composition and that is the part I enjoy more than anything else anyway. Being at the right place – and fast enough to use the technology – is the remaining challenge.

Zooming – January 2019

I have a bigger than usual group of images for the zooming post this month – primarily from a trip from Florida last week. They’ll be more details in posts coming out over the next few weeks. So sit back and enjoy the slide show. It only includes one snow picture!

Winter Walk in the Neighborhood - 2

I noticed a lot of mud as I walked in our neighborhood. Some of it was on the sidewalks – not something I’d noticed in previous years. 2018 was a record rain year for us…and we’ve continued to get rain in the first part of 2019.

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There is mud where grass used to grow under many of the trees.

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Sometimes the trees would have made the area very shady before the leaves fell but most of the branches of trees along the street are trimmed high by the county so emergency vehicles can get down the street without being damaged. There is still a lot of bare soil under them.

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I am already thinking about what alternatives I have for the area under our plum tree; since we have a challenge with deer eating tender plants, my first idea is to simply mulch out to the dripline of the tree.

A squirrel was rooting in a raised bed in one yard. He noticed me, but I was far enough away (using the zoom on my camera) that he continued his investigation.

Squirrels and our Bird Feeder

Back in December I hung some garlands of suet and seeds on our deck for the birds; the birds didn’t find them fast enough. We fed squirrels. Within a few days, all that was left of the suet and seeds were the twine garland, straw bows, and hulls.

We’ve always had squirrels in our yard but now – in January - they seem fatter than I remember. They like to explore our deck from the railing – probably hoping for more suet and seeds. I’m not providing more.

I have put out the bird feeder with seeds. It’s several years old and I only fill it in the winter. It is supposed to be squirrel resistant and it has proved to be effective in past seasons. I finally caught a squirrel in the act…and the feeder with its seeds won the round! It has springs that are pulled downward by the squirrel’s weight (not birds) and there are metal ‘flowers’ that cover the holes where the seeds are available. Note the top flange of the feeder is below cap on the top…that indicates that the metal mesh with roosts and flowers is pushed downward. No holes uncovered to the squirrel.

After the squirrel thoroughly explored all sides of the feeder, it jumped down and the springs returned to normal uncovering the holes to give birds access to the seeds. Good design!

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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!

Rainy Day in Texas

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I stood at open sliding glass doors to take some rainy-day pictures last week when I was in Texas. The colors of the wet foliage were bright for such a cloudy day. Even the raw wound from where a big branch had been cut from a tree was colorful.

A squirrel surveyed the yard. I thought the animal might have heard my camera

When it darted off through the treetops.

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A few minutes later – another squirrel was on the ground. The face and paws looked lighter, but it might have just been the light.

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A couple of days later, the sun was out again….and I got a different perspective of the garden, but it was cold enough that I took the pictures from an open sliding glass door again…quickly to not let the heat escape from the house.

Gleanings of the Week Ending July 28, 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.

Go Orchids: North American Orchid Conservation Center – A great site for learning about orchids…mentioned in my second post about the class I attended at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

In praise of drawing - The Painters Keys – This is post originally written in 2006 but still very applicable today. I looked more at Internet Archive for some of the ‘how to draw’ books that were mentioned in the article; it’s amazing that in a 40-year period in the 1800s so many were published. A more recent post – from a science education perspective – was published in 2015: Rediscovering the forgotten benefits of drawing. I am contemplating taking a ‘next step’ from Zentangles to realistic drawings.

Time-Lapse Videos Capture Echinopsis Cacti in Bloom – Eye candy videos…beautiful.

Free Technology for Teachers: 7 TED-Ed Food Science Lessons – We could all learn a little more about the food we consume….educate ourselves to eat wisely.

Research Dollars Go Farther at Less-Prestigious Institutions: Study | The Scientist Magazine® - Interesting finding. I wonder if it will change how some organizations that award research dollars make decisions in the future.

Material formed from crab shells and trees could replace flexible plastic packaging -- ScienceDaily – This type of technology gives me hope. Recycling can’t do everything. We have to reduce the non-compostable materials in our packaging…have a net decrease in what has to be (expensively) recycled and/or go to the landfill.

Recovery: America’s Giant Squirrel Back from the Brink – Cool Green Science – I’ve seen signs about the Delmarva Fox Squirrel when we have gone to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge but have never seen one. It’s good to hear a environmental improvement story!

As usual – I can’t resist the ’25 birds’ posts from National Geographic. Here are two that have come out recently: Top 25 Bird Interactions and Top 25: Wild Birds with Spectacular Catches

BBC - Future - The complicated truth about a cat’s purr – We all like to think that when our cat purrs that it is a sound of happiness…but is it?

Compound Interest - Volcanic eruptions: the chemistry of lava and volcanic gases and Compound Interest - The chemistry of spinach: the iron myth and ‘spinach teeth’ – Two posts from Andy Brunning. In the first one – click on the graphic and the larger version of the infographic will appear....a timely post with the volcanic event in Hawaii this summer.

Noticing a Squirrel

On morning I was walking fast in the damp cold between the nature center at Howard County Conservancy’s Nature Center and my car. I snapped a picture of the drive – complete with puddles.

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There was something moving in the mulch beside the road. I noticed the movement first and then realized that it was lighter than I expected a squirrel to be…but the zoom of the camera confirmed – it was a squirrel.

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I wondered if it’s lighter color would make it harder for it to survive. It did seem to stand out in the winter scene – not good if a predator notices.

Zooming – February 2018

I use the zoom on my camera a lot to get the picture I want. What’s not to like about a photograph of the moon that is better than I can see with my eyes!

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These water droplets were on the top of a tall pine…and I took the picture from the comfort of my office!

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I’ve posted a lot of the bird pictures but not this one. I like it because it shows more detail of the flicker’s feathers…..where the down fluffs to keep the bird warm on a cold day. Without the zoom, the feathers have a sleeker look.

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I appreciated using the zoom for the skunk cabbage since there was standing water or mud around them…and it was too cold to risk getting my feet wet if my boots leaked.

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The ice crystals were so delicate I did not want to get close and risk breaking them before I could get the photo I wanted. The zoom also makes it easier to avoid working about casting a shadow.

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Of course – the squirrel would have run away very quickly if I had been closer. As it was, the pose seems like something Beatrix Potter would have used for one of her characters!

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