Macro Photography at Belmont

I did a short session of macro photography at Belmont with my smartphone and the clip-on lens in early May before one of the elementary school field trip students arrived. I already had some ideas of what I wanted to photograph from some previous field trips with student BioBiltzers. My first stop was the shelf-fungus growing just below eye level on a large sycamore.

2019 05 IMG_4189.jpg

I got as close as I could focus with just the smartphone:

20190502_100859.jpg

Then clipped on the macro lens to take a closer look at the cracks and edges of the fungus.

2019 05 IMG_4197.jpg

Dandelion seed globes are always a favorite subject. I was careful to not touch it and cause the seeds to scatter before I could get the picture!

The tiny sycamore leaves have a lot of color – I took a picture with the phone alone…and then the macro lens.

20190502_101409.jpg

The sweet gum is beginning to form gum balls. The balls are small and green currently; they enlarge as the seeds form.

I took pictures with the macro lens of the female flowers (becoming gum balls) and the male flowers that had already fallen from the tree. Both are hard to photograph with the macro lens because they have depth…and the focal plain is shallow.

Overall – it was a very productive 10 minutes of macro photography!

Belmont – March 2019

Howard County Conservancy hosted a training session at Belmont for upcoming elementary school BioBlitzes last week. I hadn’t been to the location since January, so I looked around before going into the Carriage House for class. The plane trees (they are like sycamores but are a little different – have some seed balls in pairs rather than single) seemed full of seed balls. We’ve had quite a lot of wind and the fibers holding the balls to the tree look worn at this point. I wondered how long they would stay attached after I saw the zoomed image through my camera.

2019 03 IMG_5198.jpg

It was sad to see the stump of the red maple they had to cut down recently. Evidently it lost a lot of big branches during some of the recent winds. The colors in the stump drew my attention. The tree was not extensively rotten but there were some insect holes. The stump would have to be sanded to count the rings. The tree had been struggling in recent years, but I always pointed it out because it had small branches low enough on its trunk for children to see the flowers and leaves.

It also had a root that was above the surface and been injured by mowers…but still survived.

2019 03 IMG_5206.jpg
2019 03 IMG_5210.jpg

I almost always pointed out the red maple to contrast with the nearby sugar maple – which is still standing with some ivy growing on it. It was a good concept for student to think through – how the trees were alike and how they were different…both maples.

The class had an outdoor portion to try out the app and tablets the students would be using. I used the time to take a few more pictures. There were crocuses blooming in the grassy area near the mailboxes.

The wind had blown pine cones and sweet gum balls into the same area.

The pond still looked like it has all winter. The clouds had rolled in while we had been indoors. And this landscape shows the dimness of the day.

2019 03 IMG_5222.jpg

I turned back to the view the manor house and notice a maple that no longer had its upper branches. One of the them was very rotten. But the tree is still blooming!

We headed up to the cemetery and I checked the hemlock. The tree looks like the treatment for wooly adelgid has worked. I tried an experimental shot with a cone highlighted…and blurry branches above and below.

2019 03 IMG_5230.jpg

By the time I am at Belmont again – there will be even more signs of spring.

Winter Tree Identification – Part 2

Continuing from yesterday -

Seeds that help with identification include tulip poplar (the pods stay on the trees releasing the seeds during the winter breezes to clog up any nearby gutters!),

seed tulip poplar.jpg

Osage orange (that fall to the ground and are only moved around my people these days…they were planted for fence rows after the dust bowl because they are hardy, and the seed balls are easily broken apart and planted),

osage orange.jpg

Sweet gum (the spikey seeds are a hazard in suburban yards and drive ways), and

sweet gum.jpg
black walnut1.jpg

Black walnuts (there are always nuts under the tree but the squirrels may carry then a little further away so look at the shape of the tree too).

Of course – there are trees that are not as easy to identify. That’s why I carry a small book – Winter Tree Finder – when I am hiking in the winter and looking at trees. I found mine at a used book sale, but they are available new from Amazon as well.

winter tree finder.jpg

Belmont Hikes with Summer Campers I

2018 07 IMG_1819.jpg

I have started weekly hikes with summer campers at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont location. The theme for this week was ‘Fossils and Feathers’ – to I focused on birds during the hike. The cardinal flowers near the entrance to the Carriage House (the camp headquarters) have evidently attracted some hummingbirds but there were too many people about while I was there to see them.

I was early enough that I walked around to see how the butterfly meadow looks during its first season. It’s mostly grass!

2018 07 IMG_1759.jpg

I photographed some of the flowers that are there among the grass. I hope the butterflies find them!

There were two groups of campers; the first group to hike were the younger children. We hiked down to the pond. There are birdhouses along the way down the grassy path through the newly mowed field. The tree swallows were very active…and then we saw purple martins in their house and flying off toward the pond. Turkey vultures made slow circles in the sky. There were red-winged black birds around the pond and we talked about other birds that like to be around water; Great Blue Herons and Wood Ducks both came up in the talk. We also saw dragon flies at the pond and talked about how they lay their eggs in the water. We hiked back along the tree lined drive to the manor house and stopped at the sycamore; we noticed the pieces of bark on the ground and agreed that next time they go to the stream they might try the curls of bark as ‘boats.’

I had a break between the two groups. I found a chair in the shade and took pictures of birds at the feeders and nearby trees.

2018 07 IMG_1787.jpg

There were red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches, a red-bellied woodpecker, and a mockingbird. I was hearing the mockingbird long before I managed to see it.

The second hike was a bit longer. We walked along the edge of the forest then went a short way in…listening for birds in several places along the way. We heard birds…but didn’t see any except doves and vultures. There was a lot of other things to see: a deer, a tiger swallowtail, chicory, wineberry, sweet gum balls, lichen, a cicada’s shed.

In both groups we found a few feathers to talk about. I enjoyed the hikes…and I think the campers did too.

May 2018 Tree Status

All the trees are growing well with the warmer temperatures and rain. The sycamore behind our house has lots of small green seed balls among its new leaves; last year a freeze came at the wrong time and the tree only produced one seed ball.

2018 05 IMG_0465.jpg

The tulip poplar is full of flowers as usual. Its leaves are larger than the sycamores at this point. Later in the season the sycamore leaves will be the largest.

The maple had so many seeds early in the month that they made the tree look brownish…but then the were blown off the tree and the maple looks like is normal summer self.

The sweet gums are starting new seed balls as well. They look like spikey globes among the leaves.

2018 05 IMG_0587.jpg
2018 05 IMG_0648.jpg

But the celebration of tree blooms this month is the horse chestnut. The tree I photographed is at the end of the drive up to the manor house. The top fell out of the tree several years ago but the part that Is left is blooming profusely. I stopped one day after I finished hiking and leaned out the open window of my car to take some pictures of the flowers.

2018 05 IMG_0644.jpg

First field trip of the season

The spring field trips have begun. I volunteered for the first pre-school field trip last week provided by Howard Country Conservancy at Belmont. It was the day everyone went back to school after our big snow and there still patches of snow on the ground. It was a sunny day but very chilly. The children arrive in cars with a parent (or two) rather than a bus. They were mostly 3 years old…a few had recently had a 4th birthday. They were bundled up enough that we walked around and looked at trees. The maple trees were blooming and had a branch that I could show them the flowers closeup. One little boy noticed that the color was redder in the sunlight but was almost black when the branch was in my shadow.  I learn something every time I do these field trips!

2018 03 IMG_9045 clip.jpg

We talked about how seeds are planted – sprout – grow…Then started looked for tree seeds. They were thrilled to find sweet gum balls under one of the trees.

2015 11 IMG_6419.jpg

I also showed them a magnolia seed pod…also from under the tree.

2015 03 IMG_6685.jpg

We all pretended to be a tree seed growing in a forest – growing tall – and our branches moving in the breeze. Then we went inside and I shared a tiny tulip poplar tree (root and small shoot). The leaves had started unfurling because I’d had it inside for the past three weeks. The children warmed up while they learned about butterflies and the animals in the nature center. We learned a little about birds then trekked back outdoors to see and hear them. Unfortunately, it was a very quiet morning. We did see a hawk and the children remembered that they has seen geese on the pond earlier.

A good time was had by all!