Brookside Gardens – Butterflies and more

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Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit was one of the places I volunteered in June – one of my happy places. One of my shifts was so cloud-covered and rainy that butterflies were still roosting in the fiscus at mid-morning.

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There were more clearwing butterflies in the conservatory that earlier in the season – enough that I saw one or two during most of my shifts.

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There aren’t as many paper kite butterflies this year…but they are still one of my favorites.

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The overall favorite for most people is the blue morpho; it’s one of mine too although for more than the blue color…I like the orange markings on the underside and body too. I manage to get some quick pictures during times when there are very few or no visitors in the exhibit.

And there were many other kinds of butterflies that posed for a picture at handy times.

And then there is the caterpillar house. Most of the caterpillars that were in the house during June were Julia Longwing or Zebra Longwing; both use passion flower as the host plant for their caterpillars.

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Toward the end of the month the eggs of the Palamedes swallowtail hatched….and the very small caterpillars begin to make their visible mark on the leaves. When they get bigger, they’ll have ‘eye spots’ to keep the predators away.

There were butterflies outside in the gardens too – mostly tiger swallowtails and skippers.

The bees enjoy the flowers too.

Sometimes a dragonfly would sit for long enough to be photographed.

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Birds like the gardens. A goldfinch and cardinal were near the conservatory one morning before my shift. I also saw a catbird that same morning but it flew away before I could get a photograph.

But the high point of the animals at Brookside was a box turtle! I had just exited my car and saw it emerge from a bed at the side of the conservatory and walk across the concrete in front of the service door to the north conservatory.

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It continued until it was close to the seal between the two doors then looked up like it expected the door to open. I wondered if it had – sometime in its life – spent some time inside the conservatory.

Outdoors at Brookside Gardens

I try to take a few minutes before each shift volunteering at Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy to walk around outside in the gardens. There is a lot going on in August. I am featuring some of my favorite things I noticed and photographed in this post.

Button bush and cone flowers and sunflowers – with and without bees.


Joe Pye Weed in bloom…very popular with the tiger swallowtails. One morning I photographed a dark morph female with several of the yellow and black versions.

Monarchs are more prevalent in the garden than they were earlier.

I can never resist checking the gingko tree near the conservatory. I like the way the leaves look outlined in gold of the morning sunshine.

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The sumac is a plant I am tracking this year. I recognize the seed heads but want to capture how the seeds develop. This will take me further into the fall since they don’t look like they’ve changed too much during this month.

There are always a lot of funnel spider webs in the low pines around the conservatory….and sometimes the spider is visible.

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There are several kinds of datura in the garden.

I had never nptoced what the seed pod looked like before.

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Some of the trumpets hang downward and I appreciated that the screen on my new camera can pivot so I can see what the camera is seeing when it is point straight up! I’ve always wanted to photography the unfurling flower.

The bald cypress has the scale insects like it did last summer but seems healthy enough to survive. The cones are beginning to form.

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The cannas are beautiful this time of year. Some are producing seed pods.

This is the view from the ticket taker table for Wings of Fancy. I ended up doing the job when no one had signed up for it….a  last minute change of plans.

There are milkweed plants close to the entrance to the caterpillar house and there are often insects on the plants other than caterpillars. When there are no visitors in the area…I roam around and take pictures; more on the caterpillars tomorrow.

Morning Walk at Mt. Pleasant (part 1)

Earlier this week, I took a morning walk at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant. I stopped by the nature center first to leave some comments on a new BioBlitz guidebook; my plan was to hike down to the Davis Branch. I forgot my camera at home so was ‘roughing it’ with my Samsung Galaxy S7 and clip-on macro lens.


I stopped near the Honors Garden to look at the sweet bay magnolia…and noticed some eggs under one of the leaves. The only way I know to figure out what they might be would be to isolate the leaf and wait for them to hatch! I didn’t do that…so it will be a mystery. Maybe a ‘leaf footed bug’?

I walked down toward Montjoy barn and noticed that the pear tree in the old orchard looks terrible – many bare branches. It’s an old tree and I hope it sees another season.


Near the demonstration garden at the top of the path, an Augochlora sweat bee was slow enough that I got a picture!

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I saw a flock of goldfinches as I walked down through the meadow. They kept moving just ahead of me all the way down the hill. I regretted leaving my camera at home. There were also lots of dragonflies and butterflies and gnats in the meadow. I should have sprayed my clothes and hat with insect repellent for the gnats.

When I got down to the stream, it was cooler because I could easily stay in the shade. I walked down stream a little and saw what looked like one of the trees purposefully upended as part of the upstream restoration that must have been sweep away by one of the recent rains. It is now caught on some rocks and other tree debris and will ‘slow the flow’ in its new location too.


When the water is high – there are two paths for the stream in the old ‘beach’ area. The one in the upper left is the main channel; the one in the middle of the picture is no longer flowing and will dry up if we don’t get another big rain this week.


I took the narrow path along the stream. There is high vegetation on both sides. Sometimes it opens enough for sun loving plants like milkweed to grow…and this skipper landed just in time for me to take a quick portrait.

There was a vista of a restored area of the stream. The pools look a little larger than I remembered – possibly because it has been so rainy recently. One part of the path was very muddy and I wondered if there was an intermittent spring there.


There were two butterflies on a Joe Pye Weed nearby. Rather than use the digital zoom on the phone, I clipped the area I wanted when I got home. It’s easy to identify the two butterflies: tiger swallowtail and monarch!

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I hiked back to Montjoy barn on the sunny side of the stone wall. I didn’t stop along the way since it was hot and sticky. When I got to the shade near the barn I looked more carefully at the vegetation and found a new-to-me orange, white, and black insect. I had no idea what it was but I took several pictures and then identified it when I got home: an ailanthus webworm moth. It’s an insect that followed the invasive Tree of Heaven to our area. Aargh!

Tomorrow I’ll post about the plants I saw along my hike.

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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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!