Mt Pleasant in October

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Last week, I got to Howard County Conservancy’s Mt Pleasant just as the sun was coming up over the place. There were a few fall colors even with the drought which is causing a lot of the leaves to change and fall very quickly.

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We were working with high school students --- assessing the water in the Davis Branch with abiotic and biotic sampling. The water was very low.

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We found some macroinvertebrates…but everyone was more enthusiastic than usual with other living things we found that weren’t part of the assessment. This large spider caused quite a lot of excitement!

I took a few pictures of fall plants between the early morning and late morning groups. Much of the meadow is turning brown early. Some of the gardens closer to the building may be getting a little watering and are more colorful.

Training at Belmont

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There was a volunteer training session for the 5th grade BioBlitz field trip at Belmont led by Howard County Conservancy a week or so ago. The short hike back to the woods…to an area along the trail where water seeps out of the ground to create a small stream…gave us an opportunity to see how easy it is to find interesting organisms to document. The trees are obvious.

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Looking more closely there are things like mushrooms growing on a moss-covered log, macroinvertebrates in the water,

Crawly things (millipedes, worms, termites, insect larvae, etc.) under logs that can be rolled and sometimes frogs/toads that jump and show themselves. In our case it was a small American toad.

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Sometimes even the texture of tree bark can be interesting. This beech tree has wrinkles!

It was a ‘in a few minutes’ type of event…so much found, quickly. We could spend the whole time documenting what we found in that small area. It helps that there is water…since we haven’t had much rain recently and some longs that were mossy and full of fungi last spring are brown right now.

Ten Little Celebrations – September 2019

September was a transition month…the end of the Wings of Fancy exhibit and the gearing up for the Howard County Conservancy’s fall field trips for county schools. That overall theme carried over to almost all the little celebrations I’m featuring in this month’s post.

Beginning yoga. I was surprised that I could do some of the poses with relative ease….and others with a little practice. It’s surprising how quickly the benefits begin to be noticeable.

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Question Mark Butterfly. I was thrilled to notice the butterfly in the mulch at Brookside Gardens when its wings were open. I would have never seen it had its wings been closed. I celebrated a second time after I got home and figured out what kind of butterfly it was.

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Mount Vernon. What a place for a volunteer appreciation day…and the weather was perfect! I celebrated the place and the people I was meeting all day long.

Longwood Gardens. The place is always special – because of what we see there during our visit and the memories of other visits.

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Toad near the stream. There are always those serendipity events that make an ordinary hike extraordinary.  During one of our training sessions at Belmont we hiked to the small stream….and were finding mushrooms and moss and macroinvertebrates….and then a small toad jumped into our midst! Being naturalists…we all celebrated.

Large monarch caterpillar. My milkweed didn’t have many caterpillars this year…but one morning when I looked there was a large one (obviously had been there eating). I celebrated that he was probably big enough to make a chrysalis.

Casemaker caddisfly. We’ve had almost no rain for the past month or so and the stream was low…but we found several casemaker caddisfly larvae! They looked like a small clump of debris at first….and then they moved. It’s good to see living things in the water even when there is not much water around.

Carrot cake. I was celebrating something but the carrot cake itself overwhelmed whatever I was celebrating. Yummy!

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Wings of Fancy. The next to the last volunteer shift in the Wings of Fancy exhibit was a light day for visitors and I celebrated some quiet time with the butterflies.

Day at Little Patuxent River. High schoolers in the river….interested and focused. The water was low but they found some macroinvertebrates and they were so organized in the chemical tests of water quality (my station for this field trip) that we finished everything with a little time to spare. Celebrating high schoolers!

Mount Vernon – Part I

George Washington’s Mount Vernon was the location of The Horticultural Consortium of the Greater Washington Area’s volunteer appreciation day last week. I was invited based on my volunteering at Brookside Gardens. After over 1.5 hours on the road to get there during the morning rush hour, it was a wonderful day. The weather was perfect for a day in the gardens….congenial conversations with other volunteers…informative lecture and tours.

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We started out at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington with a talk from the Mount Version Horticulturist. The library is for research and only open otherwise for events. It was a comfortable space for a lecture….and then lunch later.

There were tours with a ‘historical horticulture’ them for 4 areas. The first two were the Upper Garden and Bowling Green. The Upper Garen features a reconstructed greenhouse (close to what it would have looked like when George Washington died in 1799) with wide paths and some formal beds closest to it.

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The contents of other beds are less structured with flowering plants that would have been available in Washington’s day and often with vegetables like okra growing in the center. There is even an area for grapes!

We walked a short distance to the Bowling Green. The house was not on our tour but the scaffolding for the renovation of the façade was evident; the side facing the Bowling Green was in most need of repair and is being completed first…then the work on the river side will commence.

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The view of the Bowling Green and the mansion from the Bowling Green Gate is dramatic. This would be where carriages could stop to view the house before continuing to the road that lead to the paddock, stable and carriage house.  In the opposite direction is the view of the gatehouse (zoomed a little) that would have been where carriages would have entered the property.

Some of the trees that were planted by George Washington have died since we moved to the area in 1983. One that is still around is a tulip poplar that he planted in 1785.

Over time other trees were planted – like this American Holly that was planted in 1812…maybe the oldest holly I’ve seen.

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There is detailed evidence (from his journals) of the trees that Washington planned for the walks on either side of the Bowling Green and a diagram produced for a magazine article from the early 1800s. As the horticulturalists continue their work, the walk will have more and more of the trees that were there in 1799.

I’ll post about 2 more Mount Vernon garden tours tomorrow.

Wings of Fancy – August 2019

Two volunteer shifts at Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit stand out this month. The first was a shorter shift before the exhibit was open to the general public. It was two hours for photographers. The shift was low key with not as many people in the exhibit and it was cooler because it was early in the morning. The temperature was low enough that many of the butterflies were still roosting rather than flying around.

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It was possible to get close enough for some quick pictures with my cell phone. There were at least two clear wings that were spotted.

Enjoy the slide show! By the end of the 2 hours, the temperature was warming and the morphos were flying. One paid a lot of attention to one of the camera bags.

After my shift I went back into the exhibit and took some pictures with a better camera. My favorite turned out to be a blue morpho that positioned itself perfectly on the ‘do not touch’ sign!

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The second shift was made special by a moth! At the beginning of the shift there was an Atlas Moth on the netting at the top of the conservatory…not a good place for a picture. As the shift went on it got hotter and hotter and the moth glided down to the foliage.  We had some time without visitors in the conservatory and I got a great picture. The clear ‘windows’ on the wings look green because of the green plants behind the moth.

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Summer Camp Volunteering- Week 3

The theme for last week’s Howard Count Conservancy’s summer camps was ‘Water Wizards.’ The campers at both Mt. Pleasant and Belmont made terrific water themed Zentangles®! I started out the sessions by briefly talking about the water cycle…how water moves on our planet and in the atmosphere….honed for the 5-12 years old campers. I projected a simple diagram of the water cycle from the NASA website….and then used the same set up to enable the campers to see how I drew some water themed patterns on pale blue cardstock (using the camera on the iPad which was hooked to a projector).

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There were three groups at Mt. Pleasant. They all enjoyed frogs eggs and tadpoles, raindrops making ripples in a pond, mist….and clouds. The youngest group made rainbows! I used 4.5-inch squares for the youngest group (last of the group of 3 mosaics below); the other two used 3.5-inch squares.

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At Belmont, the session was on a hot afternoon and the campers appreciated the time to cool off inside. I took a picture of the room before the campers arrived – the cool and calm before a flurry of activity.

After a short discussion of the water cycle, the room was filled with very focused campers making Zentangle patterns. One of the counselors came in and commented about how quiet the room was. It wasn’t silent exactly…everyone was just busy. The first mosaic were made by the older group and are 3.5-inch squares…and some that finished early made mini-tiles on 2-inch squares. The younger group used the larger 4.5-inch tiles. Both groups enjoyed frog eggs and tadpoles, cattails (or seaweed), raindrops into a pond, and mist.

Each week I do Zentangles, there are a few campers from prior weeks that know the Zentangle basics…and others that are new. All are keen to learn some patterns and are tickled with the tiles they create. There’s always a crowd around the mosaic at the end.

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The Zentangle® Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. "Zentangle" is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.

Summer Camp Volunteering – week 2

The theme for last week’s Howard Count Conservancy’s summer camps was ‘Fantastic Beasts.’ I spent a morning at Mt. Pleasant and the next morning at Belmont. At Mt. Pleasant there were three groups of campers….45 minutes for each. I used the dinosaur and mammal track rock found at NASA Goddard (saw it back when I was in the HOLLIE program) to initiate the conversation about extinct animals and fossils. There were some fossil shells from Calvert Cliffs and some of the campers had been there to explore themselves. I had on my ammonite shaped earrings too.

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Then for some action: Two pans of water, a measuring tape and white board. A person put one foot into each pan (shoes on) and then stepped out and walked normally. The measurement team (usually two campers) measured heal print to heal print to determine the walking stride length. We measured the walking stride of the tallest and shortest in each group (and then everyone else because everyone wanted to know their stride length…or game it and take extra-long steps!). In the oldest group of campers, we measured the running stride (heel first and on toes). It was a great activity to further explore what information can be gleaned from tracks.

We transitioned into evidence of animals living today with some whelk shells and egg cases found on a beach. Some campers were surprised that the whelks were animals that still live in the ocean along the east coast of the US.

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One of the junior counselors had participated in a dinosaur dig in Montana…and shared some pictures for her adventure with the campers.

It was a busy 45 minutes!

At Belmont, there were two groups of campers making Zentangle® tiles. I introduced the session using the NASA Goddard rock, the welk shells and my ammonite earrings….and then showed them patterns for beasts. The first group (younger) made octopus/jelly fish and tracks. The second group experimented with an ammonite type pattern, tracks and shells. The theropod tracks were the most popular. Many made some big therapod tracks and then some small ones (moms with babies). A variation from one camper: a therapod track….then a blank area where the therapod flew….then more tracks. One camper made mammal tracks. Both groups enjoyed adding colors after they made their patterns with the black Sharpie ultrafine pens.

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The Zentangle® Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. "Zentangle" is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.

Brookside Gardens – July 2019

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Even though the weather has been very hot this month, there are still plenty of flowers at Brookside Gardens that are weathering the heat.

The buttonbushes have all stages of flowers and seed formation now.

The green cones are forming on the bald cypress.

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The butterfly weed seed pods are bursting open even as the Monarch caterpillars are munching on their leaves. The common milkweed pods are still green.

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There are quite a few butterflies out in the gardens enjoying the flowers. The tiger swallowtails particularly enjoy the Joe Pye Weed. Last weekend I noticed more Monarch butterflies in the gardens. Maybe these are arriving from Mexico although it certainly is later than usual.

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I walk around the gardens before my shifts at the Wings of Fancy exhibit. There were only two this month because of the travel I did during the first half of the month. There are plenty of things to see like chipmunks and milkweed bugs.

I even found a feather on a leaf that I could get close enough for a macro shot.

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In the exhibit, the caterpillars are eating and growing. There was a Palamedes swallowtail caterpillar that had a ‘sun worshipper’ pose on a ‘excessive heat’ day.

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There are plenty of Monarch caterpillars of all sizes on butterfly weed in the caterpillar house as well.

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Inside the conservatory, I don’t have much time to take pictures of butterflies (lots of visitors) but I did manage a few. One day it was so hot that even the butterflies were desperate for water (on the floor) and not flying as much.

Ten Little Celebrations – July 2019

July 2019 was a busy month with two weeks of the months a way from home and volunteering. We’re in the thick of summer!

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4th of July. There is the holiday celebrated with fireworks and food and family early in the month. I was in Texas rather than at home.

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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron. It’s thrilling to see a heron that I don’t see all that often…a serendipity sighting during a hike to celebrate.

Easy drive through Arkansas. I celebrated that the road through Arkansas on my way back to Maryland from Texas was a lot better than I expected – good road, no construction, no accidents.

Marigolds. I savored the flowers available for cutting when I go to pick up my CSA share every week. Marigolds are among my favorites….but the sunflowers and amaranth and zinnas are good too.

Pittsburgh to Springfield MO in a day. It was a long drive with my husband and I caravanning. We both celebrated when we arrived – tired but otherwise unscathed.

At home again. After being away for 2 weeks (not concurrently) I had several days celebrating just being at home again.

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Prius Prime. I celebrated my car that has excellent range and is easy to drive. It still feels a little new and it’s 2.5 years old! These recent road trips have added quite a few miles.

Surviving a very hot Wings of Fancy shift. I celebrated that having something cold at each break (grapes, popsicle, Gatorade) and drinking lots of water enabled me to be fine at the end of the shift….and even relaxed in my air conditioned car on the way home.

Summer campers making butterfly Zentangles. Celebrating sharing an activity with campers….enjoying their creations as much as they did.

Toad under the oak tree. There is a toad that is making its home in the day lily forest under the oak tree. I celebrated that our yard is providing suitable habitat (there was a very small black rat snake there too…which I am choosing to celebrate too…but I didn’t take time to get a picture).

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Zentangle® Butterflies at Summer Camp

I enjoyed making Zentangle butterflies with about 70 Howard County Conservancy summer campers last week. They were in 5 groups and 2 locations. The first three groups were done outdoors on picnic tables set up with blotter papers and pen/pencil in holders to keep them from rolling away. There was a little breeze, but the pen/pencil holder had just enough weight to keep everything in place.

I attached my sample butterflies to a plant hook and a pad of paper to use for pattern demonstration on an easel. This was the calm before the first group of campers arrived.

The campers overall were ages 5-12. The oldest of the three groups came first…the youngest were last. I presented different patterns to each group as we talked about butterfly body parts and symmetry. The campers were focused and were very creative both with the patterns (and making up their own) as well as adding color. I took a picture of the creations from each group (click on the image below to see a larger version).

The following day, I did two groups at the second location. This time I was indoors and used the projection technique with the iPad camera (that I had used during my session with the camp counselors back in early June) to demonstrate the patterns. The youngest group came first followed by the older group.  I corralled the butterflies for a picture at the end of each session (although one was missing from the older group and I ended up taking that picture later).

Overall, I was pleased with these sessions and I am getting better as a CZT as I gain experience. For example – the blotter papers get used for additional artwork rather than just blotter papers and then the next camper comments on what is on their blotter! The different age groups have different types of challenges which I will get better at detecting…but they all produced beautiful and interesting Zentangle butterflies!

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The Zentangle® Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. "Zentangle" is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.

Leading a Zentangle® Class

I applied what I learned at the Certified Zentangle Trainer class (taken back in April) with a group of summer camp counselors last week…a prelude to working with the summer campers in a few weeks. The counselors were in their pre-camp training session. Most of the camp with be outdoor activities but on very rainy or hot days….creating Zentangle tiles can be a great option.

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I prepared for the session by developing a method to project my work on a screen (iPad on a tripod, Camera app, connector to allow display of the iPad screen on any projector/screen via HDMI cable) and making folded paper ‘trays’ to keep the pencil and pen together (not rolling around the table).

I also made variations of the tile I would coach them to make during the first session.

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The session with the camp counselors took a little over 30 minutes in all….and look what they created! Now one took an after lunch nap…they were all too focused on creating the patterns on their tile.

I am always impressed by class mosaics…how every tile expresses the individuality of the person that created it.

After the session we had a feedback session and agreed that the apprentice tiles (4.5 inches square) should be used for the younger campers….that the smaller ones (3.5 inches square) might appeal to the older campers that want to create tiles with more detail. Allowing more than 30 minutes would be good too!

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The Zentangle® Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. "Zentangle" is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.

Belmont Field Trips

BioBlitz for middle schoolers and Nature Tales for pre-K – the Howard County Conservancy field trips at Belmont had quite an age range.

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Early in the month before a middle school BioBlitz, a red-tailed hawk sat on the Carriage House roof watching the flurry of preparation below. It stayed until the first groups of students arrived to fly away.

The last field trip of the season was a pre-K group. My station was all about trees. I took a picture of it before they arrived. I’d had pulled some tulip poplar seedlings to show since the nearby sycamore trees that I used to talk a lot about had been cut down (before they fell on a nearby building).  The was the calm before the 56 4-year-olds with their chaperones arrived on 4 buses. I was glad that they came to my station in 4 separate groups rather than all at once! The weather was near perfect…the children thrilled to be outdoors…and a good time was had by all…and maybe they learned a little about trees too. It was a good finale to the spring field trip season.

Mt Pleasant Field Trips

Schools didn’t end until June 21st in our area so the Howard County Conservancy spring field trips were still happening into mid-June! As usual, I volunteered for field trips at both Mt Pleasant and Belmont. Today I’ll share some pictures I gleaned from before the school buses arrive at Mt. Pleasant….tomorrow I’ll do the same for Belmont.

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In late May – I noticed how lush everything was looking: the sweetbay magnolias, the blue flags, peonies, the new plantings around the flower pot people, and the trees along the gravel road toward Montjoy Barn.

By early June the flowers in the Honors Garden, like the columbines, were blooming.

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But the big draw of the Honors Garden – for me and for the children on field trips – were the green frogs in the pool. I would talk to the students before we came near the garden about walking very quietly…not talking…as we approached the pool so that we would see frogs. And I challenged them to find more than 4 frogs (or however many had been seen with my previous group). One group claimed to see 7…but I only saw 6. The pictures in the slide slow below were taken over several mornings before the buses arrived. Green frogs sound a little like a rubber band being strummed. It was fun to share the sights and sounds of the frogs with my hiking groups!

Ten Little Celebrations – May 2019

May has been a busy month with travel and prep for more travel…lots of volunteer gigs and home maintenance too. As usual – it was easy to identify something to celebrate each and every day. Here are 10 that I’m highlighting for the month.

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Plantain chips. I made my own plantain chips using a plantain from the conservatory at Brookside Gardens. It was a spring celebration of Thanksgiving – good food from a local harvest.

Caterpillar on the hickory. I was hiking with second graders looking at habitats…and what lives in them (paricularly insects). When we came to a young hickory tree that had been planted on earth day, it had some holes in the leaves. It was a small enough tree that we could carefully look under the leaves…and we found a caterpillar! It was one of those serendipity momets…the children were pleased with their find and I celebrated sharing their experience.

Clean car mats. My husband and I both took the mats out of our cars and hosed them off – no more salt and mud that had accumulated over the winter! We picked a sunny day so they could mostly dry out in the driveway after we hosed them off. I am celebrating a cleaner car interior.

Good weather for 4th grade field trip. Earlier in May we were having a lot of rain…and I wondered how the back to back field trips were going to dodge the deluge. At this point I am celebrating not having a single rainy day field trip (even thouh I am prepared with a super rain poncho). The 4th grade field trip was a close call….it didn’t rain and we managed to step around the mud puddles.

A whole day at home. Between volunteer gigs and travel, there were very few days that I could just be at home. When it happened – I celebrated the day to recouperate.

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Horseshoe Crabs. I had never seen horse shoe crabs in action like I saw in Cape May. They are recovering after overharvesting….an ancient creature filling its niche in the web of life. Something to celebrate.

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Light on flowers. I missed most of the azaleas blooming this spring…but managed to get some spotlighted in the dappled light along the path near the stream at Brookside Gardens. I celebrated the photographic experience.

Pre-schoolers are Belmont. I’ve only managed to do one field trip with pre-schools so far this season. What fun they are! I talked to them about trees. We pretended to start out as seeds and grow into a forest…then have the breeze ruffle out leaves (fingers)…and then we talked about trees and wind. Some groups fell down in a heap when the really strong winds came! It’s easy to celebrate the outdoors with pre-schoolers.

Rainy day with butterflies – Mother’s Day. It rained on Mother’s Day and the morning started slow in the Wings of Fancy conservatory – the butterflies weren’t very active and there were not early visitors. I celebrated by taking some butterfly pictures with my phone. And then the ramp up of activity began. It became a busy morning.

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White morpho butterflies. The brilliant irridescent blue morphs are probably the most popluarl butterflies in the Wings of Fancy exhibit. I celebrated the butterflies that are new or not quite as common. The white morphos are one of the special ones I’m celebrating this year.

Belmont – April 2019

The Howard County Conservancy spring field trips at Belmont and Mt. Pleasant are into prime time. The two I volunteered for last week had beautiful weather for hiking – almost perfect temperature and dry. I always arrive more than 30 minutes before the students. It’s a short walk from parking to the Carriage House….long enough to get some pictures. Birds that are around: chipping sparrows, robins, and red winging blackbirds. There is at least one resident mockingbird which I heard but didn’t get a picture.

The warmer weather is also causing things to bloom and new spring green leaves to unfurl.

As I wait for the bus, I take pictures toward the manor house, down the entrance road, and down toward the pond. It’s the calm….before the students arrive.

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The students, teachers, and chaperones come on buses and there is a flurry of activity to get the groups sorted into hiking groups and activity groups.

The hikes are about an hour. There are forest and meadows…lot of opportunity for good observations. One of my hiking groups was making BioBlitz observations…documenting a common blue violet blooming in the middle of the mowed path!

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Signs of Spring

Last week, a kindergarten class was the first field trip of the ‘spring’ at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm. The temperature was in the 30s and there was a little breeze – very wintery feeling. The children and I had our coats zipped, hoods up, and gloves on. We hiked and looked for signs of spring….and remnants of other seasons.

We saw daffodils coming up and snow drops blooming…signs of spring. We looked at holly with its shiny green leaves and red berries which is often symbolic of winter. One holly was leaning over the snow drop bed.

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We saw evidence of squirrels around: lots of opened black walnut shells which had been their food all during the winter. We searched the trees for squirrel nests but decided that the strong winds recently must have blown the nests away.

There were some trees that had been cut down recently. We noted that the centers had been rotting which was probably why they had been cut. The largest stump was near the farm house and the children crowded onto it for their teacher to take a field trip picture!

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The children were surprised to see the witch hazel in bloom and learning that it normally blooms in late winter. They saw the brown leaves on the ground and still clinging to the branches of the tree – correctly identifying them as the leaves from last summer/fall.

There was a winter jasmine with buds of all sizes – and a single flower. It was another sign of spring on the way. They were surprised at the different sizes of buds and identified the ones that were about ready to open.

In the old orchard, we looked at the buds on the apple trees and the pear tree – deciding that the pear tree would probably bloom first based on way the buds looked.

By the end of the hike – they were ready for a little warm up in the nature center then back outdoors for a focused lesson starting with looking for animal tracks in the muddy areas.

It was a good start to the ramp up of spring field trips!

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.

December on the Trolley Trail

The Howard County Conservancy organized a winter hike for its volunteers last week on the Trolley Trail (Trolley Trail #9 near Ellicott City/Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum). We were celebrating the end of another fall field trip season. About 40 people met in the Banneker parking lot and headed out.

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The connecting trail from Banneker to the Trolley Trail was through the forest and very muddy. There was an Osage orange tree that had dropped its fruit recently. Most of the fruit look pristine. When I got home, I did some research and discovered that the fruit is not eaten except sometimes by squirrels. One theory is that the fruit was eaten by large mammals that are now extinct (ground sloth, mammoth, mastodon) and that these animals would have spread the seed. Now the tree is propagated by people for its wood and as windbreaks.

We headed north on the Trolley Trail first. I didn’t take many pictures because I was so busy trying to keep up with the group. It was the same the last time I was on the Trolley Trail in 2015 with my Master Naturalist class (posted about it here).

There was some stream restoration (and maybe something else since there is infrastructure like sewer lines in the streambed) that was active next to the trail.  The stream did look more scoured than the last time we were in the area.

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We reached the end of the trail at the north and retraced our steps…passing the trails to Banneker to continue south on the Trolley Trail.

We got to the part of the trail that was damaged in the last flood. Repair work was not complete, so we stopped before getting down to Ellicott City; I turned around and took a picture back along the trail. The asphalt of the trail was damaged by the flood; the asphalt edges were uneven, and pieces were missing.

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There were bright green Christmas fens on the cliff to the right

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A little further back up the hill, winter trees looked good against the sky. It’s easy to pick out the sycamores this time of year.

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A waterfall was scenic rather than roaring. I thought more about what it must have been like during the flood to sweep away asphalt a little further down.

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We’ve gotten so much rain this fall/early winter that the moss is thick and bright green – like a carpet.

We made the muddy trek back up to Banneker to retrieve our cars…and head for lunch with healthy appetites.

Cold and Blustery at Mt. Pleasant

Last week, the Howard County Conservancy hosted a Weather Conference for representative 6th grade students from 10 middle schools in the county….about 100 students with their teachers.

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It was sunny…but cold with wind gusts up to 50 mph. The plan to have students interact with tree experts while they worked on a large tulip poplar was nixed because of the potential of branches falling with the higher winds.

I was bundled up and outside for most of the conference – directing groups of students to their sessions and directing small groups to the County’s Emergency Services Command Unit. When all was quiet, I took a few pictures. I like the colors of the ferns as some fronds succumb to the cold.

There was a pine cone that seemed to be glowing from within because of the way the sun was shining on it.

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The tulip poplars are releasing their seeds.

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I am always surprised when I see the heron sculpture. I know it’s there but somehow forget.

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There were some small branches torn off by the buses making the tight turn after they let the students off close to the building.

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There were two things blooming: a witch hazel where most of the petals had already fallen (it will be forming seed pods) and some unknown flower that was in the flower bed near the flower pot people. The flower is probably warped by the cold but is still a welcome bit of color in the wintery landscape.

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By 1 PM the students were climbing on buses and the clean up of the big room was underway.

Field Trips in the Rain

Last week, I volunteered for two elementary school hiking field trips at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt Pleasant Farm….and it rained both days! On Monday it was kindergarteners and the ‘hike’ was shorted from 40 minutes to 20 minutes and accomplished in mostly the nature center. We started out on the terrace above the nature center looking out over the Honor Garden…talking about trees with leaves (and looked at leaves on the ground). Then we walked quickly around the front of the building to get to the nature center…and were wet enough already. Inside the nature center there were animal skulls and pelts…seeds and leaves…preserved insects…

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And tree cookies.

When I talk to kindergarteners about tree cookies, I take time to explain what they are…and that they are not to eat! We count the main rings on the Royal Paulownia and then note that the other trees grow more slowly. My favorite is the dogwood because the rings are not as regular the other samples. The children are always enjoy learning about sugar maples…and maple syrup.

The rest of the time that would have normally been hiking was spent observing and hearing about Ranger, the barred owl.

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On Friday, it only sprinkled a little on the first hike with second graders while we were out and about in the meadow. It was a very cloudy day.

During the second hike, it started raining. The children were dressed for the weather and more than half of them had umbrellas. We were in the meadow collecting and analyzing soil samples when it started raining. We decided we’d done enough samples and went to learn about the rocks by looking at an old stone wall. We started making our way back to the nature center by way of the goat and chicken enclosures…noting what the animals were doing (both enclosures have shelters and that’s where the animals were…out of the rain). We stopped briefly at the old stump in front of the farm house and discovered a snake skin fragment. Then we headed in to the nature center to see the living black rat snake (Onyx), a snake we see frequently at Mt Pleasant. They were ready for lunch too!

These were my last elementary field trips for the fall season. Even with the challenge of rain, they were good experiences…for me and for the students.