We took a walk on the upper Rock Creek late this morning. It had been threatening rain all morning and it started to come down just as we got out of the car. Because we were in the woods most of our walk, it wasn’t really all that noticeable but we did end up fairly damp. Still, it was good to be out. The spicebush (Lindera benzoin) plants are covered with berries and many of the American Hornbeams (Carpinus caroliniana) are decorated with their winged fruit. After our walk we stopped briefly at the dahlia garden. I particularly like this flower, called ‘Bloomquist Jean’.
We had some out of town guest this weekend but they were here mostly to do the D.C. tourist thing. Late this morning the headed downtown to hit the museums and Cathy and I decided to go to the C&O Canal, walking northwest from Pennyfield Lock. It was a beautiful day, warmer than I prefer but only by a little. In the shade and particularly when there was a breeze it was lovely. We saw lots of painted turtles (Chrysemys picta), a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) and quite a few wildflowers. For today’s post I’m putting up two photos. The first is an ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva aurea) on a sunflower (Helianthus) of some sort. The larvae live in communal webs on their host trees. Interestingly, while they are thought to be native to South Florida, the ailanthus for which they are named (Ailanthus altissima, Tree of Heaven), is native to Northern China. It is believed that their original larval host was the paradise tree (Simarouba glauca) and Simarouba amara. It started moving north around the 1850s when introduced Ailanthus altissima contacted the moth’s native range.
The second photo is, as you have probably surmised, a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Cathy had walked a little further along and I waited in the shade at a pretty spot to take a few photos of the wildflowers there. While I was waiting for her to return I looked up and saw the eagle. I was able to point him out to a few others walking or biking on the canal but it was gone before Cathy returned. This isn’t the sharpest photo but it’s pretty clear what it is. The dark spot in the lower right is another bird. There were quite a few, flying fairly high in the sky.
We were out at Rocklands again today. They were having a picnic for their Cellar Club and asked if I’d come to take pictures. Since many of the pictures were of people but people that I don’t really know, I decided to post this one. It’s a pearl crescent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos) and it was in Janis’ garden. This is a fairly common little butterfly but you do sometimes have to pay attention to see them. They aren’t particularly flashy. I also took pictures of a few flowers and a nice shot of a soldier beetle.
I spent some time in the Rocklands Farm vineyard this morning, as well as having a meat photo shoot with Dorothy for their livestock business. Harvest is underway and it appears it will be a good one. These are Chardonel Grapes, which are the result of the cross, ‘Seyval’ x ‘Chardonnay’, made in 1953. It is “distinguished by its superior wine quality combined with high productivity and cold hardiness superior to its acclaimed parent” (i.e. ‘Chardonnay’).
I came early in the day hoping to get pictures with the sun as a low angle. Sadly it was cloudy when I got here. Also, if I had come about a half hour earlier I would have been treated to a wonderful sunrise but I was too late for that. After the meat photo shoot the clouds were gone. The sun was much higher in the sky but the light on the grapes was good and I spent another hour or so in the vineyard. If you haven’t been to Rocklands, I recommend it, both for the wine and for the atmosphere. Tell ‘em Henry sent you.
We took a walk in the neighborhood this evening and I took a few pictures of this Cleome blooming a few blocks from our house. The yard in question is one of the nicer gardens in the neighborhood, filled with quite a variety of plants and with something in bloom pretty much the entire spring, summer, and fall. We’ve had Cleome in the past but currently don’t have any. It’s fairly easy to grow from seed, so we should try to get some for next year. The seeds are not particularly hardy, so it’s safest to keep them indoors before planting them in the spring.
After church today we decided to go to the Agricultural Farm Park and look at the dahlias. While were were there, a woman told us that there were dahlias being displayed and judged over near the farm house. This is one of my favorites of those that were displayed. It’s a dahlia called ‘Pam Howden’ and was hybridised by Gar Davidson. It’s a really lovely waterlily type dahlia with really amazing color. I was able to ask about a dahlia that I photographed last year (see Saturday, September 26, 2020). While I thought it was really amazing, apparently it didn’t make the grade because it didn’t produce enough blooms. Pity.
Cathy and I took a walk in Meadowside Nature Center this evening. It wasn’t terribly hot this evening but it was very humid. I took pictures of a few different types of flowers including Vernonia (Iron Weed), Senna, Helenium (Sneezeweed), Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower), and Eutrochium (Joe-pye Weed). We tried to identify the leaves that looked a little like a rue-related plant. They had small flowers but it wasn’t until we saw the seeds that we were able to identify it as tick-trefoil (Desmodium Species). This bracket fungus was on the side of a fallen log. I think it’s really beautiful.
Cathy had to work late this evening so sadly she was not available to be at the dinner Dorothy and I shared with Annie, Ian, Jonathan, Susie, and Rob. We met at the Cactus Cantina in northwest Washington and had a lovely time. We don’t get together often enough, but we don’t all live close together, so it’s not always convenient. This is a group that’s had a few major trips together, including to Phoenix, Arizona and even more impressive, to Venice and Florence, Italy. I don’t know that we’ll be able to top those trips, but we can always dream.
After church today we went to Stadler Nursery in Laytonsville. We only bought one small plant but we enjoyed looking around. I think a little later in the year we will be back to buy a few shrubs, including a dark red leaved nine bark (Physocarpus opulifolius) and possibly a crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica). I photographed varieties of both that I’m interested in. As we were out in the large shrub and tree area, I took this photo of a Chamaecyparis (possibly C. obtusa, the hinoki cypress, but I didn’t actually make a note of it). I think the juxtaposition of the big, bold Magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia) blossom with the more delicate foliage is really nice.
Generally you can only see rainbows when the sun is relatively low in the sky. To reflect and refract such that the arc of the rainbow is 42 degrees from the line from the sun to the observer. So, when the sun is high in the sky, the rainbow will be below the horizon. Generally that means you can’t see the rainbow because there’s not enough rain between you and the background. Sometimes you’ll see a rainbow against a distant mountain, but I think this is the closest I’ve ever seen one. It’s between us and the trees across the street. It wasn’t obvious at first, but after looking for it a little while, it became visible and I got a few pictures before the rain moved on a bit further and it was gone.
Cathy’s brother Jim visited us for a long weekend and of course, before he left we had to take a group photo. We had a good time visiting some rural places and he and Cathy spent a lot of time going through pictures, papers, and other memorabilia from their family’s past. We went to the Agricultural Farm Park on Thursday, McKee-Beshers and Rocklands Farm Winery on Friday, and then Rockville Cemetery, Croyden Creek, and Redgate Park on Sunday. All in all, a very nice time.
When we bought our house, the outside portion of our air conditioner was on the back patio. I’m not sure who would ever think that was a good idea. Someone who never sits on the patio, I guess. When we replaced the furnace and air conditioner, we had it moved to the end of the house so we could actually sit outside in the summer and hear each other talk. The concrete plinth that the unit used to sit on is still there and is a sort of stage for assorted bric-a-brac. Rocks, shells, bones, and antlers make up the bulk of the collection.
From McKee-Beshers we went to Rocklands Farm. We were greeted by Janis who took us to her garden and gave us tomatoes and eggplants. I photographed these two-spotted scoliid wasps (Scolia dubia dubia) on the Eryngium in her garden. There were probably a dozen of them on the small plant with a lot of movement. There were a few other wasps but most were this very distinctive subspecies of blue-winged wasp. We bought burgers and Brussels sprout from the Boxcar Burgers truck and a bottle of wine from Rocklands and enjoyed a warm but beautiful evening sitting by the barn. A nice way to spend a summer evening.
From Sunflower Field #4 we went to the parking area for field #1. There are no sunflowers there, but close to the parking area are two shallow, artificial ponds. We walked about half way around one of them and enjoyed the diversity of plant and animal life. We mostly saw insects and a few birds in terms of fauna. Early afternoon, in the heat of the August sun is not the best time for wildlife viewing. But the mallows (probably Hibiscus moscheutos), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and especially the American black elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) were really nice. this is the fruit of the elderberry, ripe and ready to eat.
We decided to go see the sunflowers in the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area again today. It was quite hot but really nice. I got photo of both male and female indigo buntings (Passerina cyanea), although neither of them is really great. Good enough to positively identify them, but that’s about all. I also photographed a great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele). Naturally, I took more photos of the sunflowers. Cathy and Jim’s mom stayed in the car with the doors open. She could see the flowers but it’s much too bumpy for the wheelchair.
Cathy’s brother arrived from the Chicago area today and in the evening we all went to the Agricultural Farm Park. In the dahlia garden, we spotted this spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) on a beautiful magenta dahlia. It’s not peak season for the dahlias quite yet, but there are enough blooms to make it worth visiting, if you’re in the area. The demonstration garden ‘next door’ is in fine fettle and also worth walking through. It’s in a lot better shape this summer than last year, when I suspect getting people to work on it was a bit harder.
A month ago (see Sunday, July 04, 2021) I had a photo of one of two fawns that were in our back yard. Exactly one month later, the fawns are still roaming the neighborhood and we saw them in our yard again. They were slightly more alarmed by my presence than they had been a month ago but I was still able to get fairly close to them before they took off. As you can see, they are still spotted but the spots are less well defined and obvious. We’re slightly amazed that they’ve lived this long, being so close to a busy road with all its traffic. It’s nice to see them, but then, of course, they’re here eating our garden, which isn’t so nice.
After spending a few hours at McKee-Beshers, we stopped at Rocklands Farm for a little while. It was closing soon and we didn’t stay long but I took a few pictures, including this zebra swallowtail Eurytides marcellus on Janis’ buddleia. I’m pretty sure this is the first of them that I’ve seen and definitely the first I’ve photographed. It’s really a striking butterfly, with the bright red on the underside of it’s wings. I was really happy to get this photo. As for the rain that had been coming down fairly heavily when we left home, the roads were drying up by the time we got out here and by the evening the sky was totally clear.
It started raining about mid-morning and we weren’t sure about going out but decided we’d go regardless. We drove to the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area, which we’ve never visited before. They have four fields that they plant with sunflowers, although only two of them were planted this year. I don’t know if that’s normal or not. Sunflower area #4 was the more spectacular of the two (the weeds were taller than the sunflowers in field #2). We saw a few male (and a lot of female) indigo buntings in the field, which was really nice. There were also a lot of gold finches and cardinals on the flowers, as well as butterflies. We walked all the way around field #4 as well as near the ponds on the way to field #1. That field was planted with corn, but we actually enjoyed the ponds quite a bit, with their wildflowers, etc. Highly recommended.
We celebrated Eloise’s first birthday today with a family gathering. It’s been great to meet together in person again, finally. Eloise is walking, which is very exciting. I took quite a few pictures but I particularly like this family shot of Iris and Seth with their two little ones. Iris made a Very Hungry Caterpillar cake, a la Eric Carle’s book of the same name. The cake in this photo was the secondary cake, made especially so that Eloise could eat it with her hands. The primary cake is just out of the frame. A good time was, I believe, had by all. Certainly by us.