I’ve gone to the Green Swamp a few times during our weeks at the beach. Sometimes with a largish group and sometimes just a few others. I went by myself today and had a nice time. I planned not to go too far, with the primary goal of getting some pictures. I got some nice shots of Venus fly traps (Dionaea muscipula) and sundews (Drosera sp.). It was fairly dry and many of the pitcher plants (the purple Sarracenia purpurea And the yellow Sarracenia flava) were a little the worse for that. Still, I got some pictures. I also got a good shot of a palamedes swallowtail (Papilio palamedes (. But this is my favorite photo from the trip, showing the long leaf pines (Pinus palustris).
Monthly Archives: August 2019
As usual, we took a family photo at the beach on the last day when everyone was still there (George and Carmela left shortly after the photo was taken). Tsai-Hong and Cathy had gone for a walk and were a long time getting back, which created some tension. Of course they were understandably not anxious to sit for a picture the moment they got back. They had walked to the far end of the island and back, covering over eight miles. The weather cooperated, though, as the light overcast meant we didn’t have to squint into the sun or put our faces in shadow by facing away.
As our week at the beach came to an end, Brian from next door came over to let me know there was a nice sunset and that I should come out with my camera. There was this single cloud, far out to sea, lit by the setting sun, surrounded by the blue of the ocean, the sky, and the other clouds. I’m pretty happy with this picture as a relaxing reminder of a mostly relaxing week. Being with family for a week, it’s inevitable that there will be little things but for the most part, it was very nice and that’s how I’m going to remember it. The cottage we were in this year was good, in terms of layout, giving us the space we needed to spread out. Having the pool was a bonus and more enjoyable that I would have expected. It was shared with the three connected units, but that hardly mattered. One of those units was our cousins and it was nice being so close to them. If nothing else, it meant they could stick their head in our door and let us know about sunsets (and, as it turned out tomorrow morning, leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) hatching at the end of our path to the beach).
We had our annual family reunion on the way home from the beach this year. It alternates between the Saturday we head down and the Saturday we head home. Either way, it makes for a long day but I for one really enjoy it and it’s one of the highlights of my year. I manage to keep in pretty good touch with a few of my second cousins and it’s good to see them face to face. We didn’t take a large group photo today but I got pictures that included most, if not all the 50 or so people there. We did get pictures of the five remaining first cousins, who were all there.
I chased down some butterflies in the back yard today, including this common buckeye (Junonia coenia). They are resident year round in the south as far north as North Carolina and they move north over the course of the summer. Because of that we tend to have them later in the year than other butterflies and I’ve only just started to see them. They are pretty easy to identify and are very different to the other species that we have. This one, obviously was interested in the black-eyed Susan flowers that are in such abundance in our yard right now.
I’ve posted pictures that have Black-eyed Susans in them but today’s photo is just of them. To say we have a few is a bit of an understatement. The reality is that we have let them run riot and there are a lot of them in the back yard. They add so much color that we don’t really mind, especially around the patio. We’ve managed to keep one large and one small walkway through them, so we can get out into the yard. They are pretty popular with the pollinators, attracting bees, flies, moths, and butterflies. One interesting thing about them is the photos I take always look bluer than they look in real life and I have to correct for that. On the other hand, the leaves really do have a fair amount of blue in their green.
For a while now I’ve bought butter in two-pound rolls. It’s a bit cheaper and we go through it quickly enough. In fact, I try to have one roll in the freezer that I take out (and replace) when the one in the fridge runs out. When Cathy’s niece Abba was here last year she took a photo on her phone of my two-pound roll on the counter. Sometime later She posted a photo of this painting on Instagram, titled “Our Own Mound of Butter.” I asked if I could buy it and now it’s hanging in our dining room.
I wasn’t able to get out into the garden to take any photos today. After going to the Motor Vehicle Administration (my favorite place) to register a new old car we bought my back started bothering me. By 1:00 in the afternoon I was having a really hard time. I got on the floor and did my “Say Goodbye To Back Pain” exercises. I went home shortly after 2:00 and spent the rest of the day on an ice pack. Late in the evening I got up and took a few pictures, including this one. I hope you enjoy it.
With my back still bothering me, I stayed home today. I did put in a little time at work, mostly a long phone call to discuss a proposal that is being written for a project that includes a web site. When Cathy got home from work I asked if I could take her picture for my photo of the day. She agreed and I took almost two dozen shots of het with her flowers. Most obvious are the Rudbekia (the Black-eyed Susans). There is also orange and yellow butterfly weed Asclepius tuberosa) on the right. In front of that is the pale pink spider flower (Cleome). There are other annuals in pots and there is the red teapot lower down.
This red Lobelia cardinalis is growing under the cherry tree at the north end of our yard. It’s really bright and I thought it was worth getting a picture of. With my back still bothering me I wanted to be really careful getting behind it so I could get the picture without having to bend over and with the trunk of the cherry tree available for me to brace the camera against. I was very carefully watching where I was stepping so I wouldn’t trip but about half way back, all of a sudden, I whacked my head against a ceramic wren nesting box hanging from a branch of the tree. I didn’t quite fall but it did my back no favors. Still, I got the picture. Coming back out I was even more careful where I walked and I kept an eye on that nesting box.
I met Tsai-Hong, Iris, Seth, and Silas at mom’s this evening for dinner. My back has improved quite a bit and I actually put in seven hours work from home. I did take a break to ice my back and I tried to get up and move around now and then. I came to mom’s without my camera bag, though, because it’s a bit heavy and that would be asking for trouble. I did bring my camera and flash, though, because I knew Silas would be there and as you can see, he was in a pretty good mood this evening.
I took some butterfly pictures this afternoon, as well as some flower pictures. While sitting in the chair that Cathy was in when I took the picture for a few days ago I could get pretty close to a few flowers without having to strain my back. Then walking around I saw this prettily colored ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva aurea) on a black-eyed Susan. It took me a while to get down on the ground to get the pictures but I think it was worth the effort. Although it’s named for and feeds on a non-native tree, the Ailanthus webworm moth is actually a North American native from Florida, where its original host was the Simarouba glauca (paradise tree) and Simarouba amara.
I was a little worried about sitting through church this morning but my back tolerated sitting for long enough that it wasn’t a problem. We were happy to see some friends that visited the church a few weeks ago come back again today. After church we walked to the Stadtman Preserve next door to see what was going on there. They’ve been renovating the mid-century modern house that the Stadtmans build and lived in and it’s nice to see the progress. There were naked lady’s (Amaryllis belladonna) in bloom and I got a few photos of this little brown and white caterpillar. I have no idea what sort of creature it is. I’m going to guess a moth but I won’t go any farther than that.
My back was up to a full day’s work today. Although there were a few rough spots I made it through, trying to get up now and then to move around (because “Motion is Lotion” as they say). When I got home I took pictures of various flowers in the back yard. I really thought it would be pushing it to get down on the ground for photography. I did for the caterpillar photo yesterday but getting back up was a chore. So, I sat in a chair and photographed what was all around, including blue Lobelia, butterfly weed, Lantana, and a few other flowers. I like the Cleome with the black-eyed Susan flowers behind it.
I have yet another “insect on a black-eyed Susan” photo today. These are by far the most numerous flowers in our yard this time of year. They aren’t necessarily the insects’ favorite flower but most pollinators are fairly broad minded and visit lots of different plants. The Buddleia bushes are the clear favorites with the butterflies and the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) is probably the most popular with the bees and wasps, but they all visit the black-eyed Susans, as well.
No, I’m not in the hospital, at least not as a patient. I met Cathy’s mom there early this evening and then Cathy joined us a little later. As I write this, four days after the fact, Margaret is home and the stay at the hospital is just a memory. At the time, of course, it’s a lot of waiting around punctuated by brief visits from the doctor and slightly more frequent visits from the nurse. We were in the emergency room and everyone was very nice. The sounds of an ER are not exactly conducive to rest. At about 11:30 they decided to admit her to the hospital and the nurse sent us home with a promise to call and let us know what room she has been moved to. I had taken a few pictures on my phone in the ER but took this photo as we left at about 11:45 PM.
As we were leaving Shady Grove Hospital this evening there was a really nice sunset. We were parked near the top of the garage, so it made sense to go to the top floor to get a good view of the clouds. The photographs don’t really do it justice, but the best part of the view was the sun itself, which was a deep, orange-red as it neared the horizon. It really was spectacular. The rest of the sky was covered with pale orange and I took some wide angle shots, as well, but I like this one, that shows the sun a bit better.
We had another day at Shady Grove Hospital today but before I went I took a few pictures in the back yard. There was a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and I had hoped to get a picture of that. I would have, except I had taken the memory card out of the camera and when I put it back in the write protection switch had been pushed into the off position and the camera would not take a picture. By the time I got it reset the butterfly was gone. I was able to get this photo of a western honey bee (Apis mellifera), instead.
Cathy and I were able to get away for two nights and a day and we drove up to Harpers Ferry. From our hotel we walked into town today and enjoyed the scenery. It was in the low 90s and very humid so we were glad to take a break in the visitor center and museum in town (which was air conditioned) and then stop for lunch part way up High Street in an air conditioned place. We continued up the hill and I took this picture looking east over the cemetery towards the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers. This was taken while sitting on a bench and catching my breath after the walk up the hill.
Thirty-five years ago, Cathy and I were married. Has it been magical? I’m not sure I’d go that far. But it’s been pretty darn good and I think we’ve shown we’re in it for the long haul. I won’t say there haven’t been any rough times but over all I’d say we’ve done pretty well. There have been trials from outside and we’ve weathered those together. There have been trials from within and we’ve made it through those, also. I lean on her, she leans on me, and so far we’ve managed to stay standing, even if we stagger from time to time. I won’t claim to be a magnificent catch, but I try to do my part and she seems to be okay with me. Of course, as in all relationships that are worth anything, we try to remember to set aside a little time for silliness. Humor, which often means sarcasm, is a big part of the equation. Anyway, the deal was supposed to be that we’d grow old together. As you can see from the photo, she’s not growing old as fast as I am, which I think is a little unfair.
The pollinators are quite busy in the yard these days. Especially in the afternoon, when the sun is hammering down on the flowers, the bees, wasps, moths, and butterflies are to be seen in great numbers. The mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) is literally a buzz with them. The skippers seem to favor the black-eyed Susans. The butterflies, not surprisingly, go for the butterfly bush (Buddleia). That being said, this large hornet was coming back again and again to the buddleia. I’m not as happy with it as I might be but it’s a decent photo. These wasps are social and build large paper enclosed nests. I’m a little surprised to only see one of them, but there are surely more around the area.
I took a few wasp pictures again today but they were too blurry to use. One was clear enough to get a good idea what it was, but nothing to write home about. Then I went out to the middle of the back yard and took some photos of the berries on the American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). They’re starting to turn pale purple and it’s easy to see where the shrub gets its common name. This skipper landed on the berries and I was able to get close enough for a pretty good portrait before it skipped away. I’ve only occasionally gone to the trouble to identify individual skipper species. With some notable exceptions they are all pretty similar and I just never get around to it.
This spring Cathy planted some zinia and marigold seeds. She’s talked about doing that for a few years but this year she actually got them planted. They grew under a plant light in our dining room in the late winter and into the early spring. They probably were started a little early because by the time it was safe to plant them outside they were a bit leggy and had already started to bloom. Still, I’d say they constituted a success. This one is growing in a pot on the back patio and it has pretty flowers. Not a lot of them, but every little bit counts.
I came across this spider on the head of a black-eyed Susan this evening. It was pretty hard to photograph, being really small (a couple millimeters long at most, and the wind was moving the flower slightly. It was also late enough in the day that the light was starting to fade. This particular shot is reasonably sharp. This is the sort of spider that you could easily walk past and not see, it’s so small. There’s no way it could bite you if it wanted to, because it simply wouldn’t have the strength to break your skin. I find it amazing that spiders as little as this can survive but there are lots of very small insects, as well, for them to live on.
By the time I got home this evening I didn’t feel like going out looking for something to photograph. Later in the evening, as is usually the case, I wished I had, because it meant I had to find something indoors to photograph. If finding something new and interesting to photograph in the yard is a challenge, how much more so is that true in the house. Fortunately there was a vase of flowers on the dining room table and in it were the blue and grey balls of Eryngium planum, better known as sea holly. These are interesting flowers. We had some in our garden in Gaithersburg and I should plant some here. The blue would be especially nice as a contrast to all the yellow-orange of the black-eyed Susan flowers.
What an absolutely beautiful day it was today. The high was in the 70s and in August, that’s a rare and joyous thing. I worked on the car today, gluing the rear-view mirror back on in one van and replacing the struts that hold open the rear hatch on the other. Cathy and I also did a fair amount of yard work, pulling up weeds and beginning the process of clearing out some of the central bed in the back yard. There were two trees where that bed is, a medium sized red maple and a fairly large silver maple. They’ve been down since the spring of 2013 and as the roots have rotted, a few holes have opened up and need to be filled. The whole bed needs quite a bit of work, to be honest, including digging out some particularly tenacious weeds. I took a break to take pictures of some of the many butterflies that were out today, including this meadow fritillary (Boloria bellona), a pretty medium sized brush-footed butterfly.
Cathy, Margaret, and I went to Brookside Gardens this afternoon. It was such a wonderfully beautiful day we were not surprised by the number of people there. Nevertheless, we were able to find a parking spot and wonder around the garden for a while. We often go there in the spring, when early flowers are in bloom. I would recommend that highly but this was a different experience. We rarely come in August because it’s so brutally hot. Today was in the mid-70s, though, and absolutely lovely. The summer flowering plants were at their best and we really enjoyed the gardens. The conservatory is always nice, of course, and this photo of a bird of paradise flower (Strelitzia reginae) was taken there. I’ve often thought about growing one of these but never got around to it. They are, apparently, fairly easy to grow, although they couldn’t take our winters and would need to come inside when it gets cold.
This is a really nice plant. Blue cardinal flower, Lobelia siphilitica, is an easily grown, herbaceous perennial, native to eastern North America and hardy to USDA zone 4. It needs fairly moist soil and does better here in part shade, where the ground doesn’t dry out so much, or in full sun in pots where it gets regular watering. It blooms over a fairly long period, which is always appreciated. One thing I didn’t know about it is that the species name of siphilitica is from “a prior medicinal use of the plant in the treatment of venereal disease.”
It does well in our garden and we have it scattered around. This particular plant is growing in a container on the driveway with black-eyed Susans behind it. Blue and yellow is always a good combination in the garden and with yellow being so prominent in ours, adding that touch of blue is great.
The bees and wasps are out in force these days. I spent a little time around the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) this afternoon and enjoyed the variety of buzzing insects (most of them are basically silent, actually). The most numerous are the bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) and the large but gentle carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica). The wasps are pretty well represented, though, and today I saw a handful of these katydid wasps (Sphex nudus) as well as some potter wasps (Eumenes fraternus). I got a few photos of that last one, but they weren’t as good as I would have liked. I’ll keep trying.
It’s been pretty dry lately. Not drought dry, but normal August in the DC area dry, which is dry enough for me. I’ve never been attracted to deserts and am happy when rain comes (within reason). We had a good rain today. Not the all-day soaking rain we’re more likely to get starting in September but a good rain, nonetheless. When it had mostly stopped, I took a few pictures of water droplets on leaves, starting with the leaves of this rose. It’s the China rose ‘Perle d’Or’ just outside our front door and it’s happily blooming and doing very well after being killed back a little last winter.
I didn’t get any really good pictures today. It was after 6:00 when I went out and there wasn’t much insect activity this evening, for some reason. I did come across this little beetle, about 5mm long, on the petal of a black-eyed Susan. I think it’s a Tumbling Flower Beetle in Family Mordellidae (possibly in Genus Mordellistena, but I am really unsure). It’s a cute little thing and I was only able to get a few pictures before it flew off.
I’ve been meaning to get out of the office for a short walk to the empty lot next to my building for over a week now. The upper part, where it was mostly mugwort, milkweed, and goldenrod has been mowed and it looks very different. I don’t know if this is a prelude to actual building plans coming to fruition. Plans to develop it started at least 25 years ago and the top soil was scraped up into a large mound that now has mid-size trees on it. There are a few drainage ponds and they are all abuzz with insects and birds. I saw a green heron when I first got there and then photographed a few dragonflies, including this blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).
The butterfly weed (Asclepias) growing in a container outside our back door is very attractive to insects but particularly so to monarchs (Danaus plexippus). Lately we’ve had two of them on it at once and occasionally three. I got a few pictures of the two today but I think this is a better portrait of this handsome butterfly. I really enjoyed sitting and watching them flutter around the flowers, stopping occasionally at other plants but generally preferring the butterfly weed.