We took a walk along the shore of Lake Needwood today, starting from near the beaver dam, we walked north and crossed Needwood Road. Near the end, where Rock Creek flows into the lake we saw this cute, little bird flitting around in the trees and shrubs. I was able to get four photos of it, none of which were great. It didn’t sit in one place very long and the long lens is fairly cumbersome, especially when zoomed all the way out. Still, they were good enough to identify it as a blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea), which is not a bird I’ve seen before (at least not knowingly). I guess if I were keeping a life list, this would now go on it.
Monthly Archives: April 2023
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)
I took a short walk in the woods today, feeling like I really should get outdoors a bit more. When I’m working from home, I take one or two breaks during the day and walk around the yard a bit. When I’m in the office, however, I tend to put my head down and work straight through. That’s not quite true, because my day is often broken up by meetings, but I don’t make it a habit to get out. I probably should, especially when the weather is so nice. Just after getting into the woods today I came across this deer skull. I took a few photos and then on the way back out I picked it up to put in the yard. I’m not sure why but we seem to have a bone collection in the back yard.
Mertensia virginica (Virginia ‘Pink’ Bells)
Cathy, Dorothy, and I went out to enjoy the bluebells (Mertensia virginica) today. They were pretty much at their peak and it was really lovely. Although they are called bluebells and that’s the predominate color, the buds generally start out being pink or purple and then the flowers turn blue as they open. We found a handful of them, however, that never made the switch, so we dubbed these Virginia ‘Pink’ Bells. There were also trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) and many, many spring beauties (Claytonia virginica), as well as yellow ‘violets’ (Viola pubescens).
Easter Sunrise Service
Sadly, I’m way behind posting my photos. I’m writing this on May 8, nearly a month late. I seem to get nearly caught up and then don’t manage to post for a while and I’m behind again.
Anyway, on Easter morning Cathy and I went to the Easter Sunrise Service at Fourth Presbyterian. It’s one of my favorite things and Cathy is nice enough to be willing to get up before 5:00 AM to get there before the 6:00 AM start of the service. With Easter moving forward and back from late March to late April, the time of sunrise varies from after 7:00 AM to about 6:20. It was at about 6:40 this morning so there was enough light towards the end of the service to get some reasonable photos at ISO 1600 at f/3.5. In order to get the entire steeple in the picture, I have to use a fairly wide angle lens (10mm) which gives it that characteristic tilt.
We finished another puzzle in the last couple days. This one was much, much easier than the previous couple. That’s not to say it was simple, but nothing like the Dahlia, Mandala Stone, or especially the William Morris, “Garden of Delight” puzzle. Some of the proverbs or idioms in the puzzle are obvious. Others are either obscure or were unfamiliar to us. Nevertheless, we enjoyed trying to make sense of the illustrations. As is usual in a large puzzle, the large areas of sky with little to differentiate them was the last to get finished. Next up is a scene of Venice, which will be a little more challenging than this one, I think.
Lamprocapnos spectabilis (Bleeding Heart)
Cathy and I went to the airport this morning to pick up Dorothy and then dropped her off in Bethesda, where she had left her car. Although it’s a little early for most azaleas, we decided to visit McCrillis Gardens, since we were near by. A few azaleas and rhododendrons were in bloom and there were other things to see. Fern fiddleheads were unrolling, there was quite a bit of Solomon seal (Polygonatum species). In the middle of the yard, under a large tree, there is a huge mound of bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis). It’s quite pretty and we probably should plant some, if for no other reason than that it would fill in some of the gap between the early bulbs and the later spring blooms.
I know I posted a similar picture to this last year, on Sunday, April 24, 2022, titled Dogwood Porthole. I entered this year’s title before looking that up to see what I used and was happy that I came up with something slightly different, even if it’s pretty close to the same. At the front of the church is this circular window and on the hill outside it a flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). This year’s photo is about a week ahead of last year’s and that seems about right for the weather we’ve been having. Everything is slightly earlier, although probably not outside the normal range of dates. Last year we had a fairly hard, killing frost in late April but I think we’re probably in the clear this year. I hope so, anyway.
We completed another puzzle this week. I’m not sure where we got this one—illustrating “Great Events of the Bible”—but it’s been in our basement a while without ever being put together. It was a relatively easy puzzle, compared to others we’ve done lately. That’s partly because there is text scattered around and any piece with text on it is easy to orient. With some puzzles it’s very difficult to know which way many of the pieces sit. There also are no large areas of similar color in this one, as there are with images with large amounts of sky, etc. Still, it was fun putting it together. Next we will work on puzzle with a view of Venice, Italy.
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
The common name for our most commonly planted, native dogwood is “flowering dogwood’ (Cornus florida). That’s a little deceptive, since all dogwoods—that is all Cornus species—flower. But that’s what they are called and that’s the one of the things about common names. They have some significant health issues, including dogwood anthracnose, which is fairly serious. They are also susceptible to powdery mildew, leaf spot, canker, root rot and leaf and twig blight. Stressed trees become vulnerable to borers. Nevertheless, when they are in bloom, as they are right now, they can hold their own against our other flowering trees. There are pink blooming varieties that I think are even better, although it’s hard to complain about something as lovely as this. It should be said that they also generally have terrific fall color.
Myosotis sylvatica (Woodland Forget-me-not)
We have these woodland forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) growing in our back yard (and a few elsewhere). They move around a bit and some of them are in the grass, so the edges of the bed doesn’t always get mowed the same way from year to year. They are considered a noxious weed in some mid-western states so you may not want them, depending on where you are. Here they don’t seem to be terribly invasive and we’re happy for our small clump of them each spring. You have to get down close to them to see them in their glory, though, because the flowers are fairly small. But they really are quite pretty.
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
We went to the farm park for a short visit today. I got a few photos of bluebirds, both male and female (Sialia sialis), a red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), and a sparrow or other small bird that I can’t identify. I decided to go with this shot of a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), though. Taking photos of birds on the wing is challenging at the best of times. With my long—150–600mm—lens, it’s even more challenging. The lens is quite heavy and getting it aimed at the bird, much less focused is pretty hit or miss. Mostly miss. This one turned out pretty well and I got a few more just about the same, so I’m please with that.
Hannah and David
Cathy and I were honored to be invited to Hannah and David’s wedding today. Interestingly, I got a call at about 11:00 this morning from one of the bridesmaids saying they were not going to have the wedding recorded. It was a bit of a last minute thing, but Elizabeth wanted to know if I would be able to supply some equipment to video it. Naturally I was happy to help and brought my old camera (Canon EOS 60D) and a tripod. We got it set up and I gave Christian about 10 minutes of training. The resulting video isn’t anything to write home about, but at least it exists and the audio is actually pretty good. I realized afterward that I should have brought my MP3 recorded and put that somewhere as well, but by then it was too late.
There were photographers taking photos but naturally I took a few myself. They won’t compete with the professional shots, but maybe I got a few angles they missed. Most of mine were taken at the reception, but I did take a few during the wedding ceremony itself. Here are Hannah and David, the happy couple.