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Tigers on the wing

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail female nectaring on bee balm

Large, bright, showy, stripe-y Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies have appeared!

In the Mid-Atlantic, Tiger Swallowtails survive over the winter in chrysalis form and emerge as adult butterflies in spring. That generation produces the larger summer flight that we are seeing now.

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Unlike Monarchs and other caterpillars that can feed on only one or a limited number of host plants, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars can feed on a variety of common native trees, including tulip poplar, wild cherry, willow, cottonwood, birch and sweet bay magnolia.

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Sweet Bay Magnolia in my garden has a pretty blossom, lovely scent and provides food and shelter for hungry caterpillars too

Attract this and other butterflies to your garden by providing good nectar sources like bee balm, purple coneflower, Joe Pye-weed and zinnia.

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail male feeding on purple coneflower

Late spring in the marsh

The marsh is full of life as spring blends into summer. Amid the twang of green frogs and buzz of bullfrogs, birds of all manner — songbirds, raptors, wading birds — forage for food and tend their young.

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Baltimore Oriole chick awaits its next meal

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron hunts in the marsh

The Little Blue Herons were on an opposite shoreline, too far away for a good photo. But the adults and young could be seen feeding there. Little Blues start out white, transitioning to blue as they molt during their first year. The mottled, first year stage is referred to as Calico, Pied or Piebald.

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Adult Little Blue Heron (left) with immature Little Blue Heron (right)

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This “calico” Little Blue Heron has speared a frog.

Osprey flight

An osprey soars from its nest

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Osprey nest

Closer to the water’s surface…

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Northern Red-bellied Cooter, a large and conspicuous basking turtle

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A dragonfly patrols for food or a mate

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Watershield, a common aquatic plant

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The carnivorous Common Bladderwort captures tiny aquatic organisms in the “bladders” along its underwater stems.

 

Earth Day 2019

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Eastern Bluebird eggs (April 20, 2019)

On Earth Day, an iconic image of perfect bluebird eggs reminds us of all worth protecting.

Mid-morning snooze

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A pair of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) has a den in a backyard a few doors away. I regularly see the vixen returning to the den in the morning and see the male at other odd times. I swing wide to let them continue on their way. Usually they trot on their way. Sometimes they sit or curl up like a cat and watch until my dog and I are in the house.

This isn’t the first time I’ve looked outside to see that the male has found a cozy spot in our backyard to take a mid-morning snooze in the sun.

(As always, photo taken from a respectful distance.)

Nesting season

Birds are pairing up, as nesting season begins in earnest in Maryland’s Piedmont.

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Tree Swallow pair

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Note the piece of nesting grass held by the tree swallow on the left.

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A different Tree Swallow pair examines a nestbox along the trail.

And for something a little different…

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A Turkey Vulture pair appears to have claimed this vulture-sized house. Fingers crossed. 

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The other Turkey Vulture was inside the house.

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Here’s a closer look at these remarkable birds.

Spring beauty

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Is there a more aptly named wildflower than the Spring Beauty? One of the first wildflowers to bloom in Maryland’s Piedmont, it brings a touch of gentle color to the forest floor. A spring ephemeral, it will vanish in a few weeks. Search for it now.

Sounds of spring

A chorus of spring peepers and wood frogs announce that spring is near. Click on the image to listen.

If you think you hear ducks this time of year, it may well be wood frogs.

Winter reflection

As spring approaches, here’s a January reflection from the marshes of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, MD.

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Great Blue Heron hunts on a winter afternoon, Blackwater NWR

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