Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A jaunt to Maryland's Eastern Shore

From the DC area it's only a couple of hours to the little town of St. Michaels, on Maryland's Eastern Shore. John and I headed over on a weekday, to avoid traffic on the Bay Bridge. We needed a mini vacation, and I thought a short trip to someplace on the water would be nice. St. Michaels is a pretty little town, and quiet on a Thursday. We enjoyed wandering around the town, and spent a peaceful half hour in sunny, nearly empty restaurant on nearby Tilghman Island, overlooking a little fishing harbor. Here I learned from John what a skipjack is - a fishing boat with one far forward mast, unique to the Chesapeake Bay.

I also wanted to visit Environmental Concern, a non-profit native plant nursery specializing in wetland plants of the Chesapeake region. They are housed in St. Michaels, and our trip was planned around their twice-yearly native plant sale and open house. Turned out we were a day too early for the open house, but we were kindly allowed to wander around the campus, after promising we wouldn't actually go in the greenhouses. We enjoyed hanging out at the freshwater and saltwater marshes.

We kept an eye out especially for turtles, one of my favorite animals. We didn't spot any in the freshwater marsh, but found quite an impressive specimen on the grass nearby!

Our visit the next day to Adkins Arboretum was  an unexpected bonus - I knew about this native plant arboretum, but hadn't realized it was only a half hour or so from St. Michaels. What a delight! The marshes near the nature center were teeming with sounds and sights - bullfrogs, snapping turtles, dragonflies, redwing blackbirds.

The meadow  path was thick with common milkweed, and we saw many zebra swallowtails feeding on their nectar. There are several miles of trails, through meadows and woodlands, and we're looking forward to returning for more exploration.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More bees

It did indeed prove too late for the bee tubes I set out. I brought them inside so they'll be fresh for next year. I'll plan to set them out early next spring - March, I guess.

In  the meantime I've turned into a bee watcher. I don't see many butterflies in my yard, but I have lots of bees!  When my Penstemon digitalis started blooming I began to notice that there were always bumblebees hovering over the white tube-like flowers. I began watching more closely, and saw bees disappearing into the flowers, emerging a few seconds later to fly on to the next flower. It became a sight that delighted me: the glove-like fit between the flower and the bee, the idea that each is benefiting from the bee's visit.

Of course, I wanted to get the perfect picture, of a bee just about to enter a flower. This proved to be about as challenging as my attempt last summer to get a really good hummingbird picture. After many tries I've gotten a few that I like, but the quest continues.