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I was going through some of my old insect photos. One of the time-consuming things is trying to identify what type of bug something is. I came across a photo of a butterfly, well, two photos of the same butterfly.

Eastern-Tailed-Blue

Eastern Tailed Blue Female on a clover, underside and top.

I’ve seen quite a few of these around, so I figured it shouldn’t be too hard to locate. The photo was taken in Maryland so I looked on a site about Maryland butterflies. There are plenty of pictures of most of the butterflies there and the site even has a couple of pictures of two of these mating. (The blue in the name refers to the color of the males.) On one of the mating photos, there is a conveniently placed flower petal. The caption says: “Censored mated pair.” It made me laugh.

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Again, I’m not going to write much. Here are some more photos, also taken on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. For those of you who don’t know, the Eastern Shore is a penninsula. The Atlantic Ocean is on the east and the Chesapeake Bay is on the west. Along the bay, the land is very irregular with lots of little inlets.

I’ve spent much of the last week at my sister’s gardening. It’s not really surprising that I’m alone because so many of the things I enjoy doing are more or less solitary pursuits.

After spending much of my adult life in New York City I can’t say that I knew much of anything about gardening. I moved down here and my sister, who’s allergic to just about everything on earth, has a huge backyard, by suburban standards. When I arrived, there was a greenhouse in the back. My brother-in-law, who doesn’t really enjoy gardening, kept up the flower beds in front of the house, but the back yard, which is long and narrow and reaches back towards an alleyway that terminates in a patch of woods, had long been neglected. Once, many years earlier, someone had planned and planted a nice garden, but that had since become overgrown.

Most gardening books I read had advice that started with planning a garden that seemed to assume that whatever you did you were going to start from scratch. I had neither the money nor the manpower, or womanpower in my case, to do that, nor would I have had the inclination to do that if I had. So, I had to make up my own gardening ideas.

The first year, I didn’t do anything at all. The main effort was to keep other people from trampling everything. It was a year of learning to identify a great many plants. I waited for things to come up, took pictures and ran to the internet to try to identify things. There were some tall white plants with pretty little white flowers on top which turned out to be garlic mustard, a rather nasty invasive weed. I started ripping it up when I saw it. That was how much of the first year went. Identifying what was in the garden and deciding whether it would stay or go. Unfortunately, since the overall image was one of a big, abandoned mess, people would walk all over everything thinking that everything was a weed. We have primroses, Polygonatum, Epimedium, Galium odoratum. These things were quite obviously planted. I have also found several native North American wildflowers which, while occasionally cultivated, have probably grown there themselves. There’s Claytonia virginica, Chimaphila maculata and some sort of Trillium that I have not identified properly. There had been a large patch of foxglove near the alley, but people have trampled it so many times there’s almost nothing left.

From the green house to a large old beech tree there is a stone path. I noticed a tall gangly plant growing up between the stone. I was about to pull it up when I decided I would wait to find out what it was. A month or two later it finally bloomed. It had rather funky looking brownish pink flowers. I was hoping it wasn’t anything noxious because I like the way it looked. I had quite a difficult time identifying it. I took some photos and tried again. Then suddenly, I remembered a little detail. There’s quite a lot of fungus growing under the beech trees because I see the squirrels dig them up and eat them. (I’ve nicknamed them “squirrel truffles.” I’m not the only person who’s observed this.) I had a vague recollection that there was a relationship between trees, fungi and orchids. On a hunch, I started looking up information about native orchids that might grow among beech trees. I will confess that I got rather excited about the thought of finding something rare, although intellectually I knew it was unlikely. Finally, I decided that it was Helleborine, probably Epipactis helleborine. I found it on a British site and it seems to be common there. It does appear in North America, but it’s not considered invasive or otherwise problematic, so I thought it was rather interesting and I left it. That’s a good example of the idiosyncratic “gardening” that I’ve been doing.

Slowly, I’ve been adding to the garden, favoring plants that encourage the local wildlife. This frequently means native plants, but there’s nothing ideological about it. I’m happy to have non-native plants as well. We have hummingbirds and I’ve planted Lonicera semperviens, Lobelia cardinalis and Spigelia marilandica for them. The Lobelia was planted next to a fern that didn’t thrive, so I thought that I would add to it and make a larger patch of Lobelia. Nearby, was a bit of Chelone glabra. So, my sister offered to help and she started clearing the weeds from near where we were going to plant the Lobelia. She pulled up the Chelone glabra along with the weeds.

A couple of days later, my mother offered to help. I showed her a weed, I’m forgetting the name at the moment, that I wanted pulled up. It was growing off to the side of the stone path. It was a broad leafed plant about half a meter high with pale green leaves with serrated edges. I thought this was a safe instruction to for her because it looked nothing like the Galium among which it was growing. I went to another area of the garden. Later I came by to see how she was doing. She didn’t do what I asked because she was afraid of poison ivy, although I told her there was no poison ivy in that portion of the yard. Instead, she pulled up some “grass” growing among the “flowers.” What she pulled up was Sisyrinchium angustifolium, a flower I’d found amongst some Hosta the first year and which I’d been slowly encouraging and had since become a sizable patch. Well, there’s a couple of examples she missed, so I guess I can start again.

I took a deep breath and told her to stop apologizing. I went into the garbage. Some of the Sisyrinchium she pulled up still had some roots on them, so I started putting them in pots to see if we can save them. Then, when I was going through the garbage, I found what looked like the orchid. I ran to the stone path were it had been, and indeed it was gone. I just sat on the ground and sobbed.

There are days I can’t do anything right.

A couple weeks earlier, one of the neighbors had come by and mentioned that her husband wouldn’t mind picking up a little extra cash if we wanted him to come by with a weed wacker. It’s so damn frustrating. I have a somewhat odd idea. I don’t want to clear everything and plant neat little rows of petunias and dump a bunch of fertilizer and pesticides. In fact, I’ve intentionally planted plants that bugs will eat, specifically I’ve been slowly planting the host plants favored by butterflies. I’m still trying to get my hands on a Pipevine for the pipevine swallowtail, but we’ve planted Milkweed and a Spicebush and we’ve seen Monarch caterpillers on the Milkweed, and, no, we do not want any help in getting those bugs off our flowers.

Sisyrinchium angustifolium, aka Blue-eyed grass. This flower is perhaps one and a half centimeters. It's a pretty little thing if you stop long enough to look.

Sisyrinchium angustifolium, aka Blue-eyed grass. This flower is perhaps one and a half centimeters. It’s a pretty little thing if you stop long enough to look.

Ouch, it’s almost midnight, so I better put something up soon. I’ve been going through my photos and trying to get some sort of identification on some of the insects and flowers I saw. I’m no naturalist, so if I’ve misidentified anything, please let me know.

Agalinis acuta, also known as Sandplain Gerardia, is a rare flower.

Agalinis acuta, also known as Sandplain Gerardia, is a rare flower.

This is a Red-banded Hairstreak.

This is a Red-banded Hairstreak.

One of the many little brownish skippers. I find them hard to identify, but I have tentative identified this one as a Zabulon Skipper.

One of the many little brownish skippers. I find them hard to identify, but I have tentative identified this one as a Zabulon Skipper.

A mantid.

A mantid.

partridge pea

partridge pea

This is a Pearl Crescent. There were dozens of these butterflies in one spot.

This is a Pearl Crescent. There were dozens of these butterflies in one spot.

A Blue-fronted Dancer.

A Blue-fronted Dancer.

I got so many photos, so I guess I might as well stop here. If you want to see more, I just posted some others on my French language blog.

Yesterday, I took a trip to a really remarkable place. About a year or so ago, when I was doing a bunch of research on native plants and wildflowers, I saw quite a few references to a place called “Soldier’s Delight.” It’s nearby, located in Baltimore County. A landscape of a stream on a beautiful, sunny day. To the left, there is a field of grasses. To the right are some pines. A small butterfly is in the foreground. A patch of woods can be seen in the distance.

The it once was part of “the Great Maryland Barrens”, a unique ecosystem of which only 5% remains. Most of the area is in a state wildlife reserve called Soldier’s Delight. Much of the soil in the area is made up of a rock called serpentine. Serpentine soil is low in nutrients. While much of the east coast is deciduous woodlands, the Maryland Barrens were a unique grassland and supports correspondingly unique flora and fauna, specifically insects, some of which are found no where else.

When we arrive, a naturalist was showing beautiful Turkey Vulture. I’ll have to write more about vultures one day. In the meantime, here’s a portrait of the lady.

A twenty five year old female turkey vulture.

Anyone who’s interested in butterflies should take a trip there. It was far more rewarding than I expected.

Okay, the WordPress platform is acting buggy again, and I don’t have the time to deal with it. So I’m just going hope this will publish.

Here is my usual Friday attempt at relaxation. This time, it’s butterflies.

An as of yet unidentified butterfly.

I was photographing some water lilies when I noticed an insect on one of the leaves. It appeared to be drinking from a droplet of water. Fortunately, I brought multiple lenses with me. This pretty butterfly is only about three or four centimeters long. (Update: Some helpful people on bugguide.net identified this as a Pearl Crescent.)

A tiger swallowtail in a cloudless sky framed by the leaves of a tree.

I looked upward and saw two tiger swallowtails high in the trees. I snapped a few photos and was surprised that one of them actually came out.

A tiger swallowtail with its long probiscus in a flower.

Tiger swallowtails have been incredibly numerous this summer. Click on the image to enlarge it and get a good look at the proboscis.

Spicebush swallowtails are probably the next most common. This is probably due to their chosen host plants which are common.

Spicebush swallowtails are probably the next most common. This is probably due to their chosen host plants which are common. The spicebush swallowtail lays its eggs on spicebushes.

Some sort of skipper butterfly on a leaf.

We have quite a few different varieties of skippers which look very similar.

 T

Two of the nearly ubiquitous silver spotted skippers. I took the photo because the butterfly on the bottom appeared to be clinging to the one on the top.

For those of you who have seen a few of my Friday posts, the squirrels Smudge and Tripod have been surviving the heat reasonably well. The bird bath has been at least as popular as the bird feeder. Bad Bunny was last seen munching some weeds that I was going to tear up after the heat wave passed. Right now, we have three lobelia plants, two of which have buds but the top of the third has been neatly chopped off. I have pictures of them all, but for today I decided to focus on the bugs. In front of my sister’s house there are several butterfly bushes and a row of some other bushes whose name I don’t know. The flowers on these other bushes are a yellowish-green and not especially pretty, at least to my human eyes. However, they must be especially excellent nectar producers because the bushes, when they are in bloom, are just teaming with bees, wasps, flies and butterflies.

A tiger swallowtail butterfly on a butterfly bush.

It was the sight of this Tiger Swallowtail through the window that drew me outside into the heat.

A fuzzy image of a wasp.

It was so humid, I had to keep wiping off my lens, which kept clouding up.

The head of a baldfaced hornet with its distintive markings which resemble a skull.

After I wiped off the lens, I was able to get some good shots of a baldfaced hornet.

The body of the baldfaced wasp.

Although the common name is “baldfaced hornet,” it is actually a wasp.

A silver spotted skipper butterfly on a butterfly bush.

There were at least a dozen of these silver spotted skippers.

A winged insect with a fuzzy, stout body on a butterfly bush.

I have not yet identified this bee-like creature.

A portion of the hindwings of a spicebush butterfly.

I had the wrong lens on my camera to capture the large Spicebush butterfly.

A spicebush butterfly

As a result, I wound up with some interesting, although accidental, images.

The underside of a spicebush butterfly.

I love how you can see what appears to be pollen clinging to the underside of the butterfly.

A honeybee

I’ve seen few honeybees than in years past. Sadly, we lost a hive over the winter.

A small brown butterfly which I have tentatively identified as a Dun Skipper. If anyone is more certain, please let me know.

A small brown butterfly which I have tentatively identified as a Dun Skipper. If anyone is more certain, please let me know.

Bubmble bee on milkweed.

If the European honeybees seem to be struggling, our native bumbles were out in full force.

Some sort of skipper butterfly on a leaf.

Another difficult to identify skipper.