27 July 2015 – Milkweeds of Patuxent – Part 1 – Common Milkweed

close-up of seed pod

close-up of seed pod

Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are important to the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) because its larva feeds exclusively on it. The recent decline of the Monarch butterfly population has sparked an interest saving it by planting milkweed. The Friends of Patuxent is sponsoring an effort to plant milkweed on the Patuxent Research Refuge. The Patuxent Research Refuge is home to six species of Milkweed. This series of blogs will introduce them to you.

Milkweed meadow on Central Tract

Milkweed meadow on Central Tract

The most easily seen species of milkweed is the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.). It grows in open fields and along the side of roads throughout. There are a number of them planted by the North Tract Contact Station. The largest patch of it is under the Pepco powerlines on the Central Tract. (Click here for more details.)

 

Close-up of flowers

Close-up of flowers

The Common Milkweed is found throughout Eastern North America from Southern Canada on the north, along the Eastern Seaboard from Maine to North Carolina and northen Georgia on the east, and to the Great Plains as far west as Texas and Oklahoma. It occurs in a wide range of habitats from floodplains to dry sandy areas and waste fields. It prefers sunny locations over shade.

Chemicals in the milkweed make the larva and adult Monarch’s flesh distasteful to most predators. In addition to the Monarch, it is attractive to the milkweed bug, various other pollinators and insects.

Milkweed bugs

Milkweed bugs

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Adult nectaring on swamp milkweed

(Click here to see a blog of Monarchs at various life stages)

 

Milkweed by Wildlife Loop near Old Forge Bridge

Milkweed by Wildlife Loop near Old Forge Bridge

Milkweed in habit

Milkweed in habit

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25 July 2015 – Japanese Stilt Grass

Photo above: Close-up of inflorescence – 18 September 2010.

Close up of leaf - 8 September 2010


Close up of leaf
Notice the whitish stripe along the middle
– 8 September 2010

Japanese stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum (Trin.) A. Camus) is a common invasive plant from Asia that has spread to 26 states. Infestations of it can alter native plant communities, change and suppress native insects, and slow plant succession. The good news is that the removal of it can lead to a recovery of native plants.

It is found throughout the refuge, especially along roads and trails, and in adjacent woods. The whitish stripe along the middle of the leaf is an easy way to distinguish this grass from other species such as the rosette grasses (Dichanthelium ssp.), white grass (Leersia virginica,) and small carp grass (Arthraxon hispidus).

In habit <br>- 25 September 2015


In habit
– 25 September 2015

Japanese stilt grass is an annual that blooms in late summer and goes to seed soon after. So mowing or weed-whacking infestation before it blooms can be an effective strategy to reduce its seed bank. The seed bank can remain viable for up to five years, so persistence is necessary to get a handle on controlling it. Both pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides can be effective if applied appropriately.


Contrast between mowed and unmowed areas
along Wildlife Loop
– 25 July 2015

 

 

 

This is an example of how effective mowing an infestation next to a road can be. In this case, a strip about 6 feet wide was mowed in early July and the mowed portion has already started to die back. If the infestation would have been done closer to flowering time, mowing it then could be even more effective.

 

25 July 2015 - After mowing


After mowing
– 25 July 2015

 

 

 

This is an close-up of die-back after mowing.

 

 

6 August 2010 - Infestation in the woods


Infestation in the woods
– 6 August 2010

 

It spreads from roads to the woods. It is shade tolerant and this makes it an opportunist, meaning that it will take over in places where plants are not growing. The white-tailed deer is an effective vector for spreading the seeds. Consideration to limiting human activity  in infested areas should be considered during flowering and seeding time.

18 September 2010 - Along Bald Eagle Drive


Along Bald Eagle Drive
– 18 September 2010

 

 

 

One of the easiest places to see Japanese stilt grass is along Bald Eagle Drive where it is present on both sides of the road.

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES:

Bauer, J.T. and Flory, S.L. 2011. Suppression of the woodland herb Senna hebecarpa by the invasive grass Microstegium vimineum. American Midland Naturalist. 165:105-115.

Flory, S.L. and K. Clay. 2009. Invasive plant removal method determines native plant community responses. Journal of Applied Ecology. 4:434-442.

Flory, S.L. 2010. Management of Microstegium vimineum invasions and recovery of resident plant communities. Restoration Ecology. 18:103-112

Flory, S.L. and K. Clay. 2010. Non-native grass invasion alters native plant composition in experimental communities. Biological Invasions 12:1285-1294

Knight TM, Dunn JL, Smith LA, Davis J, Kalisz S (2009) Deer facilitate invasive plant success in a Pennsylvania forest understory. Nat Areas J 29:110–116

National Park Service. Japanese Stilt Grass. http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/pubs/midatlantic/mivi.htm (accessed 27 July 2015.)

Nature Conservancy. The invasive Japanese stiltgrass can be protected against, with care. http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/indiana/journeywithnature/japanese-stiltgrass.xml (accessed 27 July 2015)

Simao, M.C., S.L. Flory, and J.A. Rudgers. 2010. Experimental plant invasion reduces arthropod abundance and richness across multiple trophic levels. Oikos 119:1553-1562.

USDA, NRCS. 2012. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 19 August 2012). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. (accessed 27 July 2015)

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ABOVE PHOTO: A view of Schafer Lake with water lilies

(Click on the thumbnails below for full views.)

DSC01426The objective today was to find the Sundew that had been reported as occurring on the Schafer Farm section of the Refuge’s Central Tract. I had heard that it was next to a pond that I had not been to before. The species had been reported to be the Spoon-leaf Sundew (Drosera intermedia). I just had to check it out.

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After plugging the Sundew’s geo-coordinates that I received from Zach Cravens, a Refuge staff member, into my GPS, I set out for the location. The hike to the location took me in an eastward direction from the open field where I parked my jeep, along a small man-made lake, and then across a swampy area. The swampy area looked like a variant of a floodplain swamp. Cash Run, the outlet stream of Cash Lake, flows north through the swamp on its way to the Patuxent River. The area subject to flooding in heavy rains.

DSC01434As I emerged on the east side of the swamp floodplain, I noticed a fairly large pond and determined it must be the pond where the Sundew was reportedly located. I hiked around the south edge of the pond and encountered a boggy area that was full of various types of sedges and rushes as well as other types of plants one would expect to see in such a habitat. The area was slightly above the water level of the pond but the ground water was percolating up and flowed into the pond. This might be an interesting place to make a plant species inventory some time. I carefully scanned the area but did not see any Sundew.

DSC01436My hike continued along the east side of the pond and then to the north side. Although this side of the pond did not have groundwater percolating up, but there was sphagnum moss right next to the pond. BINGO, I spotted some Sundew. It was growing in several dense clusters at almost regular intervals some distance above the waterline. Sigh, it looked like Round-leaf Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), and not Drosera intermedia. The leaves were mostly wider than long, although some specimens had dried leaves from the previous year which appeared to be longer than wide. I can see how someone might confuse the two species. It is also possible that someone may have planted the Sundew here because it was occurring in pine needle litter, a place where one normally would not expect to see it, and because it occurred at regular intervals.

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In between the parking spot and the Sundew Pond I collected a few vouchers and took pictures, some of which you can see below.

 

 

Floodplain Swamp

Floodplain Swamp

Floodplain Swamp

Floodplain Swamp

Schafer Lake with water lilies

Schafer Lake with water lilies

Bartonia

Bartonia

Bartonia

Bartonia

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Posted on by Botany Bill | Leave a comment

2 July 2015 – Mushroom Cornucopia!!!

(Photo above – the twelve different types of mushrooms collected today)

Click on the thumbnails below for full views.)

Mushroom 1 - Bolete?

Mushroom 1 – Bolete?

After all the rain we have received this past several days, the mushrooms on the Refuge were popping up all over, a real cornucopia. So, today I decided to look for as many different kinds as I could. I ended up with twelve different species, all of which you can see below. I am not a mycologist (fungus expert), so I don’t know the names of these off hand. So, I will be having fun figuring out what I found. Some of these are cool looking. If you happen to know any of the species, let me know.

Mushroom 1 - Bolete?

Mushroom 1 – Bolete?

The mushrooms I collected will be dried and process for inclusion in the Refuge’s herbarium.

Mushroom 1 - Bolete?

Mushroom 1 – Bolete?

Mushroom 02

Mushroom 02

Mushroom 02

Mushroom 02

Mushroom 03

Mushroom 03

Mushroom 03

Mushroom 03

Mushroom 03

Mushroom 03

Mushroom 04

Mushroom 04

Mushroom 04

Mushroom 04

Mushroom 04

Mushroom 04

Mushroom 05

Mushroom 05

Mushroom 05

Mushroom 05

Mushroom 05

Mushroom 05

Mushroom 06 - Cantharellus cinnabarinus

Mushroom 06 – Cantharellus cinnabarinus

Mushroom 06 - Cantharellus cinnabarinus

Mushroom 06 – Cantharellus cinnabarinus

Mushroom 06 - Cantharellus cinnabarinus

Mushroom 06 – Cantharellus cinnabarinus

Mushroom 07

Mushroom 07

Mushroom 07

Mushroom 07

Mushroom 07

Mushroom 07

Mushroom 08

Mushroom 08

Mushroom 08

Mushroom 08

Mushroom 09

Mushroom 09

Mushroom 09

Mushroom 09

Mushroom 09

Mushroom 09

Mushroom 10

Mushroom 10

Mushroom 10

Mushroom 10

Mushroom 11 - Dictydiaethalium plumbeum

Mushroom 11 – Tubifera ferruginosa

Mushroom 11 - Dictydiaethalium plumbeum

Mushroom 11 – Tubifera ferruginosa

Mushroom 12

Mushroom 12

Mushroom 12

Mushroom 12

Mushroom 12

Mushroom 12

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27 June 2015 – Eastern Mud Turtle

DSC01252Rain was the theme of the day at the Refuge today. I drove around a bit to see what was going on, and came across another turtle trying to cross the road. This time it was a male Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum.) Mud turtles prefer to spend their time in water or moist locations, but I assumed this little guy might have been looking for a mate and the rainy weather probably helped him feel comfortable on land.

DSC01253The Eastern Mud Turtle is found in the pine barrens of Long Island and New Jersey on the North to the coastal plain regions of Florida and Alabama on the South. In Maryland, they are found all but the two most western counties. They are a shy species preferring to hide themselves in water and in moist humus. That is why it was lucky that I saw this little guy crossing the road.

DSC01255They are omnivores, and will eat crayfish, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, amphibians, carrion, and aquatic vegetation.

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26 June 2015 – Welchs Bog

(Click on the thumbnails below for full views.)


General view of Bog

General view of Bog

Spent about 3.5 hours on the refuge today. My main task was to locate the boggy area just north of the “Savanna” off of Sweet Gum Lane. I did not know what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised. The topography of this bog is steeper than most of the bogs on the refuge, and as a result, the water was flowing rapidly.

Closer view of vegetation

Closer view of vegetation

 

The bog is a variant of the Red Maple Acidic Seepage Swamp (CEGL006238) plant community. The striking thing about the bog at this location Chestnut Oak plant community which surrounds it. The bog feeds a creek called Welch’s Creek and we call this wetland Welch’s Bog as a result.

Chestnut Oak leaves

Chestnut Oak leaves

 

 

Some of the plant species seen in this bog include Sweet Bay Magnolia, Black Gum, Cinnamon Fern, Royal Fern, American Holly, Paw Paw, Skunk Cabbage, Netted Chain Fern, New York Fern, Carex folliculata, Vaccinium sp., and Indian Cucumber.

Sweet Bay Magnolia

Sweet Bay Magnolia

 

 

 

 

The bog continued on down the hill for some distance. However, I did not have time to investigate further. Future forays to this bog will be undertaken.

Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon Fern

Royal Fern

Royal Fern

American Holly

American Holly

Paw Paw

Paw Paw

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

Netted Chain Fern

Netted Chain Fern

Indian Cucumber

Indian Cucumber

New York Fern

New York Fern

Posted in Journal, Refuge Bogs | 1 Comment

26 June 2015 – Plants are Wildlife Too

We are in print – The Friends of Patuxent Newsletter, Summer 2015, Page 3. Check it out. (Click on picture for full view.) Friends of Patuxent - Summer 2015 p3.pdf

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26 June 2015 – Indian Cucumber – Medeola virginiana

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Today, I spotted some Indian cucumber (Medeola virginiana L.) at Chestnut Oak Bog growing on a sphagnum moss hummock. One of the plants (pictured here) was blooming and was setting seed. This interesting looking member of the family Liliaceae is found in Eastern North America from Ontario and Quebec in the North, and Minnesota to Louisiana on the West. It grows up to 1 to 1.5 feet tall and has one or two whorls of leaves on the stem.

 

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Each plant has one stem. When it blooms, there are between 3 to 9 flowers at the summit of the stem with a whorl of leaves directly under. There is usually one more whorl of leaves further down the stem. The blooming period is in late spring to early summer and lasts about one month. The pedicels bearing the flowers become erect and develop purple-colored berries. Each berry contains several seeds.  The plant can also propagate into  colonies from rhizomes.

The plant like light to medium sun, and thrives in loamy soil containing decaying organic matter. The plant is named after its cucumber-like tasting root.

 

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26 June 2015 – Chestnut Oak – Mountain Laurel Forest

DSC01197Today when foraying around the Chestnut Oak Bog AKA Welchs Bog I checked out the Chestnut Oak – Mountain Laurel Forest (CEGL006299) plant community that surrounds a good part of the bog. This plant community is found in the Mid-Atlantic States and is quite common in the drier areas on the North Tract. The area seen here is just north of the Savanna area on the Northwest side of the North Tract.

Chestnut Oak

Chestnut Oak

 

 

The dominate overstory tree is the Chestnut Oak and other oak species can be found in smaller numbers. The other oak species included Black Oak, Southern Red Oak, Willow Oak, White Oak and Scarlett Oak. Red Maple, Sweet Gum, and Black Gum were also spotted. A couple specimens of possible hybrid oaks were seen on the edge of this area where it met the “Savanna.”

 

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A fair number of shrubs and sub-shrubs were also spotted. They include the Mountain Laurel, Paw Paw, huckleberry and blueberries. Green Brier and Bracken Fern was also present.

 

A windstorm had gone through two days previously and knocked some leaves to the ground. This facilitated taking some close up shots. (Click on the thumbnails for full views of the photos.)

White Oak

White Oak

Willow oak

Willow oak

Black Oak - upper side

Black Oak – upper side

Black Oak - back side

Black Oak – lower side

Scarlett Oak

Scarlett Oak

Bracken Fern

Bracken Fern

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24 June 2015 – Hyssop Loosestrife – New refuge record

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This little weedy plant keys out to Lythrum hyssopifolia L. (Hyssop Loosestrife). It was found on the South Tract on Telegraph Road near the old Beltsville Airport in a wet area next to the road. The Hyssop Loosestrife is in the same genus as the more notoriously invasive Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria L.)

 

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The Hyssop Loosestrife is a biennial or an annual growing between 10 to 60 cm (4 to 24 inches) high. The flowers are borne in the leaf axils.

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It is native to Europe, but has become naturalized on the East and West Coasts of the USA, and in Australia. It prefers temporary wet marshy habitats, like where it was found on the refuge. This is a new record for the refuge.

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According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), this species is classed as Endangered (A2c) in the UK and Critically Endangered in Switzerland and is under regional protection in France: in Alsace and Rhône-Alpes.

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23 June 2015 – Allegheny Mound Ant

Mound - 1 June 2013

Mound – 1 June 2013

 

The Allegheny mound ant (Formica exsectoides Forel) is a field ant that found on the refuge. It ranges along the Atlantic Coast of North America from Nova Scotia to Georgia. Although they are not highly regarded by some people, they are a fascinating and even arguably beneficial species.

23 June 2015

23 June 2015

 

Unlike most field ants, they can have multiple queens. Their tunnels can reach three feet below ground level and their mounds reach up to four feet high. The tunnels can be complex and may link several mounds.

23 June 2015

23 June 2015

 

They are noted for killing woody vegetation up to about 40 feet away from their mounds. They do this by injecting formic acid into the plants. But, according to the Maine State Extension Service, this damage is minor in comparison to the role of a pest control that they perform.

Dwarf Dandelion - 3 May 2014

Dwarf Dandelion – 3 May 2014

 

 

Allegheny mound ants have been observed scavenging upon honeydew produced by aphids and leafhoppers, dead vertebrates and arthropods, and seeds; and preying upon most small arthropods they encounter. They also prey on caterpillars, beetles, treehoppers, grasshoppers, crickets, wasps and flies.

Dwarf Dandelion - 3 May 2014

Dwarf Dandelion – 3 May 2014

 

On the refuge, they also help to spread certain plant species like the Dwarf Dandelion (Krigia virginica (L.) Willd.) and the Canada Toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis (L.) D.A. Sutton.) The ants harvest the seeds of these plants and feed on a fat-rich accessory in the seeds called an elaiosome.

Dwarf Dandelion - 3 May 2014

Dwarf Dandelion – 3 May 2014

 

Then they discard the still viable seed next to their mound. On the refuge, you can see this behavior in action. The photos seen here are from the Dwarf Dandelion which were seeded by the ants next to their mounds.

Dwarf Dandelion - 3 May 2014

Dwarf Dandelion – 3 May 2014

 

 

The ants are aggressive when disturbed and will bite. Their bite is irritating, but not harmful.

 

When taking pictures on the refuge, I have had more than a few encounters with this fascinating critter.

 

 

REFERENCE: Insects – 195-Beneficial Insect Series 1: Allegheny Mound Ant, Fact Sheet No. 195, UMaine Extension No. 2005, http://umaine.edu/blueberries/factsheets/insects/195-allegheny-mound-ant/

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23 June 2015 – Eastern Box Turtle in Distress

DSC00989This male Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina (L.) Bell ssp. carolina) was trying to get across the hot pavement, but he was running around in circles. It was hard taking these pictures, it was like he didn’t know which way to go. The air temperature was about 95 degrees and I am sure the pavement was even warmer. After I took some quick snaps, I helped him find his way.

DSC00987They are a hinged-shell turtle, meaning that front and back of the plastron (bottom shell) are hinged and close up when they sense they are in danger. The plastron on males are concave to make facilitate mounting a female when mating. Also, the eyes of males are red-orange while the female’s eyes are brownish. This one was obviously male because of his eyes.

DSC00985They range in the USA from Maine to Florida on the east, and the Great Lakes to Texas on the West. They are a true land turtle spending virtually all of their time on land. They can live over 100 years in the wild.

DSC00988Their populations are dwindling mainly due to loss of habitat, the pet trade, and road kill. This little guy was obviously in distress, presumably because of the heat. I feel good about helping him cross the road.

They are a fun critter and are probably the most commonly seen turtle on the roads on the refuge.

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20 June 2015 – Duvall Bridge

(Photo above: new planking on the bridge)

Plaque on the bridge

Plaque on the bridge

 

 

A bridge has existed at this location since the early 1800’s. The current structure was built in 1907 and was closed to traffic in 2009 due to its deteriorating condition. Renovation began in 2013 and it was re-opened in early 2015.

 

On bridge looking downstream

On bridge looking downstream

 

 

 

The bridge ties the North Tract and Central Tract together, and with its re-opening travel time between the two tracts will be cut by up to 45 minutes.

Bridge - looking north from south side

Bridge – looking north from south side

The historic road that is carried by this bridge is called Telegraph Road (It is also called Duvall Bridge Road near the bridge.) Telegraph Road is famous for being the road along which the wire between Baltimore and Washington, DC which carried Samuel Morse’s first telegraphic message in 1844.

Paw Paw patch next to bridge

Paw Paw patch next to bridge

 

 

For even more detailed information about this historic bridge, you can refer to the Jan-Mar 2015 edition of the Friends of Patuxent Newsletter, page 4

On bridge looking upstream

On bridge looking upstream

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20 June 2015 – Milkweed Meadow

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This meadow on the Central Tract is located along Beech Forest Drive near where the powerlines cross MD 197 and as far as I can determine is the largest field of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) on the refuge.

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I am not sure of the meadow’s maintenance history, but it is has developed into an ideal location for Milkweed. You can bet that this is probably an ideal place to look for the Monarch Butterfly. The size of the meadow is truly impressive.

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Posted in Journal, Plant Profile, Sites around refuge | 1 Comment

20 June 2015 – Worm Plots

DSC00968The worm plots are historically significant because of the role they played in DDT research. In the 1960’s, researchers at the USGS’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center conducted research on the effect that certain pesticides had on raptors. Rachel Carson in her 1962 book suggested that these pesticides were causing serious harm to the environment and to humans. The research conducted here seemed to confirm her suggestion. One of the areas researched by the USGS researchers was on the uptake of DDT by earthworms which are eaten by birds such as robins.  The research found that even after 45 years in 2011, the residue of DDT could still be found in the soil at these worm plots.

For more information, see the article written in the Friends of Patuxent Newsletter of January-March 2012 – http://friendsofpatuxent.org/images/JanMar12v23n1.pdf

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20 June 2015 – Whooping Crane Observatory

(Above photo: Two whooping Cranes at Patuxent Research Refuge.)
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The Patuxent Research Refuge is home to the USGS’s (United States Geological Survey’s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. One of the on-going projects conducted by the USGS there is the Whooping Crane Captive Breeding Program.
DSC00924This actual area where the program is being conducted is not open to the general public. However, the Whooping Crane Observatory is open to visitors by permission and only on special occasions. The cranes involved with the breeding program are kept away from human contact, even from the many of the staff because they are very sensitive to human disturbance. It is my understanding that the two cranes on display and pictured here have been habituated to humans.
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Since I only had my macro lens with me, I could not get a clear shot of the cranes. A good telephoto lens would have made the job easier.  Maybe another time.

 

 

Reference: Wildlife Festival marks opening of crane observatory at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (Click on link for full article that appeared in the Baltimore Sun.)

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20 June 2015 – Mallard Pond

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20 June 2015 – Snowden Pond

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20 June 2015 – Knowles Marsh 3

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20 June 2015 – Knowles Marsh 2

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