A Wonderful Week in Maryland USA
If you follow my blog, you may remember that last October, took a trip out to visit Ed Snodgrass in Maryland in the USA. I met Ed at a green roof conference and, when he told me about his farm here and invited me out, I just couldn’t say no! Ed is the founder and owner of Emory Knoll Farms; the first green roof nursery in North America. ‘As the nation’s leading supplier of plants for green roof systems since 1998, their accomplished horticulture team has more experience than any other nursery in the United States growing plants for successful green roof projects and are active in green roof plant research and collaborating with educational institutions and nurseries, worldwide.’
Ed has worked tirelessly to return the 140 acres of his farm, back to nature and the results are simply spectacular. From huge swathes of meadow, to woodland and pools, Ed has created a habitat simply teeming with wildlife, so I was in my element. In October, last year, I visited when everything had come to an end, flowering-wise. The meadows were in seed and the weather was getting cooler.
Ed had said I must come back in the summer, but this week in May half term was the only week I could manage; a bit early for the meadow and butterfly deluge, but my goodness, how different it is. Maryland is warm and wet and the growth here is incredible. Everything is so lush and green and the planting is simply spectacular, both up at the nurseries and around the site.
The biggest luxury for me has been to slow down a little and spend some time with my camera. I absolutely love photographing wildlife, but seem to have less and less time doing it at present. It has been an absolute pleasure to wander this farm, photographing some of the wildlife.
There are lots of birds around, but the lush vegetation has made them difficult to photograph, so I have just been watching them. From Indigo buntings to the many warblers in this part of the world, the air is full of unfamiliar songs and calls. Ed has a series of bird feeders out which he had been keeping topped up, ready for my visit and I got a few new species on those that were different to my October visit. I set the Bushnell up in a series of locations and these videos show a merge of some of the species that visited.
The fat feeder clip shows the red bellied woodpecker and the downy woodpecker. You also see the Carolina Wren and a Northern Mockingbird I think!
I also set a feeding station up on the ground. Visitors here included a brown-headed cowbird and young, mourning dove, cardinal, brown thrasher and sparrows.
I also set the Bushnells up around the farm, but didn’t really capture much in this short period, apart from deer, opossum and fox.
The major difference to October (other than the temperature!) have been the frogs! The area is full of frogs and their calls can be heard sporadically through the day and then they kick off at dusk, with an incredible crescendo of calling. It is just wonderful. On a couple of lovely evenings, Ed built a fire and we sat out after dark, listening to them and watching the thousands of fireflies twinkling their lights across the darkening meadows. It really was magical! We get used to our nights in the uk being relatively quiet, wildlife-wise. It is louder here at night, than it is during the day!
I was lucky enough to get a close look at one of these tree frogs, when we found one seeking refuge under the veranda seat cushions. I discovered that this is the Cope’s Gray Tree Frog and it seems to be the dominant species, along with the bullfrogs, around the property.
Normally, they will hide in the vegetation or in the trees during the day, randomly bursting into ‘song’ during the day. They are nature’s barometers and yesterday, when the weather became very sultry and stormy, the frogs all started calling about half an hour before the heavens opened. They must detect the change in pressure.
I positioned this little guy back on the bark, where he belonged and you could see why. His perfect camouflage explained why I struggled to ever locate them, despite hearing them calling really near by.
This little montage shows some of the images I took…
The next day, we found him under some wood on the veranda table. As it became more humid and the other frogs started calling, we were privileged to watch and hear him calling… the volume they create is pretty impressive, so you can imagine what it is like when hundreds all call at once!
I have spent a lot of time around the many pools that Ed has created on the farm. These are all different, both in age and vegetation. Some are very open and others full of vegetation. All are teeming with life. There are bullfrogs everywhere and their calls can be heard day and night and sound like a large elastic band being twanged! Despite their size and abundance, they are surprisingly difficult to photograph as they plop into the water if they see you move. I managed a couple of shots after a lot of creeping!
What I have spent most time doing is photographing the dragonflies and damselfies, of which there are many and this is only the beginning of the season. These are one of my most favourite of insects and I have spent many hours this holiday just sitting by the pools photographing them.
Below are a couple of my favourite shots…
This is a montage of some of my other images….
I cannot describe how many insects there are here! There are so many bees around of different shapes and sizes, that it must be an entomologist’s heaven! One has been very obvious, and after some googling, I discovered it is this large Carpenter bee. It looks a bit like a monster bumble bee with a large, shiny abdomen, rather than a furry one, but it is not a bumble bee. I watched these huge bees patrolling up and down areas, chasing off all the other bees and butterflies that tried to visit. On reading more about them, I discovered that they do not sting and it is the males who patrol, to keep other males away from the female who drills a large hole in timber to lay her eggs. I managed to get a few shots of them.
The meadows are green and lush and their swelling buds taunt me with the promise of what is to come in the next month… I am just a bit early. Ed said that by mid June – July, when everything is in flower, they are alive with thousands of butterflies. The most common early visitors have been these skippers and I have also seen painted lady, Monarch and a few swallowtails, but not managed to get any good shots of them as they have been higher up in the trees.
I am going to have to come back next year for longer and a little later to try to see the meadow in full flower and the butterflies at their peak…. a good excuse for a return visit I think!
There is one bird I was really hoping to photograph and that is the hummingbird. Despite me gifting Ed a new feeder and it being up all week, I have not succeeded in photographing them and getting any more than a very fleeting glimpse of one… another one for my next visit! Maybe the Bushnell will capture one before I leave tomorrow…
I can’t thank Ed enough for his wonderful hospitality and company and I know he is not going to get rid of me very easily now… there is just too much here to keep me coming back!