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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Patapsco Valley State Park--Glen Artney Area

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Patapsco Valley State Park--Glen Artney Area

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american peace
Bobby has been in training for work for the past two weeks, and Friday was his last day, so he had a half-day. We met for lunch around 12:30, and he asked if I was not too tired to consider doing a hike when I got home from work. The weather in Maryland for the past week-and-a-half has been unbearable, and our outdoor activities have tapered off as a result, but Friday, temperatures only reached the mid-90s F (about 35C), which was suitable for walking in the woods.

Last week, we had returned to the Patapsco Valley State Park that we'd discovered a few weeks earlier and gone to an area called the Lost Lake. There had been literally dozens of butterflies. We'd wanted to return to see if we could get some nice pictures of them.

This week, when we arrived, there was easily five times more butterflies than there had been the week prior. It was an instance of standing with the camera in my hands, unsure where to point it first. We got some beautiful pictures, which I will organize here by species.

I haven't been putting this on my posts since I tend not to think of our photos as worthy of stealing, but I've had three people in the last week ask for prints of some of the photographs we've taken on our various excursions, so I kindly ask that anyone interested in using our photographs for personal use ask first. Chances are, I will say yes, so long as the person is willing to credit properly either Bobby or me. But if I find our photos in the wilds of the Internet, without permission and/or credit, I will not be a happy 'gund.

Tiger Swallowtail
These bright yellow-and-black butterflies are common in Maryland. With a wingspan that can reach six inches (15 cm), they are impressive indeed. They are not shy butterflies and I have successfully tamed them in the past to allow me to touch and move them while they feed.

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This one, taken by Bobby, is probably my favorite of the tiger swallowtail pictures. The detail and color are amazing and I love the view from the front as the butterfly feeds on the flower.

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Yellow-banded Skipper
I am not completely positive that this is the species represented in these pictures. It is the only species in my butterly field guide that resembles this butterfly, and as they are rather common, I have trouble believing that a book on North American butterflies could omit them. The problem is that all the pictures show them with open wings, and all my pictures show them with closed wings. But the description of the underwing seems to fit.

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Monarch
These large, well-known butterflies can be found in Maryland but are not as common as some of the swallowtails, which are similar in size. We were lucky that there was one monarch at the Lost Lake when we visited, and he was willing to pose for us!

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Buckeye
Until last week, I didn't even know that we had these in Maryland. They were on of my favorites as a child when I would peruse the field guide, so imagine my delight to see one in the flesh, at last! This week, there was only one on the flowers, and he was camera-shy. I did my best to get pictures of him, but unfortunately, I never got one with his wings opened, showing the beautiful blue-purple eyespots for which the species is named.

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Zabulon Skipper
Skippers are small butterflies with folded wings that are often mistaken for moths. This was the first time I had ever seen the Zabulon Skipper; I had to look it up in the field guide, but the wing patterns between my butterfly and the one in the book match exactly, making me quite certain that I have identified it properly.

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Spicebush Swallowtail
Spicebush swallowtails are as large and impressive as tiger swallowtails but not nearly as common. While initially unexciting when viewed at a distance, a closer look reveals a beautiful blue hindwing and intricate markings.

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And I have saved the spicebush swallowtail for last because this is my favorite photo of almost fifty that we took that day. Bobby took this one too.

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Ailanthus Webworm Moth
Not a butterfly, no, but this moth is quite spectacularly patterned.

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Still-Unidentified Dragonfly
My insect field guide doesn't identify this one. The closest I found was the green darner, but this one doesn't have a blue thorax and is too small.

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Following are general pictures of the butterfly flowers at the Lost Lake. Multiple species can be found in some of the pictures; others show the sheer volume of butterflies on these flowers.

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And my favorite from this batch, taken this time by me, looking up into a sky threatening storms, the light made the butterflies' wings translucent. And, yes, that is a bee in flight between flowers, not an airplane or a UFO!

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Because we went to the Lost Lake on a Friday afternoon (versus Sunday afternoon last week), we were the only ones there and got to explore the pond without interruption. We spent an easy half-hour, watching the butterflies and staring into the water. Here is the pond from the parking lot:

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And two ducks that followed me, hoping to be fed. Unfortunately for them, I was more preoccupied with the butterflies!

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When we were finished with the butterflies, we crossed the road to explore some of the trails. The first we walked was the Soapstone Trail, a short loop, half uphill and half downhill. We found lots of fungus, and Bobby had to endure me saying, "There's a fungus among us!" every time. Here are some pictures from the Soapstone Trail:

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The Soapstone Trail forked after the loop, and we could either continue on a spur also called the Soapstone Trail or do another loop called the Bull Run Trail. We opted for the Bull Run, since loops are always nice, as you get to enjoy twice the scenery than if you have to walk up and back the same trail. The Bull Run was quite a climb in the heat and took us to a swatch of field cleared for power lines. Up and up we went even further, now in the sunlight, getting our legs cut to pieces by these innocuous-looking heart-shaped plants that were loaded with tiny thorns. Just before emerging from the woods, Bobby caught a faceful of spiderweb and proceeded to have an arachnoleptic fit. I checked him and the spider (though he insisted that he saw it the split second before he caught a grill full of web) was nowhere to be found. He continued to twitch, and I offered to walk in the front, since I haven't walked through a big spiderweb in years. (How, you ask, when we hike at least once per week? Why, I always make Bobby walk first!) Just before emerging from the trees, we found where the spider had gone: In the curve of the bill of his baseball cap, some of the web had been caught and preserved without tearing, and there was a tiny spider in it. I cleaned it out for him with my hand. Little spiders don't bother me; it's the hand-sized ones that need to keep their distance!

As we climbed down the latter half of the Bull Run Trail, we passed a stump with an excellent example of the funnel spiderwebs that are so prevalent in this park for some reason.

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Unfortunately, this one was either unoccupied or the spider was shy. Even further down the hill, we caught sight of a white-tailed deer and heard more of her friends in the brush around us, but they refused to reveal themselves. Bobby got a spooky shot of her in the dusky forest with her eyes lit up by the flash.

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All told, we did 1.75 miles (2.8 km) of walking, a good bit of it uphill, despite the heat. We were ready for showers and dinner by the end of it, but we had a great time.
  • Hello, wandered by from Friends-of-Friends (I think our mutual friend is allie_meril) to say your pictures are fabulous! Thank you for posting them. It's just like being there (except cooler, and no spiders.)
    • Hello, it's nice to meet you! :) And you're quite welcome for posting the pictures; my husband and I are avid hikers and have also discovered a penchant for nature photography, so we look for every opportunity to practice (and show off!) our beginners' skills. :)

      As for the spiders, this park is full of the funnel-building spiders for some reason. All sorts of critters fascinate me, but I do prefer for the big spiders to keep their distance. ;)
  • Your self-proclaimed favorite and the last tiger swallowtail pictures look like they should be made into jigsaw puzzles! (I'd offer, but I a) can't use a jigsaw and b) it got stolen a few years ago)

    I think there was a tiger swallowtail living somewhere near our yard...not sure though. Looks to be the same, but I haven't seen it for awhile so my memory could be off.

    What level trails do you usually hike? I have no idea if the trail rating system is the same in MD as CO, but I'm curious. Reading your posts make me excited about going back to school. (Hopefully I won't have much homework on the weekends!)
    • (I'd offer, but I a) can't use a jigsaw and b) it got stolen a few years ago)

      I'm impressed that you even once owned a jigsaw! :^D

      My mom and mom-in-law have both asked to yoink those pictures to have framed; now you want to make them into puzzles...National Geographic, here we come! :^D

      (Seriously, thank you for flattering our beginning photographers' talents!)

      What level trails do you usually hike?

      Most of the trails in our area aren't rated. We also do a good deal of "unmaintained trails." We've done two parks this year that rate their trails. When we did the Big Tree Trail in El Yunque in Puerto Rico, that was rated "moderate." Judging by the way people were huffing and puffing going up the small hills, you would think they were climbing mountains, but Bobby and I found it quite easy.

      The Cliff Trail in the Catoctin Mountains was rated "difficult," and indeed, it was a lot of steep uphill climbing. Most of the trails we do locally are between the two in difficulty, about 25% to 33% uphill. When it's very hot, we hike along rivers because that's always flat and easy, though. ;)

      I would love to try the trails that you have out in Colorado. *is jealous* :)
      • I'm impressed that you even once owned a jigsaw! :^D

        It was my mom's technically, but...well, it gathered a lot of dust...Oops.

        National Geographic, here we come! :^D

        Maybe you should frame them and see if people will bid on them on ebay. I bet they would!

        (Seriously though, you're welcome!)

        I would love to try the trails that you have out in Colorado. *is jealous* :)

        Well, CSU is about an hour from the Denver airport, so...;) I don't know what the ratings of most of the trails are, but I remember that Horsetooth is moderate to difficult. It's got some bouldering at the end too, which is almost better than hiking! Anyways, just email before you come! ;)
        • Maybe you should frame them and see if people will bid on them on ebay. I bet they would!

          That's actually a really good idea! And I'm sure people would bid; I've seen people attempt to sell--and have bidders--for actual garbage. (One guy tried to sell his virginity, which is pretty funny, but eBay wouldn't allow it.) Maybe I should try to sell Finrod too? He can play music and delve caves *ahem* so I might fetch a decent price for him. (He also points out that he is drop-dead sexy. *rolls eyes*)

          Anyways, just email before you come! ;)

          If I was in the Colorado area, you'd be the first to know!
          • My favorite item I've seen auctioned is a picture of someones X-box. They wrote, "Notice! This is not what you think! It is just a picture!" And it was seriously a picture of his X-box. Some paid like $300 for it!!! lmao!!

            Yeah, you should sell Finrod. I won't bid on him, though! ;)
  • Beautiful, Dawn!
  • Beautiful pictures, wonderful butterflies! Your weekend sounds great, and I'd love to have a bit of heat back!!! I had a rainy weekend, cold and grey, and it left me with a cold, gee. It was spent finishing up my last writing job, cooking two nice meals with JMH and watching Buffy.
    • {{{{{Juno}}}}} Ick. Summer colds are just...ick.

      *sends hot soup and warm, comfy Elves*

      We had a wonderful--but busy--weekend. The hiking was the highlight for me (but it usually is. :^P) And the weather was fair, comparatively. At least the humidity is down a good bit.

      I hope that you feel better! *blows warm weather in the direction of Germany*
  • awesome pics:)
  • The pics are fabulous! Wheee! A monarch! It's nice to see that there are still some around. I haven't seen one yet this year.
    • Thank you! :)

      We usually don't get to many monarchs around here, yet I saw three just this weekend alone. Some summers, I see tons of a specific insect; other summers, I see none. I haven't seen a luna moth, though, in a few years now, and that makes me sad. (Those are my absolute, absolute favorites, but they're very delicate, so whenever certain pesticides are used on crops, there aren't too many to be seen that year. :( )
  • I totally love butterflies. Are those on the pics really that big or does it just look like that? Because over here, while we have many butterflies, they are not nearly as big. Maybe 10 cm. We also have swallow-tails though of a different kind but they're rare. I always tell my parents to plant one of these butterfly flowers in their garden, but they fear the cats would like it. ;) BTW, your favourite pics happen to be my favourites, too! I was like "Wow, that's a cool photo!" several times and then I found out that those were your favourites. :)

    Oh, and I finally got your postcard! It now has a place of honour near the library opening times on my kitchen cupboard. :)
    • Wow, that's a beautiful butterfly! Tiger swallowtails have a maximum wingspan of about 15 cm, so they get pretty large. The first picture is about the size of an average one, though.

      And yay for the postcard! I'm pleased to hear that it arrived; they have slowly begun straggling in the world over, it seems. :)
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