Great Blue Heron. Photo by Kellen McCluskey.

Thursday, November 11

Join Saturday's Reception for Artist

Liz Donadio

Since the summer of 2019, Baltimore photographer Liz Donadio has been working at the Arboretum as an artist-in-residence, creating a visual study of its ecology and landscape over time and throughout the changing seasons. On view through December 23, her show, On Site, explores the ways that alternative and camera-less processes can be combined with digital techniques to create multifaceted images of leaves, butterfly wings, and a host of natural materials. Saturated with rich, subtle colors and delicately nuanced details, these images are unpredictable and mysterious, much like the natural world itself.

Join us Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. for a reception to meet the artist and learn about her work.

Liz Donadio, "Dicksonia"

Native Plants as Craft

In a unique collaboration between Adkins Arboretum and the Washington College Food Initiative, the Indigenous Peoples' Perspective Project launched earlier this year explores the importance of more than 20 native plants to the food, craftwork, and medicinal traditions of indigenous peoples of the Chesapeake region. The project seeks to encourage a paradigm shift from land as capital to land as sacred teacher, healer, and sustainer.

We'll be releasing a series of videos created by the WCFI's Shane Brill over the next few weeks. The first, linked below, explores the practical ways in which indigenous peoples used native plants.


Yarnstorming returns! In partnership with the Fiber Arts Center of the Eastern Shore, the Arboretum will host its third annual Yarnstorming event in 2022. 

Also known as yarn bombing or graffiti knitting, this fun artform uses colorful yarn instead of paint or chalk. Knitters and crocheters are invited to cozy up to an Arboretum tree with their creations. 

The Yarnstorming exhibit will be on display March 6 through April 3, with a reception planned for March 13. Click here to learn more, to register, and for photos from the 2021 exhibit.

Photo by Kellen McCluskey

Nature Notes

The age of exploration is seven and three hard frosts. Three hard frosts is the number I deem necessary to make off-path trekking—with all its ticks, chiggers, and poison ivy—an acceptable risk for my seven-year-old and me. By mid- to late November, poison ivy leaves have gone from alarm red to nearly absent, and the insect population has diminished with the temperature.

We begin by following deer paths. Prickly greenbrier snags our coats, but we are undeterred. This time of year, we can smell the deer: bucks in the rut leave a musty odor that my daughter finds alarming. "Maybe we should try another way?" she suggests, eyeing a tree trunk where the bark has been rubbed away by antlers.

We climb over a log that's rimmed with toadstools, circle around two young river birches bravely shrugging off cloaks of bittersweet, and end up by a narrow stream. The stream's edge—a wet mix of gravel and mud—bears a busy collage of raccoon prints. Raccoons spend much of the winter in their dens but are not hibernators like the frogs, crayfish, and insects that they eat. Winter is a lean time for many animals, and the omnivore's diet by necessity shifts to nuts and seeds, dried berries, stalks, and leaves.

We scramble up the steep stream bank. In the nine years since I've lived near these woods, the rapid erosion of this stream has boggled me; what was a slight rise is now an eight-foot ascent. Midway up, we check the opening to a den. Fox or groundhog? Maybe the raccoon? My dog sticks her nose in and backs off quickly.

The setting sun edges the understory in sugar-maple scarlet. "Time to go home," I say. My daughter complains that I am not the explorer she is. I hold off on sharing all the reasons: dinner to make, older children waiting, the worry that the dog will not come back. Instead, I tell her a different truth: "One day, I hope you'll go places that I have only dreamed of."

Words and photos by Jenny Houghton

Assistant Director

Adkins Bird Calls

On a recent quiet Sunday morning, I visited Adkins to do my homework assignment for Assistant Director Jenny Houghton's "Reading the Landscape: The Art of Wildlife Tracking" class. While reading, I also paid attention to the birds. At this time of year, few birds are singing, but many are giving call notes. Birds sing mainly to proclaim territory, attract a mate, or join in the Dawn Chorus.

I heard three birds singing: the Carolina Wren, the Northern Mockingbird, and the White-throated Sparrow. The first two are claiming territory. With the Mockingbird, this territory in the fall and winter is usually a prime source of food, like a luscious berry-laden holly tree. I could find no explanation why the White-throated Sparrow sings when it visits us during the winter. I heard call notes from Yellow-rumped Warblers, Bluebirds, Goldfinches, Eastern Phoebe, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Common Yellowthroat, Catbird, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Northern Mockingbird. Photo by Kellen McCluskey.

I don’t believe that I have ever given definitions for 'bird song' or 'call notes.' A couple of years ago I did some research about these definitions, and this is what I learned.

Bird Song: Defining 'bird song' is like defining how many angels can sing on the head of a pin. I found a scholarly article discussing bird song, and it said this:

"Unrecognized different definitions for the same term can produce confusion among workers in a field. A review of over 80 definitions of bird song shows little agreement as to what defines bird song or differentiates it from calls."

I did not review all 80 definitions, but I did find one that I liked: "Bird Song is usually a complex auditory signal that is musical or songlike to our ears."

Call Notes: "Calls are usually simple in structure, and most are given in response to specific stimuli. Call notes are normally short such as alarm calls, flocking calls, feeding calls, contact calls, begging calls, aggressive calls, flight calls, and many others."

Because of the few numbers of birds singing now, learning their songs is an easy task. Learning call notes is more difficult but some are distinctive. For example, the Bluebird call note can be defined as a low pitched, slurred 3 syllables: tu-a-roo. Download the free Audubon Field Guide for your Android or iPhone and practice listening to them. Cornell and Audubon have excellent online field guides that give a large variety of songs and call notes for the bird you select.

With a little practice, I believe that you can learn the call notes of the common birds and enrich your visit to Adkins.

Please contact me with questions at

Jeobirdy Answer: This is the approximate percentage of female songbirds that sing.

Jeobirdy Question: What is 71%? We typically believe that only male birds sing but science is finding out that this is totally wrong. This website is devoted to female birds that sing.

by Jim Wilson

Birder/Arboretum volunteer

Upcoming Programs

Open Botanical Art Studio

Friday, November 12

10 a.m.–1 p.m.

Join Anna Harding for individual instruction and critique, then learn about a new concept, technique, or plant species. Based on that topic, a project that will be due and discussed at the next month's workshop will be assigned. Through this process, participants will work to enhance their skills and to develop the incentive to work independently.

Smoothie 'n Walk

Saturday, November 20

11 a.m.–1 p.m.

Hunt like the squirrels do for acorns, nuts, seeds, and nutritious berries on a walk to check out the trees and shrubs that produce some of these delicacies. Afterward, convene in the Pavilion for a delicious light repast.

A Longwood Christmas bus trip

Monday, December 6

noon–9 p.m.

Warmth and cheer are here! From towering trees to thousands upon thousands of twinkling lights, A Longwood Christmas will make your holidays merry and bright. This trip is usually a sell-out; be sure to register early.

Photo by Kellen McCluskey



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