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Photo by Kellen McCluskey

Thursday, June 16

Program & Event News

A robust slate of offerings is planned for the latter half of the year! Perennial favorites like Shore Shakespeare (September 3 & 4), Fairyfest (October 1), and Beer Garden (October 22 with local favorites Dell Foxx Company) return, along with a new event—a concert by Session Americana on September 11. 

Registration is up and running for Acorn Academy Nature Preschool and two different science programs for homeschool students. We're still in the process of putting new programs online, so check back regularly to see what's new.

Keep in mind (and share with friends and family!) that admission is FREE for residents of Caroline County in 2022, thanks to a generous grant from the Caroline Foundation! We're also offering free memberships for Caroline residents who receive SNAP benefits or who identify as low income. Simply join online (select the Caroline Membership option), inquire at the front desk, or give us a call at 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

From warm summer strolls to brilliant fall hikes to crisp wintry walks—there are so many ways to experience the Arboretum this year. We hope to see you here.

Photo by Kellen McCluskey

Thank You!

Thanks to all who participated in last week's Forest Music event! While last-minute scheduling changes and COVID concerns meant that fewer musicians than usual performed in the Arboretum forest, piano apprentice Yue Wang and Blue Iron Percussion duo Diana Loomer and Morgan Tao delivered powerhouse performances to a wonderful and appreciative crowd.

Offered in partnership with Chestertown's National Music Festival, Forest Music was launched in 2014 to invite the public to experience the natural pairing of music and nature. Continuing through June 18, the Festival brings together inspiring mentors and the next generation of gifted musicians, providing education, scholarships, and affordable, adventurous public performances. Ticketed performances and free open rehearsals are presented in and around Chestertown for the duration of the Festival. Click here for more information and schedules.

Photos by Kellen McCluskey

Damselflies & Dragonflies

John Gillespie, a retired professor of evolution, spotted a super-rare Delta-spotted Spiketail dragonfly on the Tuckahoe Valley Trail earlier this week. The Arboretum streams and wetland host a huge number of dragonfly and damselfly species. They're beautiful creatures with complex behaviors, and it's all on display if you take the time to look.

A wealth of information on these amazing creatures, John will present a Damselflies & Dragonflies program next Saturday, June 25. Join him for this indoor/outdoor program to learn about the local species and see who's flying about.

The program is free for members and $5 for non-members, which includes Arboretum admission. In case of rain, the program will be rescheduled for July 2. Click here to register.

Photo courtesy of John Gillespie

Blue Birds & Blue Roses

Kathleen and I headed to Adkins on Friday morning, June 10. I told her that I wanted to write about blue birds that I would find at Adkins and where they could be found. Naturally, she correctly interpreted my intended search for blue birds as Bluebirds. I should have said that I wanted to write about birds that are blue.

Capitalization Note: Many sources capitalize the names of birds to differentiate between a blue bird and a Bluebird or a blue jay and a Blue Jay. Many sources do not bother. I capitalize the names of birds.

At this time of year, Adkins has four birds with varying shades of blue: Eastern Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, and Blue-headed Vireo. The Blue-headed Vireo is definitely not as blue as the others. It has a bluish head, and that's it. You can identify this bird by its song: here I am, look up here, don't miss me, over here...with definite pauses between each phrase.

Blue-headed Vireo. Flickr photo courtesy of Kelly Colgar Azar

I have written about the Eastern Bluebird before, so I will not cover it again. You can read more about them here

During my weekly spring bird walks, I almost always heard and saw Blue Grosbeaks from the Adkins parking lot or walking around the meadows. They favor tangled vines and a shrub habitat. On my recent walk, not a one. They are probably too busy feeding young. Their song is the easiest way to track them down. Listen for a pleasant jumble of notes that lasts for two or three seconds. They also have a distinctive, metallic "chink" call note. Listen here. The males and females are strongly sexually dimorphic (i.e., the plumage is different). They spend our winters in southern Mexico and Central America.

Male and female Blue Grosbeak. Photo courtesy of Birdwatching HQ.

Even though it has the name "grosbeak," or "large billed," it is not closely related to other birds that have "grosbeak" as part of their name. In fact, it is more closely related to buntings, including the Indigo Bunting.

I found numerous Indigo Buntings during my bird walk around the Adkins meadows. They prefer the weedy edge habitat of woods and fields. They are easy to find because they sing often and through most of the summer, and they sing from exposed perches. Their song is in pairs and is thin and high pitched. The mnemonic I use to describe it is: fire fire where where here here hurry hurry. Indigo Buntings learn their songs as youngsters, from nearby males but not from their fathers.

Male Indigo Bunting (left) courtesy of Flickr user John Flannery.

Female (right) courtesy of Houston Audubon, Greg Lavaty.

The male Indigo Bunting rivals the Bluebird for blueness. Their blue startles the observer when they get a good look at one perched in the sun. In contrast, their bill appears whitish. The female builds the nest, usually within a yard of the ground. The male watches over her, probably to make sure no other male sneaks in to spread his genes. She will have one to three broods. They eat seeds, insects, tree buds, and berries. Their varied diet probably accounts for their large numbers. 

The Indigo Bunting is a long-distance nighttime migrant, spending winters in the Caribbean, southern Mexico, and Central and northern South America. Using Indigo Buntings, scientists cracked one of the mysteries of bird migration. In one of the most famous bird migration studies, ornithologist Stephen Emlen published a study in 1967 of how Indigo Buntings learn to navigate at night by using stars.

Which brings me to my fruitless search (and I knew it would be fruitless) for a blue rose at Adkins. (Note: The blue pigment is rare in nature and does not exist in flowers. The search for the mythical blue rose has a long history, and modern science has been trying to produce one, with no success, for decades). There are no blue roses, just as there are no blue birds. Every time I called a bird blue was a lie.

This is the best explanation that I could find: "Unlike many other bird colors, blue is not a pigment but a color produced by the structure of the feathers. Tiny air pockets and melanin pigment crystals in each feather scatter blue light and absorb the other wavelengths. The even finer structure of the feather gathers the bouncing blue wavelengths together and directs them outward." Got that?? Read here for a more detailed explanation. The beautiful blue of Indigo Buntings, Bluebirds, Blue Grosbeaks, etc. that dazzles the eye of the beholder is trickery, trickery, trickery. If you grind up the blue feathers, the result is brown. For me, the bigger question is why nature goes to such great lengths to create a "blue" color.

Please contact me at with any questions.

Jeobirdy Answer: This is the name of the Adkins course for kids (ages 8 and up) that will discuss the raptors in our area, what they eat, how they raise their young, and how they capture their prey. It will be taught on Saturdays, August 20 and 27, 10 a.m.–noon. 

Jeobirdy Question: What is Rapturous Raptors? Register here.


Summer Wildlife Walk

Sunday, June 26

First Saturday Guided Walk

Saturday, July 2

Reception for artist Anna Harding

Saturday, July 9

Yarning at the Arboretum

Wednesday, July 13

Ordering begins for the Fall Native Plant Sale 

Thursday, July 21

Wild Foods Forest Walk

Sunday, July 24

River-Friendly Yards

Friday, August 5


Saturday, August 20

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