Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

Yesterday, there was a significant chance of rain all day. Today was looking worse with thunderstorms in the afternoon. But, things started clearing up before noon and the updated forecast was for overcast skies but little chance of rain. So, we decided to head to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Virginia! We visited for the first time last week and noticed a likely oriole nest so wanted to check it out again.

We decided to walk a similar route to what we did last week but in the opposite direction. We started out hoping to once again find orioles near the greenhouse by the entrance.

We indeed found an oriole! However, we were hoping for a Baltimore Oriole but got an Orchard Oriole instead. He hung around for awhile, flying from place to place in the immediate area before ultimately flying out of sight.

As we walked away, we caught sight of this male Eastern Bluebird! His blue color was quite bold and beautiful against the shaded leafy backdrop.

This little area just beyond the greenhouse has quite a few flowers, though most were not in bloom. We continued on towards where we saw the likely oriole nest last week, next to one of the ponds in the middle of the park.

We did locate the nest but it was empty. The occupants clearly had fledged. Instead, on the same tree, we saw this bird. At first, we thought it was an adult Northern Rough-Winged Swallow based on the white underside and gray top. But upon closer examination after returning home, this is a fledgling Tree Swallow! This is the first time we’ve been able to identify this species!

This particular bird did seem to beg for food when I first saw it, however, it didn’t do it again so I initially thought I mistook some other behavior. It did also do a bit of wing flapping while staying put which is something we’ve observed fledglings of various species doing.

Where there are fledglings, there are adults! Here, the bird on the left is a fledgling Tree Swallow while the one to the right is an adult!

At the time, we failed to identify all the adult Tree Swallows that we saw flying around as well as perched in various places. We noticed they were extremely blue but thought maybe it was just the very bright sunlight hitting the feathers of Barn Swallows. These are definitely Tree Swallows though! They are incredibly blue!

This is the only landscape photo that we took. Quite pretty!

This American Robin seemed like it might be an Orchard Oriole as it was flying to this branch. But alas, it was not.

While walking across a small bridge, we noticed this female Red-Winged Blackbird standing on a lotus leaf! She stood there for a long time and was preening her feathers. She also seemed to hold her mouth open. We did not hear any sound. We’ve seen birds pant when hot. Not sure if that is what she was doing or if there was sound that we couldn’t hear.

While continuing on our way around the pond, we came across this male Orchard Oriole! He has some sort of dead insect in his mouth as well as an unknown white substance.

He then flew to a small tree where there was a nest! The leaves were unfortunately in the way but he appeared to be feeding his chicks!

We walked around the nest trying to get a better vantage point. The nest is by a hill and the best view was from high up on the hill. It allowed us to see the small circular opening at the very top of the nest. Unfortunately, there was no way to see how many chicks were inside!

We also saw this female Orchard Oriole in the trees some distance away. We’re not sure if she is the mother of the nest that we were looking at. She did not approach. It’s possible she was waiting for us to leave or this isn’t her nest.

After leaving the nest, we came across this Eastern Kingbird. We saw one last week from very far away. This is our fourth time seeing this species.

We were a bit surprised to come across some cacti! Many of them had bright yellow flowers!

There were some other flowers in the area as well, one of which we photographed. It turned out that the path we were on was headed back to the entrance so we turned around and backtracked.

Upon returning to the Orchard Oriole nest, we saw the male Orchard Oriole with head stuck down into the nest and tail sticking straight up! He must have been feeding the chicks again!

After heading in the correct direction to circle around the ponds, we noticed a bright orange ball near the top of a very tall tree in the distance. What was it? A flower? Could it be a male Baltimore Oriole?

It was absolutely a male Baltimore Oriole! The second one we’ve ever seen! He was busy preening his feathers.

As we continued around the ponds, we noticed these plants near a bench where we sat. Quite pretty!

The birds and the bees… Here is a bee, one of many!

As we continued past the final pond, we noticed some water lilies with flowers.

We also came across this picturesque scene! These turtles were sunning themselves on a log. We saw many more swimming in the ponds and enjoying the sun while standing on various things.

Upon reaching the forested area near where we started, we came across this adult Eastern Bluebird pair! They made a few hunting attempts but mostly seemed to stay perched up in the trees.

This Eastern Wood-Pewee was perched on the same tree as the Eastern Bluebirds when we initially saw them. It seemed to be content to mostly stay up high and seemed to be singing single notes or perhaps calling out. At one point, one of the Eastern Bluebirds chased it off of the tree!

We came across this Great Crested Flycatcher as we returned to the entrance. We only saw it for a moment.

A few minutes later, we saw a male Baltimore Oriole while we were sitting on a bench by the visitor center. It was pretty close to us but we completely failed at getting a photograph. We tried to track him after he flew away but were not able to.

Some more flowers that we photographed while walking through the gardens. There is quite a variety of flora in the park!

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