Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

Last weekend, we visited the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Northern Virginia. Today, we returned! We saw some flowers that were either new or we just didn’t notice last time. And we finally saw some bright orange male Baltimore Orioles! And plenty of other birds!

We noticed a dragon in the fairy garden! It probably isn’t new.

We photographed these flowers last time for sure. But this seems to be a bigger patch!

What is this going to be when it opens?

These flowers are interesting. I don’t think we’ve noticed them before? They seem to have regular looking yellow petals but then some purple ones behind.

As usual, we saw Canada Geese. Some were eating grass like these two while others were swimming in the nearby pond.

When we photographed this bird, it appeared as a silhouette and seemed like it was a Red-Winged Blackbird. Its orange body color wasn’t visible until the photo was edited! It was a Baltimore Oriole! These two species are in the same family and other than color appear very similar.

These flowers seem to have inconsistent coloring! The petals are white, or purple, or somewhere in between.

This bright red male Northern Cardinal was very obvious, even in the shade.

We saw a few Eastern Bluebirds today, though they were always relatively far away.

We found a juvenile Eastern Bluebird! It briefly perched on the side of a tree trunk.

Another male Northern Cardinal. This one was perched on one of the signs that identifies a plant.

As we got closer to the ponds, we passed by these two nest boxes. Tree Swallows were at the entrances of both!

This Tree Swallow might be feeding its young? Or just taking a look inside to see how things are going?

At the other nest box, we noticed one Tree Swallow approach the other. They seemed to have a conversation! They ultimately swapped places.

Bees are pretty common here. We noticed this one quickly going from flower to flower, very briefly examining them before moving on. Maybe another bee was here already?

Just some pretty flowers…

Meow! A Gray Catbird. We noticed less of them today compared to last week

These three Barn Swallows were on the ground on a paved path next to the grass. They seem to like to do this here. We still don’t know why.

This is a different nest box from the two we saw earlier. The Tree Swallow standing at the entrance seems to be holding some nesting materials!

It stepped back a bit so it would have room to try to fly up into the entrance! This attempt was a failure.

The next try was good!

We saw the swallow fly down to a patch of dry grass to collect more! It then flew back with the newly collected grass. A second Tree Swallow landed atop the entrance while the first one was absent. Maybe these two are a pair?

As we continued walking, we spotted a Barn Swallow perched on a branch.

The Barn Swallow was pretty vocal!

We often here them chattering while they fly as well, though that’s not something we’ve ever been able to record on video.

We briefly spotted a Downy Woodpecker.

These flowers seem familiar. We probably saw them last week.

At some point, we noticed this Great Blue Heron land on the other side of the pond while we were at the gazebo over the water.

The feathers in the background are from the Canada Geese. It must be molting time for them here.

It soon walked closer to the water’s edge but didn’t go any closer. It opened its wings a bit. Was it warming them up or drying them in the sun?

Soon, we saw a different heron species. This Green Heron flew across the pond and landed on a tree.

It perched on a branch for awhile. A nearby Red-Winged Blackbird seemed to be closely monitoring it.

This seems to be an Eastern Phoebe, a type of flycatcher.

These flowers come in a variety of colors.

Another nest box, another species! This one is a House Wren!

There seemed to be at least two of them. We watched them for a little while.

While watching the wrens, we noticed this oriole nest near the top of a very big and tall tree. When taking this photo, we didn’t notice the male Baltimore Oriole atop the nest! The tree was right above the Toddler’s Tea Garden. This area seemed to be popular with the orioles last year. And last week seemed to be the same.

Soon, we found another male Baltimore Oriole high up above us. So orange! We also saw one fly into some tallish grass nearby.

While trying to find more orioles, we found this American Goldfinch. We haven’t seen very many of them at home this year.

We also saw a Tree Swallow looking very pretty in the sun!

Eventually, while on the path next to the Toddler’s Tea Garden, we found a nest that was closer to the ground. We actually saw a male Baltimore Oriole standing at the nest opening on top but weren’t quick enough to photograph it before it flew off.

We waited awhile to see if the oriole would return. Maybe 10 minutes or so later, we saw one nearby. It was holding a bug in its mouth on a nearby branch. Would it go to the nest?

It did! Unfortunately, we weren’t at quite the right spot and some leaves blocked the view a bit.

There is no way to see the actual feeding unless one of the chicks pops its head out of the nest. The oriole soon flew away.

And then, he returned again!

He seemed to stick his head into the nest for awhile.

He came back out with a poop sac in his mouth!

Baby birds defecate these sacs so that a parent can carry them away from the nest. The adult bird flies away with it and drops it somewhere. We’ve seen other species do this.

We left after seeing the male Baltimore Oriole fly away yet again. It was lunch time! The last photos we took during our visit were of this Eastern Bluebird that was near the entrance.

Normally, we include a map of our photos. But I forgot my phone in the car so we didn’t have a log of coordinates to tag the photos with.

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