Sunflowers at McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area - 2015 / by Todd Henson

There's always something to smile about, even when surrounded by a field of drooping sunflowers.

There were a large number of bees and other insects feeding on the sunflowers.

Every year the folks who manage the McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Maryland plant fields of sunflowers for some of the local wildlife. This makes for a perfect photographic opportunity. Unfortunately, this year I think we showed up about a week later than we should have for peak bloom. Most of the field we visited was well past peak, with rows and rows of drooping, half eaten sunflowers. But we'd made the trip so we made the best of it. Despite the state of the sunflowers I had a great time. One thing I would do differently is to bring bug spray, this place can be full of biting insects. A good pair of water resistant boots might also be a good idea if there's been any rain, something we've had plenty of this year.

Sunflower just beginning to open.

A reasonably young sunflower.

Getting a little older.

A cooperative Blue Dasher dragonfly.

The majority of the field was past peak, but there were still a few standout sunflowers scattered around, and some that hadn't even opened yet. It was interesting to see the variety, though it did take a little walking to find young plants. Insects of all kinds, such as bees, were feeding off the sunflowers. And some insects, like dragonflies, were out hunting the other insects. There weren't as many dragonflies as you'd find in a wetlands park, but there still were quite a few. We watched and photographed a number of Blue Dashers and occasionally we found a beautiful green Common Pondhawk.

I love the green coloration of this Common Pondhawk dragonfly.

Male Goldfinch looking over the field of sunflowers.

And, of course, there were birds pulling out seeds from the older sunflowers. Goldfinch were everywhere, flying from sunflower to sunflower. They may be common, but they're beautiful birds. We were also on the lookout for Indigo Bunting. We didn't see a great number of these, but we tried to photograph the few we did see. And we saw a single Common Yellowthroat which almost seemed to be watching us, hopping from leaf to leaf, often hiding behind one before revealing itself again. I believe it was either a female or an adolescent male that hadn't yet taken on its distinctive coloration.

Male Goldfinch. This one was flying around with a female, also photographed.

Female Goldfinch. She was flying around with the male.

Indigo Bunting. These were very difficult to photograph, this was the only decent shot I made.

A Common Yellowthroat Warbler