The Rt. 539 Painted Rock

Rt. 539 in Ocean County, New Jersey
Rt. 539 in Lacey Township, New Jersey

There’s a very large and somewhat famous rock sitting in the Pine Barrens, next to County Route 539 in Lacey Township, New Jersey.  According to local lore, the rock was left behind by a truck driver who had it off-loaded to fix a flat tire.  Over the years, the rock was painted with a number of designs and became known as (sorry about this) the “Painted Rock”.  Ba-dump-bump.

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Shortly after the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11, a local artist began painting the rock with a stars and stripes pattern.  Since then, it has become something of a shrine and attempts to paint it with other designs have always resulting in re-painting with the stars and stripes seen in my photo.

While I appreciate the patriotic zeal that has kept the rock painted with the stars and stripes, I do miss the more whimsical designs from the past.  You can read more about the history of the Painted Rock and see some of the early designs here .

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Katydid

20160823_072144I love listening to katydids during warm summer evenings.  In my suburban neighborhood, they are one of the few night-singing insects that seems to thrive.  I took this phone-camera photo one morning as I was headed out to work.  This is the first year I had tried to raise roses, so I paused for a moment to admire my handwork and noticed this fellow hanging out on a flower.

Birding Again

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American Bittern

I really enjoy birding (or bird watching, if you like that term better).  However, I had very little spare time to get outdoors and bird while I was completing my master’s degree.  That changed a couple weeks ago and I took my first opportunity to visit a favorite spot – Edwin Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.  The Refuge includes an eight mile wildlife drive that, sadly, was mostly closed for repairs.  However, there were still some really good birds along the parts that were open, including this very cooperative American Bittern.

 

 

 

 

Life Gets Busy – Sometimes

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Happy New Year’s Eve!  It has been a few months since my last post and, yep, it has been busy.  But I am missing my blog and that’s probably a good thing.  As I make up the list of stuff I want to change for 2016, being here a bit more ranks very high.

Here’s a shot of one of my favorite lighthouses – Barnegat Light.  I was there a few days ago with a group of friends, birding along the bay.  The weather patterns of the past few weeks have been very unusual, unusually warm, and the “regular” winter birds were not there in the number or variety that we anticipated. Still, it was a very good day – a bad day of birding is better than a good day at work!

I will get deeper into the reasons for my absence in following posts.  Until then – I hope you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

NJ Pine Barrens Flowers

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Pine Barren or Golden Heather

I was fortunate enough to spend some time last weekend birding in the NJ Pine Barrens and several of the spring flowers in were full bloom.  This beautiful golden flower is known as Pine Barren Heather or Golden Health (Hudsonia ericoides).  Pine Barren Heather is a small shrub which grows in dry open sandy areas throughout the pine barrens and several plants were in full bloom last weekend.

Sand Myrtle
Sand Myrtle

Sand Myrtle is another low flowering shrub that grows in sandy patches, but prefers wet areas over dry.  Even though it has been a relatively dry spring, these lovely white-flowered shrubs were blooming in many of low wet areas I walked through this weekend.

I hope you enjoy the flowers….I took the photos with my cell phone as I walked from spot to spot during one of my bird surveys for the New Jersey Audubon.

Until next time….

Greg

 

 

 

 

 

Cranberry Glades

A few weeks ago I published a rememberance of family vacations spent at Cranberry Glades.  Shortly after writing that article, my wife and I had the great fortune of visiting my childhood home.  On the way back to New Jersey, we stopped by Cranberry Glades for a quick hike.  The Glades were already boasting their fall colors under blue skies.  The temperature was perfect – what a beautiful place.

At about 750 acres, the Cranberry Glades are the largest area of bogs in West Virginia.   This unique ecosystem, which consists of 5 bogs, was preserved by the U.S. Forest Service in 1965 and protects over 60 species of plants, most of which are usually only found much farther north.  The gladed land is highly acidic and supports cranberries, skunk cabbage, sphagnum moss, and two types of carnivorous plants (purple pitcher plants and sundews).

A half-mile boardwalk traces along the edge of two bogs and through a small wooded area, giving you the opportunity to experience and enjoy this remarkable and ecologically-sensitive area.  I especially enjoy the boardwalk – slowly walking through the Glades, stopping here and there to enjoy an unusual plant or snap a photo.

Not far from the boardwalk, you can visit the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center.  Open from April through November, the Center has an exhibit hall and audio visual programs which provide interpretation of forest ecosystems and local history.  You will informational brochures and maps and, if you’re like me, a nature book or two to add to your library.

After so many years away, it was invigorating to re-visit one of my childhood stomping grounds.  I highly recommend the experience for everyone!

Marsh Birding

 

Wet areas like marshes and swamps are extremely productive for a variety of plants and animals, especially birds.  Many species of birds live out their entire lives near these wet areas.  Here is a juvenile Black-crowned night-heron which, according to Cornell University’s All About Birds website, is one of the most wide spread species in the world.  According to Cornell,  “With a range that spans five continents, including much of North America, the Black-crowned Night-Heron is the most widespread heron in the world. It is most active at dusk and at night, feeding in the same areas that other heron species frequent during the day.”

This young fellow simply stood on the mudflat and watched me as I took several photos.  He didn’t seem at all preturbed by my presence or any of the dozens of cars which drove by while I observed him.

Double-crested cormorant is another common species along the New Jersey shore.  These birds are experts at fishing but must leave the water periodically to allow their feathers to dry.  Unlike most other water fowl, their feathers lack the natural oils that would help keep them afloat.   As they remain in the water, they slowly become less bouyant and will gradually begin to sink.  You can tell how long a cormorant has been fishing by how much of his body remains above the water’s surface.  Looks like these two were just getting started.

Clapper rails are very secretive bird and are much more often heard than seen.  However, at low tide , you might get lucky enough to find one foraging along the water’s edge – like this fellow.  The body of Clappers, like many of the rails, are laterally compressed  so that they appear very thin for their height.  Ever heard the saying “thin as a rail”? 

This bird hung out for quite some time along the water’s edge and allowed me to capture this image.  All together, a pretty neat day in the marsh!