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!

Busy, Busy Summer and a Swollen Bladderwort

Summer has been speeding along for me and it seems that I have had time for everything but blogging.  I have a backlog of photos to share, though, and I offer this interesting flowering plant today – the Swollen Baldderwort (Utricularia inflata).

Bladderworts are carnivorous herbs which feed on small aquatic animals and grow without roots in water or wet sands.  You may recall from my earlier posts that I am in the very early stages of learning about the plant (and especially the wildflowers) of the New Jersey pine barrens.  There are several examples of bladderworts which occur in the pine barrens and I found this one in a couple locations, Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area and Allaire State Park.

I hope you find the Swollen Bladderwort as facinating as I do and thank you for your patience as I gradually catch up on my postings.

One final comment for tonight.  Thank you very much to the reader who provided me with the correct name for the “Redbuds” shown in an earlier posts.  I now know that these are the flowers of the Red Maple (Acer rubrum).  Thank you!!!

Flowers of the Pine Barrens – Leatherleaf

Leatherleaf

Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) is in full bloom now, an early Spring flower in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens.  Also known as Cassandra, you can find this low growing shrub growing along ponds, bogs, and slow moving streams.

Leatherleaf grows in large colonies and produces rows of small. white, bell-shaped flowers.  Out hiking this weekend, I found these flowers in three different locations.

The Pine Barrens are off to a beautiful start this year and, with the help of Howard Boyd’s Flowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, I hope to find (and photograph) several other flowers this Spring.

Spring in the New Jersey Pine Barrens

Redbuds

Spring has arrived in New Jersey and, with it, a renewed interest in all things outdoors.   Around this time last  year, my wife and I were touring through South Africa on our trip of a lifetime.   We had an amazing adventure and, a year later, I find myself thinking often of the places we visited and people we met along the way.  Unfortunately, I developed a Morton’s neuroma in my right foot shortly after returning home and, along with it, burning and shooting pain that made hiking and bird watching (two of my favorite activities) nearly impossible.  After several months of treatments, though, the pain has lessened and I am eagerly returning to my outdoor pursuits.  A walk though the New Jersey Pine Barrens feels like a visit with a dear old friend – you don’t really know how much you love something until it is taken away.

A few month’s ago I picked up a copy of Howard P. Boyd’s Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.  Over the last few years I have been slowly developing an interest in improving my plant indentification skills and figured that starting with flowers is as good a place as any to start.  Boyd’s book arranges flowering plants by season, so a newbie like me has some idea of what to expect as I venture out.  The weather forecast was not promising yesterday, so I opted to visit a couple places I had gone to before as part of field trips.

A field of flowers

My first stop was a place I blogged about back in April, 2010 for another look at Conrad’s Broom-Crowberry (Corema conradii).  First up in Boyd’s book, this low-growing shrub produces small flowers at the tips its gnarled branches.  Plants produce either male or female flowers and photographing them means lying flat on the ground and straining to get a good look through the camera’s eyepiece.

And there they are – beautiful tiny purple-red flowers at the tips of each branch.  Broom-crowberry is listed as an endangered plant in New Jersey, growing only in a small, restricted area of the pine plains.

New Jersey's Pygmy Forest

My next stop was the Pygmy Forest, a globally rare stunted forest ecosystem.  At maturity, this pine and oak forest reaches heights of only 4 to 5 feet –  I am standing in front of a mature, fully grown forest in this photo.  Amazing New Jersey.

Walking back to the car, I noticed rustling in the leaves just off the trail.  Hoping that it wasn’t a snake (though it would have made a good photo), I carefully approached the rustling sound and discovered a pair of eastern fence lizards locked in a passionate embrace.  When mating, the male fence lizard grasps his mate’s neck with his mouth (you can see him biting and holding onto her neck in this photo).  If their mating is successful, she will lay about 15 eggs which will hatch this fall.

I visited a few other places before the rains came and I heading home.   It felt great to get out and about and to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Pine Barrens again.  I can’t wait to do more!