Winter Hiking

WhitesbogWe had a really cold weekend in New Jersey with single digit night-time temps and daytime temperatures hovering around 20 degrees F (-5 degrees C) and windy conditions that made it feel much, much colder.

Perfect for a winter hike!  Well, not really.  But I was feeling the need to be outdoors Sunday, so I headed to a favorite spot, Whitesbog, for a walk.

Whitesbog is a historic cranberry farm that is owned by the state but leased to a cranberry farmer.  Some areas are actively farmed, while others are slowly reverting back to their natural state and make great birding locations.   Unfortuntely, it was so cold and windy yesterday that very few birds were venturing out. 

WhitesbogMost of the bogs, which are flooded for the winter to protect the cranberry plants, are completely frozen over.  Sandy dirt roads course between the frozen bogs, great for hiking but leaving you completely exposed to the wind. There were very few areas with open water, essential for over-wintering ducks and swans. 

Ice covered leaves

The cold temperatures caused ice crystals to form on the leaves of this small shrub, which was growing near one of the few areas that had flowing water. 

Ice covered leaves

White-throated Sparrow

A few white-throated sparrows braved the temps to forage for seeds.  These little fellows over-winter in New Jersey and sing a sweet whistled song about their summer home – “Oh sweet Canada Canada Canada”.

British Soldier Lichens

British Soldier Lichen

Earlier this year I posted photographs of lichen I discovered while exploring the pine/oak forests around Whitesbog Village and learned that several of you have interest in them too.  Here is an example of a lichen pointed out during my field trip with the wonderful folks from Pineland Preservation Alliance , a British Soldier Lichen (Cladonia cristatella).   This attractive lichen is apparently pretty common in the pine barrens, though I must admit that before this field trip I had never once noticed it.  Perhaps the fact that this lichen only grows about 1 centimeter (about 1/2 inch) tall has something to do with my overlooking it, but you would think the bright red spore caps would have given it away.  This actually turned out to be a challenging subject to photograph.  I tried several shots hand-holding my camera, but was disappointed by the results.  I finally obtained reasonably focused results by spreading my tripod low to the ground like a giant spider and used a remote shutter release to minimize vibration to the camera.


Once home and reviewing my photos, I noticed an even smaller plant (maybe a lichen?) was growing among the British Soldier Lichen.  I’m still searching though my plant guide books in hopes of identifying this interesting little fellow.  Any thoughts?

Mini Assignment – Cropping

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 I’m not sure if I did this exactly as the mini-assignment intended, but these photos demonstrate how I often obtain photos of moving objects (like birds).  I spotted the Turkey Vulture soaring above the trees at Whitesbog and tried to guess where it might glide next.  Happily, I was positioned so that the trees made a perfect frame and, luckily, the Vulture decided to glide between them. 

I didn’t have a lot of time to frame the shot, so I centered the area between the trees and took the top photo.  Back home, I cropped the photo to obtain a nicely framed Turkey Vulture positioned near a Rule of Thirds sweet spot.  This is pretty typical example of how I photograph birds, particularly those in flight.  Let me know what you think.


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Lichens are incredible symbiotic organisms, composed of  fungi, algea, and cyanobacteria.  In lichen, the dominate partner is a fungus, unable to produce its own food, that has cultivated a relationship with food-producing algea and cyanobacteria.  There are thousands of species of lichen in a variety sizes, shapes, colors, and textures.  I find them facinating because they can grow in the most marginal of habitats, including bare stone, and make interesting photographic subjects.  I found these while hiking in Whitesbog.


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I took advantage of the beautiful weather and hiked through Whitesbog Village today.  Whitesbog is considered the birthplace of commercial cultivation of  blueberries and parts of this historic village have been restored, including several of the field worker’s houses.   These houses have white windows set in weathered cedar clapboard siding, and the sunny day allowed me to catch some wonderful reflections.