Sunday, July 26, 2009

365 Theme 132: Growing

June 28th. A pair of coopers hawk chicks in their nest at the Rancocas Nature Center. Note the white feathers.

One of the chicks exercising its wings.

July 3rd. A week later and we start to see the brown streaks on the bird's breast and the brown feathers on the wings. Heads are still downy white.

There are actually three chicks. The nest must be getting a bit cramped.

July 19th. Two weeks later and the chicks are in their juvenile plumage, brown streaked beasts, brown wing feathers, and brown heads.

And they've begun "branching", wandering short distances out form the nest. It won't be long before they take flight.

The next time I visit I doubt they'll be there.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Of caterpillars. Brightly colored caterpillars such as these have evolved chemical and physical defenses to ward off predators. Grouping like this serves to reinforce the red and orange "Stay Away!" message. Bright species such as this (I think it is spotted datana, but I'm not certain) are in stark contrast to the many species which have evolved to blend into with their surroundings. Of course, those are much more difficult to find and photograph.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

365 Theme 103: Flowers

Deadly beauty. Drosera filiformis and Sarracenia purpurea respectively. The flowers of the plants featured in the previous two posts.
365 Theme 307: Stuck

Another carnivorous plant native to the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the thread leaved sundew, Drosera filiformis, which has trapped the Pines Barrens bluet, a damsel fly in distress. Sundews have drops of sticky fluid on there 'hairs' which attract and ensnare insects. As the insects struggle they come into contact with more and more of the sticky drops. And once the plant detects enough of the hairs being touched it will begin to curl around the trapped bug and slowly digest it.
365 Theme 199: No Exit

This is Sarracenia purpuurea. This pitcher plant is native to the New Jersey Pine Barrens. It is carnivorous. Insects are attracted to the color and scent, and and enter the pitcher. The lower portion of the pitcher if filled with liquid, water and digestive enzymes, and many insects get trapped there. The lower walls for the pitcher are very smooth and allow no purchase for insects to climb up and many exhaust themselves trying. But should they manage to scale the lower wall they are greeted by downward facing spines forming a formidable barrier on the upper wall. Thus once in, insects have a very difficult time getting out. And the plant, which grows in the nutrient pool soils of the Pine Barrens, absorbs the nutrients it needs by digesting those insects.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

365 Theme 186: Mismatched

My friend Joe and I, along with Joe's dog Holly, visited Whitesbog in the NJ Pinelands this weekend. And we found dozens of these 'baby' fowler's toads. They were hopping all about an abandoned cranberry bog we were exploring. And as you can see, the reddish-brown color makes them stand out against the typical pine barrens sand, to say nothing of the green foliage.

The mismatch of toad to environment is even more obvious in this image, where a reddish-brown morph is paired with a grey morph. You did see them both right? Now imagine instead of a friendly photographer I was a hungry great blue heron. Not so good for the red guy.

But maybe the heron wouldn't waste its time. This is me holding one of the toads while Joe snapped the picture. And despite toads hopping all about her, Holly paid them no attention at all.
365 Theme 84: Empty

I've occasionally come across these 'broken ping-pong balls' during my wanderings in the woods and always assumed they were some sort of trash. Bits of a plastic container ripped apart and discarded by a clueless fellow hiker.

It is a container. But it is not plastic. While waiting for the sun to set at a recent star watch, a naturalist at a local nature center drew our attention to a hole in the ground and several of these. Egg shells she pointed out. Turtle egg shells. She figured those to be snapping turtles. I don't know what once called this one home. They were long gone by the time I wandered by.

Do turtles have trash?
365 Theme 73: Cutlery

A rather impressive set of cutting instruments is sported by this six-spotted tiger beetle. Which, curiously enough, has eight spots. Larger version here.
365 Theme 171: Letters

A couple of B's.
365 Theme 273: Seeds

The remains of a dwarf dandelion flower. From a distance they look like little eyes on stalks.
365 Theme 226: Passion

Two slightly more mature slaty skimmers. If I'd not seen them together I would have assumed they were different species. The male is dark blue, almost black. The female colored similar to the juvenile in the previous post. Seems this is rather common among dragonflies. Curious.
365 Theme 335: Transparent

This young lady, a juvenile female slaty skimmer, was a very cooperative model. Most dragonflies are very skittish, flying away at the least movement of camera or photographer. But this one allowed me to move right in and get a number of shots.
365 Theme 144: Hats

It's what all the best dressed horses are wearing this year! And functional too. The rider explained that the hat keeps flies and other insects from biting the horse's ears. Anyone who has wandered in the NJ Pinelands in summer knows how bad the flies can get. I've had them attack my car, repeatedly slamming against the windows. So I can see why a horse would sport a hat like this. One of the horses in this group had full netting over its head and body. Fortunately the flies were not out as we and they traveled throughout Whitesbog.

Woka woka woka woka ... this game ate a lot of ghosts, and quarters, back in the day.

[I had a report from a fellow 365 challenger that she couldn't leave comments. So I've changed the comment option on my blog. If you'd like to leave comments but cannot please send me an email letting me know. There is an email link near my picture at the upper right. Thanks.]