Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Harbinger

Howard Boyd, naturalist extraordinaire of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, has Conrad's Broom-Crowberry (Corema conradii)  as the first plant listed in his wonderful little book, Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Plants are listed in the order they bloom throughout the year, thus Broom-Crowberry is the first to bloom, starting in mid-March. And it was this plant which was the focus of the first Pinelands Preservation Alliance field trip of the year. Given the winter we had here in New Jersey, with record breaking snows and more recently flooding rains, there were plenty of people who wanted to go and see plants blooming, any plants blooming, just be outdoors again.

I was one of those people. (It helps that I'm a neophyte plant geek as well.) There were thirty or so others like me. Helped no doubt by the wonderful first weekend of spring.

*****

Here is Broom-Crowberry in flower.



It is a lovely little purple flower, emphasis on "little".




But where it grows there is quite a bit of it, making it up in volume.




My friend Laura at Somewhere in NJ has written eloquently on confusing what normal people mean by the word "flower" with what plant geeks mean. This is what cabin fever will drive one to, traipsing around the pine plains looking at tiny little flowers.

*****

The Pinelands, like the Everglades, has a subtle beauty, grounded in its uniqueness, which I find hard to capture in photographs. But one that draws me back time and time again. Broom-Crowberry is one of those unique things, albeit definitely an acquired taste.



Photograph by Laura Hardy

I'll leave you with an image of yours truly, neophyte plant geek, engrossed in photographing this curious plant using a marco lens attached to a tripod mounted camera (can't you see?). Working very hard to get close enough to get a useful shot. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Clockwork



What a difference a day makes. Note the relative position of the the Moon and Venus in the image above (click on the image to bigafy, Venus is at the lower left, just above the trees) versus the those yesterday. The crescent is also significantly larger.

The Moon moves approximately its diameter, half a degree, against the background stars per hour. I a day it moves about 13 degrees against the background stars. A motion I suspect most people don't notice at all.

But then, other than when full, I suspect most people don't notice the Moon at all. And that saddens me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Young Moon

My friend Joe sent an email to our astronomy club e-group this afternoon, alerting us that the thinnest wisp of the Moon would be visible in the evening twilight. So after work I headed to a local park to try and spot it. I did.


The Moon was 26 hours and 27 minutes old when I clicked the shutter for this image. The third youngest moon I've seen (and photographed). It was surprisingly easy to see in the civil twilight sky.

Click the image (and any other of the images on this blog) to bigafy. You'll see Venus in the upper left and the wisp of the moon at the middle right. This is what it looked like in the field.



Lookout! An airplane notices it at the last minute and veers to miss. That was close.




The minutes ticked away. The Moon sank toward the horizon. The skies darkened. Slowly the earthshine illuminated the lunar globe.

Alas, this is the last image I took, as the park staff came and chased me out as they were closing.

Sunday, March 14, 2010



It was a rather craptastic weekend, with heavy rain and winds. But we still found a way to have fun.


A "superb monotony of sawgrass under the world of air."
- Marjory Stoneman Douglas, The Everglades, River of Grass


The initial attraction of the Everglades for most I suspect is the wildlife. It certainly was for me. There is certainly no "in your face" magnificence to the landscape as there is out west.

I've visited every February for the past six years. And each time I drive in and see the saw grass prairie stretch out to the horizon I feel a curious joy. I smile. I'm very happy. I'm here and it is good. And I'm not really sure why, nor how to really describe the feeling. (I'm smiling just thinking of it.)

There is a subtle beauty in the wide expanses; in the hammocks; in the cypress swamps; in that river of grass; and of course, in the wildlife. (One that I've not been truly successful in photographing, but I'll keep trying.)

And I will continue to return, over and over, to that "superb monotony".

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010



With wings.

Another shot from my Trenton Marsh visit.

For a wonderfully written introduction to the behavior of Canada Geese I heartily recommend The Geese of Beaver Bog, by Bernd Heinrich (actually, I recommend anything by Heinrich). Enjoy.

Saturday, March 6, 2010



I went wandering about the Trenton Marsh with friends today. It was gorgeous out, sunny, blues skies, warm. Springlike even. And I was able to shoot this little fellow. Any guess as to what it is?

After you guess, click here to see a better shot and to see if you got it right!

Good luck.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Hanging Gardens of Philadelphia


The Philadelphia Flower Show opened Sunday for the winter-weary among us. Flower shows probably aren't my thing, but the flowers weren't the main attraction for me anyway.


The problem with the flower show includes the crowds. And the heat (it is always to hot). And the artificiality of it all. But there are bits of beauty amidst the kitsch. As well as the occasional photo op.


Like this (or this).








The hanging gardens of Philadelphia. A young boy (perhaps 10?) psyched it out. The white flowers are mountain top snow. The blue the ocean. With the others the terrain between. 




*****


There is dirty snow on the ground. And spring is still three weeks away. So I guess any flower is a good flower. But I can't what to get out in  the woods, with flowers blooming all about. 


And no crowds.