Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Walk in the Pines

I went wandering in some bogs in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

And I saw ...

Just a few more examples of why they call it the Garden State ...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pine Barren Death Camas

What a gruesome name for such a pretty little flower.

The latin species name, Zigadenus leimanthoides, seems much less threatening. Then again, I don't speak latin. So for all I know it might be even worse.

While the flowers are small, the plant is a tall one. Which made it difficult to photograph, as the slightest breeze sent it swaying back an forth.

But I managed to get a few good shots.

All parts of the plant are poisonous. And the friend who showed me the plant was reluctant to even touch the plant, using a stick to hold the plant in place as she attempted some photos.

I didn't risk touching it.

When I returned home I looked up the plant in my field guides. It wasn't mentioned. Even Clements and Gracie's excellent Wildflowers in the Field and Forrest had only a brief mention and no photo (and it's a photo field guide). And my technical manuals had little info on the toxicity. So it was off to the web ...

It seems that the really nasty effects come from eating it. Especially the tubers. While a healthy adult would need to consume four or more tubers to be in serious jeopardy, eating even one would have unpleasant results.

The plant is endangered here in New Jersey, and this is the first time I've seen it. And the spot is not advertised, as collectors have been known to dig such things up.

It is pretty though.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


It's that time of year, when there are babes in the woods.

This is a common nighthawk nest. you can tell it is a nest because of the eggs. Otherwise it would just be sandy ground. They don't put much effort into nest building. But they do have nicely camouflaged eggs (you do see two eggs, don't you?).

The birds themselves are rather well camouflaged. Mom is sitting on two chicks in this picture. Mom is the striped bump in the center of the image (click any image to bigafy).

Here are the two chicks mom was incubating. I think they are facing away from us. I was standing two feet away and couldn't tell. What do you think?


Not all birds are so well camouflaged. Nor need to be. This prairie warbler chick was able to get about easily enough on its own. Although it still depended on mom and dad for food. And neither mom nor dad seemed all that happy when it wandered over to check us out. It was the presence of mom and dad that clued me into the fledgling's species.


City birds are much easier to recognize. Like this fledgling robin on a car outside my girlfriend's house in Philadelphia. If you look closely you'll see that it is perched on a branch. It seemed quite unconcerned with me or any of the other passersby. A true denizen of the city.


Back in the country and not all that far form the nighthawks, I came across this now empty nursery. It is a turtle nest. The hole in the center is where the baby turtles crawled out. If you look closely you can see some eggshells. Curled up white things. There are two directly below the hole. I've found plenty of such nests in my wanderings. I've yet to be there when the turtles emerge. I'll just have to keep looking.

Lunch Time Visitor

I was out wandering about the Franklin Parker Preserve yesterday on a plant geek class field trip. It was quite hot and humid. And our lunch beak was a bit longer than usual.

And while we were relaxing (and some even napping) this guy went scampering through the leaf litter.

Stirred from our siestas several of us grabbed our cameras and went chasing for a good shot.

And sent it scurrying up a tree.

To a convenient portraiture hight. I think I detect a hint of a smile.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

More Bats!

A lot more bats.

The scene as we drove up to the cave. The bats had decided to head out early. We were supposed to arrive before they started out.

They were streaming out of the cave.

They kept coming. And coming.

We hopped out of the car and headed up the hill.

They flew right over our heads. Wings slapping against each other.

It was loud.

For close to an hour the bats kept streaming out the the cave (and recall we had arrived well after they had started).

Here is the cave during a lull in the action.

It is the Frio Bat Cave.

Where the Congress Street Bridge is home to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats, this cave is home to almost ten times as many, 10 to 12 million bats.

That's a lot of bats. The Frio Bat Cave is the second largest colony of Mexican free-tailed bats (the largest is Braken Cave).

The bats, almost all female, come north in the spring to give birth to a single pup. They fly out every night to hunt insects. It is estimated the bats save farmers in Texas close to two million dollars a year in reduced crop loss and reduced need for pesticides.

At the first pause in the flight a number of people left. The cave is in a somewhat remote part of Texas, several hours from Austin and San Antonio. But those of us who stayed were rewarded with more bats.

As always, click on any image to bigafy it. If you bigafy the image above you'll see a trail of bats well into the distance.

Bigify this image will and you'll see black dots at the limit of what the lens could resolve. Bats all, it looks light noise in the image.

With all these bats it should come as no surprise that there are predators. We had red-tailed and Swainson's hawks hunting that night.

They were surprisingly inefficient hunters.

Often coming up empty.

But not always.

It was a spectacular sight. And we were quite glad we decided to make the trek down to Concan to see it. If you are ever in that part of Texas it is well worth the visit.