Sunday, July 31, 2016

Even Our Weeds ...

... are blooming.

Black-eyed Susans everywhere.

Zinnias, but not where we planted them.

And while no longer blooming, our Anemones have breached the wall as well.

We have the best weeds.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Bloom Time

Lots of color in the side garden.

And lots of flowers too.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Time to Get Digging!

Look what Patty got me for my birthday!

My very own Build-a-Bog starter kit!

Woo Hoo!

So if you were struggling with what to get me as a birthday gift, bog plants would be nice*.

(As would the use of a small back hoe for a weekend ...)


* But only from a reputable source!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bug Eyes


Very colorful bug eyes.

Of this bug.

An Owlfly. Which is neither an owl nor a fly, in case you were wondering.

Owlflies are similar to dragon flies in body shape, big eyes, wings, and as airborne predators. But unlike dragonflies Owlflies have antennae.

And much more colorful eyes. They are apparently common, albeit locally so. We  not seen any in our yard. We saw these at Franklin Parker Preserve at the National Moth Week event held there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Walk on a Savana

The second half of this trip took us to a Pine Barrens Savana, where the focus (pun!) was on flowers.

After lunch we pulled on our muck boots and headed off to find orchids and other beauties.

A quarter mile or so later we were here:

Bigafy, and you'll see plenty of yellow and white flowers.

This is a Sundew flower. Like many carnivorous plants, the flowers are a good distance from the traps. Otherwise these flies would not be pollinators. they'd be lunch.

As is the insect on the left trap of a Spatulate Leaf Sundew below.

The right trap seems to a caught some type of leaf. This sundew's flower can be seen below.

Another carnivore with a curious looking flower is the Pitcher Plant.

With it's flower on a long stalk far away from the eponymous pitchers.

Our last carnivore is the Horned Bladderwort.

Carnivorous plants thrive in the nutrient poor soils of the Pine Barrens, getting the needed nutrients from the insects and other small creatures they consume.

Not all of the plants here consume flesh. In fact, most don't.

Like this Lance-leaved Century above. Or this Lobelia below. Both non-meat eaters (does this make them vegetarians?).

Pipeworts were just coming up.

While Bog Asphodels were already past their prime.

Also just coming into bloom were the White Fringed Orchids.

I mentioned at the start of this post that we were looking for orchids. We had hoped to see both White and Yellow Fringed Orchids, but the Yellow were nowhere to be found. Perhaps we were to early? I guess this calls for a return trip.

I'll end with what was actually the first plant of interest we encountered at this savanna, Curly Grass Fern, which was discovered in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. A vey small plant that looks nothing like the canonical image of a fern.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sunset at Sea

November 2013 found us on a boat looking for birds. You see, Patty was in a local big year competition* and part of the playing field included New Jersey waters.

Thus I was on a boat. In November. As the sun set. It's cold enough on boats in November when the sun is up.  It is real cold when the sun goes down.

No matter, I like cold. I'm not a big fan of boats though.

But we did get to see this spectacular display of Anti-crepuscular Rays. The rays are cloud shadows, and are parallel, only seeming to converge at the anti-solar point (think of how railroad tracks or highways seem to converge in the distance).

Looking in the opposite direction we see the clouds. One can see how the rays match up. There is a cloud directly in front of the sun, so there is a corresponding ray in the center of the sky. Then there are clear patches on either side of the sun, and then clouds again. So we see bright areas next to the central ray, corresponding to the clear patches. And then again shadow rays.

And as the sun set it lit up the underside of the clouds. At least it lit up those that weren't in the shadow of other clouds (you can still see some shadow or crepuscular rays in the images below).

As the sun gets lower on the horizon the light passes through more of the atmosphere to reach our eyes. The sky is blue because gas and dust in the atmosphere are better at scattering the shorter bluer wavelengths of light. As the light passes through more and more of the atmosphere only the longest wavelengths, those at the red end of the spectrum, make it through. Thus the pink and red glow of a sunset.

It was one of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen.


* The DVOC's Bob Billings Big Year completion. She won.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Walk in the Woods

It's been a while, but two weekends ago I joined my plant geek friends on their weekly class field trip.

Our first stop was along an old railway near Atsion in the Wharton State Forest.

Being a plant geek trip we saw plenty of flowers.

Yellow was the color of the day, like this Pencil Flower.

Along with a couple in the St. John's Wort family.

It wasn't only the flowers which were yellow.

This spider sure seemed ready to pounce.

The flowers weren't all yellow.

Or showy for that matter.

This species of Galium had very small flowers and seed pods ...

... complete with little velcro style hooks to catch on any passers by.

There were a variety of fungi

There were more, but it was getting very hot, sweat dripping in my eyes. And we were heading to a shady spot down the road for lunch. And then our next stop, a bog with orchids.

But before leaving I managed to capture this Twelve-spotted Skimmer.

Other than the heat, it was a very nice wander down the tracks and through the woods.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


As noted in the previous post, upon emergence Luna Moths look for a safe place to perch and inflate their wings. In our aquarium/nursery that place is at the top of a stick.

And once this one made it to the top is stayed for thirty-two minutes transforming as ...

... the wings are taking on the characteristic green color ...

... the upper wing fills out ...

... followed in turn by the under wing ...

... becoming this:


This is National Moth Week, and we attended a mothing event at Franklin Parker Preserve last night. We met a teacher there who remarked how she enjoyed events like the moth night because it helps rekindle her child like sense of wonder with the world.

Watching the process of egg to moth certainly sparks that wonder in me. And I hope I was able to successfully share it with you.


Saturday afternoon I was checking to see how many Luna Moths had emerged in our make shift nursery (at that time ten*). I noticed a cocoon walking across the floor of said nursery.

I watched and waited. And was rewarded with a moth emerging from its cocoon.

The light wasn't great, the moth was moving frantically, looking for something to grab on to, and I was shooting through the not so clean walls of the aquarium serving as the nursery.

It seemed a bit awkward on its feet as it struggled to free itself and find a safe place to perch where it could inflate its wings.

Eventually it made it out and began wandering.

And found one of the strategically placed sticks and proceeded to climb.

Note the tiny wings and fat body. Once it found a safe place to perch it began the process of pumping fluid from that body into the wings (the topic of a future post).


* Ten on Saturday. So far we have had thirty-eight Luna Moths successfully emerge from their cocoons. And we have released all but one of them out in to the world.  That one was too new to make it on its own. It will be flitting about our yard soon enough.