Monday, October 30, 2017

Harvest Time

A common scene in these here parts at this time of the year.

But not always where one might easily see it.

But yesterday, as Patty and I were returning from the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, we chanced upon this scene on the side of Route 563.

And we weren't the only folks to stop and watch. There was a small crowd. And seeing as we arrived as they were finishing with this bog, it was no doubt the remnants of a larger crowd.

It is very interesting how they corral the berries and vacuum them up. The floating yellow barrier slowly being wound in, forcing the berries into tighter and tighter space until they are all in the truck on the left. The truck on the right the receptacle for a the non-berry bits.

Below is the scene on our way down to Forsythe. Patty had the foresight to have us stop to take pictures.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
I don't know when they started, but from what I saw it seemed a very efficient way to harvest. And it sure is a colorful one.

Perhaps you'll be enjoying some of these in just under a months time.


We went to Forsythe to see a Common Greenshank. And we did, albeit from quite a distance. This is a bird of the old world, and only the second ever recorded in New Jersey.

When we got there we found a crowd of folks searching for the the bird in what is known as Danzenbaker Pool. And we set up our spotting scope next to a gentleman named Jim Danzenbaker, the pool having been named for his father. We had met Jim on a boat off the coast of Oregon, looking for and finding birds, this past August on the last day of our solar eclipse trip.

And as for the Common Greenshank, it turns out we had encountered them before as well, on our trip to Kenya.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Yard Critter of the Week - Jack-O'-Lantern

Jack-O'-Lanterns have invaded the yard.

A non-native species, which scientists believe originated in Ireland, they can be found throughout the United States this time of year. The peak time to see them is centered around October 31st.

I spotted these outside our living room and I was just able to slam the sliding doors shut as they came toward me. It was close though. You can see I was still shaking when I took the shot above.

And they are still out there.



Slowly decomposing (like zombies).


Happy Halloween!

You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.

Friday, October 27, 2017


Two Septembers ago we found ourselves wandering along a boardwalk on the Jersey Shore.

And one vendor was demonstrating a giant bubble wand.

Rather successfully I might add. Beautiful big colorful bubbles!

The colors are obvious (and an example of thin film interference). But there is more going on that does meet the eye. Right side up and upside down images are also visible in several of the bubbles.

There is some interesting physics going on here.

Of course, as with all things optical you can learn more here. Happy learning!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Because the Night is Dark and Full of ...

... Glowing things!

In this case, fungi!

Fungi that had been hiding in plain sight.

With a secret only revealed when the lights were out.

I found the glowing fungi in two places. I'm not sure if these are the same species. And the second, shown in the images immediately above and below, had a much dimmer glow.


There are on the order of 85,000 species of fungi, 9000 of which are mushrooms. And only about 65 of these species are bioluminescent. And no one knows why. Speculation includes attracting insects to spread spores, attracting predators of the insects that eat the fungi, or that it is just a by product of other metabolic processes taking place in the organisms. What ever the reason, it was pretty cool to see here in our yard.

You can learn more here and here. (I did.)


Last evening just before 8:00 pm the power went out. Now we have a back up power supply that keeps our internet and phone connection up, but this outage also took out our external Comcast link. And as we live in a cellphone dead zone, this meant I needed to take a walk up the street to get a cell signal. And in turn find out if the outage had been reported (it had) and when it might be rectified (estimate was 11:00 pm, it didn't come back until after midnight).

The moon was not far past new and it was also cloudy and later foggy. And thus darker than usual. And while I was out and about I noticed a glow on the wood pile.

And the rest is a blog post.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What a Difference a Week Makes

I mentioned how hard the sparrows made it for us to identify them in my last post.

This past Saturday it was much easier.

It didn't start out that way.

The first views were like these.

Distant. Obscured. Brief. Frustrating.

We knew they were there. And this time we knew what they were. It was just a matter of getting good looks. And positive IDs.

One needs to be patient.

And it helped that we went at the right time, as high tide was approaching.

There were two very similar sparrows in the reeds. The one in the images above, a Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, and the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow. We saw both but I was only able to photograph the Saltmarsh.

And while we were able to see, and identify, the sparrows, the bird shown above was the only one of the entire flock to pause long enough to have it's portrait taken. Very camera shy these sparrows. Flying into the reeds and then down.


Unlike the trip to the Franklin Parker Preserve, this was a (semi-) planned outing. We knew these sparrows would be at this site, the Great Bay Boulevard Wildlife Management Area, this time of year as they migrate south. And we knew that as the tide came in it would push them to the "high" ground spots along the shore. So it was just a matter of checking the tide chart and deciding to go. And when we woke up Saturday we saw it was a nice day and decided to give it a go. Getting to the spot is simple: just drive to the end of Great Bay Boulevard and then hike a short trail to the beach. As soon as we hit the beach we saw them.

A much nicer Saturday morning.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Calm of the Wild

Last Saturday did not start so good. It was a scary morning.

(Spoiler Alert: No worries, I'm fine now. 😉)

And time outside is always good for the psyche.

So to get out of the house Patty and I headed off to Franklin Parker for an afternoon stroll.

As we wandered down one of the many sand roads the sparrows toyed with us, frustratingly always just a bit just ahead. Hopping from shrub to shrub. Flitting from side to side. Grrrr.

Patty eventually ID's them as Field Sparrows. But it took a while.

I was mostly sightseeing and snapping pics.

On one side of the road we saw this.

A starkly beautiful former forrest of now drowned trees.

And on the other side, this.

A once cranberry bog returning to a more natural state.

The images don't do justice to the subtle beauty at every turn.

A nice way to take my mind off of something that turned out to be nothing at all.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Yard Critter of the Week - Great Blue Heron

"There's a Great Blue Heron in the yard", Patty hollered to me as she grabbed the camera.

And so there was (I was left with my iPhone to take the shot below).

As I came charging into the dining room she more calmly noted, "We need to scare it off", as she was busy snapping away. (Translation: you need to scare it away.)

It was eyeing the fish pond. Good thing we had the fence.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
We'd seen them flying over the yard now and again, and wondered why they never visited the ponds. The fish and frogs would be easy pickin's.

And we didn't want that. And as far as we knew, none had stopped in for a visit.

So I went out to chase it off.

And it flew.

To our back pond. A highly non-optimal result.

So I kept chasing (camera in hand). And eventually it decided to head to somewhere a bit less stressful. With fewer paparazzi.

We haven't seen it since. But of course we aren't here during the week (damn mortgage!), excepting the occasional days I work from home. So it may be treating our ponds as a couple of fast food joints.

And that would not be good.

🐦  🐦  🐦  🐦  🐦

You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.


In the Nursery Yard post I noted, "And this doesn't even include all he caterpillars we've seen!". Well, time to rectify that.

So, and without further ado, here are some of those that have visited our yard this year.

Clear Dagger Moth, Acronicta clarescens.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn

Forest Tent Caterpillar, Malacosoma disstria.

Camouflaged Looper, Synchlora aerata.

Yellow-necked Caterpillars, Datana ministra.

Major Datana, Datana major. (There's a Catch-22 joke in there somewhere ...)

Image courtesy Patty Rehn

Brown-hooded Owlet, Cucullia convexipennis.

Saddleback Caterpillar, Acharia stimulea.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
Image courtesy Patty Rehn

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar, Papilo troilus.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn

Red-humped Caterpillar, Schizura concinna.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn

Gypsy Moth, Lymantria dispar. (Not a welcome sight.)

I've no idea what species these might be. And as they hatched on our living room wall, (penny taped the wall to provide scale) they didn't get much bigger as we had no idea what the food plant might be. Very sad.

Fall Webworm, Hyphantria cunea.

Yellow Bear, Spilosoma virginica.

Monarch, Danaus plexippus.

Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes.

While-marked Tussock Moth, Orgyia leucostigma.

Which decided our trashcan was a good place to cocoon (you can see it starting in the above image). For the time being we are using a different trashcan.

Yellow-striped Armyworm, Spodoptera ornithogalli.

American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis.

Tobacco Budworm, Heliothis virescens. This one is doomed as those little white thing are parasitic wasp eggs.

Haploa clymene.

Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar, Euchaetes egle.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn

All of these are more proof that our yard is a good place to start a family.


Thanks to the Caterpillar Identification of North America group on Facebook for help identifying some of these caterpillars. Any remaining errors are mine.