Sunday, May 19, 2024

Pink Lady's Slipper Orchids


My search for wild pink lady's slipper orchids in the New Jersey Pine Barrens has paid off.

Behold! Click to enlarge.

Pink lady's slippers are also called moccasin flowers, American valerian, and squirrel shoes.

Like many orchids, the pink lady's slipper has a mutually beneficial relationship with a fungus. The fungus provides nutrients to the plant's seeds and helps them germinate. When the plant becomes photosynthetic, it provides nutrients to the fungus. Fair deal.

Bees pollinate the flowers, but receive no reward. They are attracted to the color and the sweet aroma of the flower. They expect nectar. But when a bee enters the flower pouch through the slit in the front, not only is there no nectar -- it can't back out. To reach an exit, it has to squeeze past the flower's female reproductive structure, the stigma. If the bee has been inside other blossoms, pollen on its body is deposited on the stigma, pollinating it. The bee also has to squeeze past a pollen mass, where it receives a new dusting of pollen to carry to the next flower. Tricky!

According to the U.S. Forest Service, a pink lady's slipper orchid plant can live for 20 years or more. They are unlikely to survive transplanting.

Pink lady's slipper are blooming now through mid-June in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Get out there and find them. 

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Happy Mother's Day


A patient great egret with three feisty chicks. Click to enlarge.


Sunday, May 5, 2024

Still Looking for Pink Lady's Slippers


I spent another day in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, looking for wild pink lady's slipper orchids. According to the New Jersey Pinelands Commission's orchid blooming schedule, the flowers can be found from early May to mid-June. I was on the job on May 1.

I love when clouds reflect in the ponds like this. 

There were lots of pretty things to see, like these red maple seeds. Click to enlarge. 

I can report that purple pitcher plants are growing new insect-trapping pitchers.

And sundew plants are pushing up through the mud. Note the shiny drops of sticky "dew," ready to trap hapless insects. I can attest that the insects are out. But what about the pink lady's slipper orchids? The thing I went there to find?

Behold! I found several. But... they all were all newly sprouted like the one above, all with their slippers wrapped in green. Not pink lady's slippers -- green ones!

So, I did not quite find what I was looking for. I think one more trip to the pines will do it.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Pine Barrens Today


I had a long walk in the New Jersey pine barrens today. I was hoping to find early-blooming pink lady's slipper orchids, but it really is too early for them, so I found none.  I did find a pink dogwood tree reflected in a pond. Click to enlarge.

And I found luxurious mats of fresh green sphagnum moss.

And long dangling oak tree flowers.

This painted turtle was sitting by the path, sunning itself.

Picked it up very gently and carefully for a picture, supporting the lower shell.

Took a peek underneath. See the red details!

Then put it back where it had been. Note the sleek shiny shell.

 A pink dogwood tree and a lilac bush posed for a photo. 

Carpenter bees were humming around the lilacs.

And another typical pine barrens thing -- signs of abandoned industry. It's been a long time since the last train came down these rails.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

White-breasted Nuthatches Are Singing


I have been seeing and hearing a lot of white-breasted nuthatches in my neighborhood. They are cute little birds with blue-gray on the back, white cheeks, black cap, and a rusty patch on the white belly. It's one of the birds whose distinctive sound stands out in the spring chorus. Click to enlarge.

Males sing in spring to attract mates, using 6-12 nasal-sounding notes that some people hear as ha-ha-ha. Also, both sexes have a call that sounds to me how tiny, fast-talking sheep would bleat, others hear the honk of a little tin horn. Clicking on this sentence will take you to e-bird, where you can select LISTEN to get a list of recordings of the song and call of the white-breasted nuthatch.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

White-throated Sparrow


White-throated sparrows are singing in my neighborhood. Their song is a loud, clear, attention-getting whistle that stands out among the other sounds of spring. Birdwatchers think the song’s phrases sound like “Po-or Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody.” Or “My sweet Canada Canada Canada.” Click on this sentence to hear the sparrow sing. Yay, spring!

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Blueberry Buds


The flowers on my blueberry bushes are little bundles of spring-colored buds right now. I know they are lovely when they are fully open, when bushes are covered in white bell-shaped blossoms, but I have never before noticed how beautiful they are before they open. Very pretty. Click to enlarge.

Before you know it, carpenter bees will be hanging under them, taking nectar.

Then this.

And, of course, there will be blueberry jam.


But right now, there are bundles of spring-colored buds on my blueberry bushes.