Sunday, December 26, 2021

Merry Christmas

"I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year." Charles Dickens.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Empty Chrysalis


I found this empty butterfly chrysalis on a bush in my yard this week. Click to enlarge.

It has ridges where the butterfly's abdominal segments developed. The little black stem on top is called a cremaster and attaches the chrysalis to a little pad of silk that the caterpillar spins and from which the whole thing hangs. It's impressively strong; it's been through a lot of wind and rain lately and it's still stuck tight.

There were a lot of monarchs on the orange milkweed plants in the yard this year. The chrysalis was only a few feet from where I took this caterpillar's picture. Could be his!

It makes me wonder if the butterfly made it safely south, if it's hanging upside down right now, warm among a thousand others, drowsing is an orange cloud and waiting for spring.

The moral of the story: Plant Milkweed.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Cute Mammal Alert

A raccoon peering down from the branches. Click to enlarge.

This squirrel looks ready to interact -- especially if peanuts are involved -- or to carry on if not. Today I am a just looking at some photos of my cute backyard mammals.

The rabbits are always alert and ready to run if I get too close. Actually all the animals are looking at me. I bet a lot more than the ones I see are watching me.

Here's a nice opossum. Not one that lives in my yard. You don't usually see them in bright daylight like this. This one is an orphan that works as a wildlife ambassador at a nearby refuge -- but the ones around here look exactly like it.  Note that she is also checking me out.

And this -- oh, wait. Nevermind. Ignore this one. The rest are frequent visitors to my suburban back yard.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Autumn Review

Just leafing through some old fall pictures today.

The soft blur of autumn leaves in the background brings out the street pigeon's eyes.

Click to enlarge.

The squirrel is taking some dry leaves home.
How inviting is this? 
A hawk blends in.
A mockingbird in a persimmon tree.

"How beautifully the leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days." -- John Burroughs.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Winter is Coming

Meteorological winter starts this week on December 1. Astronomical winter will follow shortly at the solstice, which is on December 21st this year.

The solstice is the moment when the earth’s axis is at maximum tilt relative to the sun; it and can vary by a few days from year to year. That’s why there are two ways to note the beginning of winter. Meteorologists need fixed dates to make comparisons — a neat December, January, and February. Either way you measure it, it is time to get your warm clothes on and enjoy. Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Here's a thought about solstices from Gary Kukav, spiritualist and author: 

"Each solstice is a domain of experience unto itself. At the summer solstice all is green and growing, potential coming into being, the miracle of manifestation painted large on the canvas of awareness. At the winter solstice the wind is cold, trees are bare and all lies in stillness beneath blankets of snow."

Snow is also coming soon.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Last Flashy Insect of the Year?


Here's a hearty little red November dragonfly. I have seen a few of them recently and I am guessing they will be the last big insects outdoors around here until next spring. Click to enlarge.

It's an autumn meadowhawk dragonfly. They are not unheard of in November in New Jersey though they are more common when the weather is warmer.

I think late-migrating insect-eating birds will be glad to see them.

A haiku poem written in the early 1800s by the poet Kobayashi Issa:  

departing for the festival

all  in red


Sunday, November 14, 2021

Gray Mantis


A mantis, though small, has an imposing presence. They always look to me ike they might be up to something. And I'm pretty sure they always see me long before I see them. Consider the dramatic pose on this one I came across when I stopped to rest in a park gazebo. It is sitting in the center of an octagon, casting a black shadow, and seems to be pointing prophetically to 9 o'clock. It could be the opening scene from a movie called The Mantis Pointed to Nine. Click to enlarge.

Fast forward. Nothing happened at nine. It's just a Carolina Mantis. Native. Beneficial. This is its gray form (they also come in green and brown) the better to blend in with old wood while watching you.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Daylight Saving


Daylight Savings Time ended this morning and we are deep into autumn. My clocks all say it's an  hour earlier than it feels. That combined with the spin of the seasons will result in a sunset at 4:50 p.m. today. I'm preparing myself mentally for long nights and what my friend SpongeBob SquarePants calls advanced darkness.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Lovely Autumn

Just a few pictures of the season.

And the opening stanza from To Autumn by William Blake:
"O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may'st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe;
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruit and flowers."

Click to enlarge.

And Happy Halloween to all!

Sunday, October 24, 2021



Let me begin by saying that the praying mantis gets its common name from the typical folded front legs pose that gives the impression of prayer. But I hear that they don't all follow the same religion -- they are in sects.

Just kidding. Click to enlarge

Just can't help noticing how many of them are around out there lately. They got really big from a summer of catching and eating other insects.

Gotta love the faces.

I saw the three individuals pictured here on a single walk in the woods. It's hard to miss a 4- or 5-inch long insect, even when it's sitting still and trying to blend in.

Seems like only yesterday that I could hold one on my thumb. They grow up so fast.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Pine Barrens Gentians


I anticipate snowdrop flowers at the end of winter. I spend the spring and summer stalking wild orchids. And now at the end of the growing season are the pine barrens gentians.

These blue autumn flowers are natives of North American coastal pine barrens from South Carolina to New Jersey. These lovelies were photographed in the New Jersey pine barrens near the town of Chatsworth.

I know there are lots of other flowers blooming in the autumn fields, but I think of the gentians as the last flowers of the year. And that makes me think of a poem called The Last Flower by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, which begins: Rich the first flower's graces be, 
But dearer far the last to me...

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Pumpkin Time


Roadside farm markets are selling pumpkins, squash, and gourds right now. It's time to take a nice ride in the country. Try to decide among all the interesting colors and shapes. Like classic orange. 

Plain white.

Or the rainbow of pumpkin colors.
And fairy tale shapes.  

So many other kinds of vegetable loveliness.

Here are a few lines from The Pumpkin by John Greenleaf Whittier

"Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold," 


Just be careful to avoid the squash monsters among them.