Sunday, September 25, 2022

Pine Barrens Gentian Time


In September I make a special trip to the New Jersey Pine Barrens to look for these beautiful rare blue pine barrens gentians, Gentiana autumnalis. Click to enlarge.

These lovely autumn flowers are natives of North American coastal pine barrens from South Carolina to New Jersey. See the sun shine through the cup! 

Some people think this is New Jersey's most beautiful native wildflower.

I love the trails of dots on the petals like fairy dust.

Pine barrens gentians bloom from September through early November.

Hunting for gentians in the pine barrens is a great way to spend an autumn afternoon!  

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Autumn Equinox This Week

Summer ends on Thursday, September 22. Let the autumn begin! After the autumnal equinox, the days will get gradually shorter until the winter solstice on December 21. No more long hazy summer twilights for us until next year. Instead we get to sit beside fires, drink hot chocolate, and think about what to be for Halloween. Click to enlarge.

Let us hope for the kind of autumn that the poet John Keats described as "a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness."

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Artistic Wasp Nests


See the little pot-shaped thing attached to the webbing of my garden chair? It was made by a mason wasp. Also called mud pot wasps and potter wasps, this group builds these little pots from soil and chewed plant material. Nice result, right?

The mother wasp stocks the pot with a sting-paralyzed insect to serve as food, lays an egg in the chamber, and seals the pot shut. The egg hatches into a larva that eats the food and then eventually digs it way out of the pot. Click to enlarge. And it's not the only cool wasp nest I found this week...

Behold the nest of an organ pipe mud-dauber wasp. This set of tubes is about 5 inches across. I found it in the eaves of a gazebo in a park where I was picnicking. Female organ pipe mud-daubers build these multi-chambered tubes, provision each with a sting-paralyzed spider, and then lay an egg and seal the chamber. Male organ pipe mud-dauber wasps stay around the nest to guard. That's a rare instance of parental care in insects. So... artistic creations and parental care. What's next, wasps?

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Happy Labor Day Weekend


This laughing gull pilfered a ketchup-dipped french fry from my picnic and is about to fly away with it. Documented theft right here. I caught him red-beaked! Let it be a reminder that -- around here, at least -- outdoor dining, laughing gulls, and summer are about to end. Have a happy Labor Day! Click to enlarge.