Milkweed Morning

It was a dark and steamy morning…The clouds offered conflicting gifts. Limited light made photography a challenge. On the other hand, with dew points in the 70s, the absence of the blazing sun was a relief. There was a dense layer of mist hovering over the surface of the creek, and the woods were cool. But my destination this morning was the meadows where patches of milkweed could be found. Continue reading

Pollinator Parade

BUZZ BIXBY: Good Morning and Happy Harvest to you! Welcome to Critter Radio’s broadcast of the 73rd Annual Harvest Festival Pollinator Parade, right here on 99.9 KRTR!

I’m Buzz Bixby…

CECILY SWALLOWTAIL: … and I’m Cecily Swallowtail…

BUZZ BIXBY: …and we’re your hosts for this wonderful panorama of floats, performers, balloons and marching bands, all celebrating pollinating insects and their buggy friends. It’s a beautiful day for a parade… Continue reading

Adirondacks Carefree: Mission Moose

WANTED: Eastern Moose, Alces alces americana

Place: Adirondack Mountains, New York

Time: Early July

Dossier: Standing 5 to 6 ½ feet tall at the shoulder and weighing 600 to 1500 pounds, the Eastern Moose can be identified by its large, bulbous nose, heavy body, long spindly legs, and the enormously broad, flat antlers worn by the male of the species.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Join an elite team of Expeditionary Agents to track down this ungainly critter, isolate it, and shoot it. With a camera.

This will be no walk in the park. Despite its size, the Moose is not easily seen. Previous searches at Upper Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Bog River Falls, Simon Pond and Pitchoff Mountain have failed to produce moose. Where to next? The fate of the expedition lies in your hands.

Choose wisely.

Keep reading!

The Guest Request Fest

Critter Radio Logo v3Well, hel-loooo to all you birds, bugs and beasties out there in Critter Land. You’re tuned to KRTR 99.9 FM, Critter Radio. I’m Opal White, that’s right, white hot and bright. So glad you could join me tonight for the Guest Request Fest.

Yes, boys and gulls, it’s time for you loyal listeners to let us know what you want to hear. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate! Call, text or tweet now with your requests. Miss Opal will make all your dreams take flight, that’s right.

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3540acsWe’ll start right in on the ground floor, shall we? Master Grasshopper brings our first entreaty of the hour: “Kung Fu Fighting”.

150711_PA Nockamixon Cliffs_1293acsThe butterfly brigade chimes in with this weighty wish from slim Ms. Tiger Swallowtail. She’s an edgy sort of dame, that’s right. Her fave tune? “Edge of Seventeen”.

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3502acsFor a Red-spotted Purple, what could be more appropriate than “Blue On Black”? How apt.

150722_DE Bombay Hook_1761aWell, what have we here – a twin tweet! A pair of lookalikes indeed, the Monarch…

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3764acs… and the Viceroy.

Monarchs taste bad, Viceroys don’t, but most butterfly gourmets will shun both. Viceroys are big copycats, and more than once that has saved their silly little – oh, excuse me, family show, that’s right.

Let’s get back to their song, “Me and My Shadow”, shall we?

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3705acsIs that the phone ringing? Yes, I think it is. And who have we here? Why it’s the Rev. Green Frog, he of the roly-poly peepers. What dark secrets have been confessed to the good preacher?

He wants to hear “Your Lying Eyes”.

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3628acsOn the other side of town, someone is lonely tonight. Jeremiah Bullfrog feels he’s lost his only friend. Here’s a little ditty for his melancholy blues as he contemplates the vastness of the pond – “It’s Not Easy Being Green”.

Miss Opal could cheer up this sprite, that’s right.

150804_PA HNWR Dragonfly_3428acsMr. Pondhawk has a request…

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3557acs…and wait, we’ve got Mrs. Pondhawk on the other line. What a lovely couple – they’ve both asked for that romantic oldie, “I Got You Babe”.

150809_NJ Palmyra Cove_3675acsWe have time for one more rhythmic requisition, and it comes tonight from a croaker immersed in self reflection. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, how true!

Oh, my, my, Miss Opal hears her theme song; it’s always too soon to leave you. Another splendiferous edition of the musical petition, the Guest Request Fest, has come to a close.

Until next time, I’m Opal White, that’s right, white hot and bright, and this is KRTR 99.9 FM, Critter Radio. I bid you farewell with Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, like me, doing it “My Way”.

150804_PA HNWR Great Egret_3208 acs“Egrets, I’ve had a few…”

Last of the Summer Wine

140809_HNWR 420_6686acsSkipper butterfly, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, PA

140729_HNWR Evening_4767a   Wild rice, Heinz NWR

140809_HNWR 420_6926acsOsprey, Heinz NWR

140809_HNWR 420_7286acsCabbage white butterflies, Heinz NWR

140729_HNWR Evening_4619acsQueen Anne’s lace, Heinz NWR

140729_HNWR Evening_4942acsRed-eyed Vireo, Heinz NWR

140719_Elk Neck State Park_2495acsZebra swallowtail, Elk Neck State Park, MD

140809_Bartrams Garden_7591aPassion vine flower, Bartram’s Garden, PA

140809_HNWR 420_6636acsSkipper butterfly, Heinz NWR

140729_HNWR Evening_4678aGreat Blue Heron, Heinz NWR

140809_HNWR 420_7222acsBlack swallowtail, Heinz NWR

140729_HNWR Evening_4986acsGreat Egrets, Heinz NWR

140809_HNWR 420_7173acsSkyline and marsh view, Heinz NWR

140809_HNWR 420_6916acsBlue dasher dragonfly, Heinz NWR

The Forest Primeval

MI Hartwick Pines 1 Old Growth Forest_9078acsNo cathedral built by man could match the majesty of this forest sanctuary.

MI Hartwick Pines 1 Old Growth Forest_9082aRugged russet trunks rise straight and true to the arched ceiling of deep verdant green.

All is hushed but for the small rustlings of squirrel and chipmunk congregants below, and the whisperings of the wind in the pines that tower above.

MI Hartwick Pines 1 Old Growth Forest_9104aThe floor is laid, not with stone, but lush ferns and wildflowers. Where some old giant has fallen, light streams through the canopy as through stained glass. Porcupines, pine martens and bears have all walked the aisles of this forest older than time.

The air is still, the mood solemn, the spirit mysterious, eerie, primeval.

MI Hartwick Pines 1 Old Growth Forest_9101aOnce upon a time, pine forests covered 10 million acres of the North Country. Now only small remnants remain. This 49 acre old growth white pine forest endures at Hartwick Pines State Park in Michigan.

The pines here are thought to be over 300 years old, stand 120 feet or more, and may reach four feet in diameter at breast height. Eastern hemlocks and red pines attend these kings. Below them is a shaded understory so dark, it seems eternally twilight.

MI Hartwick Pines 1 Old Growth Forest_9116aAt the edges, where maples and beeches mingle with the pines, rests a small chapel.

A church within a church.

Quaint and cozy, yet somehow superfluous.

Are not the pines themselves enough to inspire reverence in such a setting?

Must people seek the Creator within walls while all of Creation stands without?

MI Hartwick Pines 2 Scenic Drive_9214sStep from the forest cathedral, and other mysteries beckon the soul.

 

 

This dirt road, for instance.

Don’t you want to know what’s around the next bend?

Let’s see what we can find.

MI Hartwick Pines 2 Scenic Drive_9134aThe Au Sable River meanders its way through wetlands and woods, singing a soft hymn as it goes.

MI Hartwick Pines 2 Scenic Drive_9173aTwo very different dragonflies share a pew.

MI Hartwick Pines 2 Scenic Drive_9185acsA Northern Crescent butterfly preaches from a sunflower lectern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MI Hartwick Pines 2 Scenic Drive_9211a

A choir of brightly cloaked angels.

 

MI Hartwick Pines 3 Nature Trail_9245acsGlory, Glory, Hallelujah!

Glory Lake reflects the glory of northern Michigan in the colors of azure sky, cobalt water, and emerald pines. At the top of a tall tree nearby perches an Osprey, looking for prey.

Glory Lake, and its sister, Bright Lake, are kettle ponds formed during Michigan’s glacier period. Ice blocks that broke off from the glaciers formed depressions that filled with water after the glaciers retreated.

MI Hartwick Pines 3 Nature Trail_9294acsA trail leads from the ponds into a diverse woodland.

Besides the aspen at left, there are white, red and jack pines.

Spruce, hemlock, and cedar.

Beech, maple and oak trees.

Shrubs, ferns, wildflowers, and a potpourri of plants are also abundant.

It’s a botanist’s dream.

 

MI Hartwick Pines 3 Nature Trail_9286a

Behold! – Lycopodium!

These are club mosses, but don’t be fooled by that name. They are not true mosses at all, but vascular plants.

Like teeny tiny Christmas trees a few inches high, they bring joy to those who spot them.

These little plants are much favored by the true of heart.

MI Hartwick Pines 3 Nature Trail_9281aAt trail’s end, a quiet spot for contemplation. From towering pine trees to miniscule club mosses, ferocious dragonflies to gentle butterflies, the mysteries of the land inspire reverence and wonder.

May Nature’s blessings be with you all. Go in peace.

The Five O’clock Flock Rock

Critter Radio Logo v3Good evening, critters! This is KRTR 99.9 FM Critter Radio!

HNWR Thrasher_9454 acsI’m Thrasher Locke, the top jock on the avian block. Welcome to the Five O’clock Flock Rock, where we take stock every Thursday of the tunes that make our listeners swoon. Now that spring has finally sprung, our intrepid band of roving reporters is roaming the Refuge, rounding up requests from right and left.

HNWR Egret_1243 aWell, waddya know?

A request is coming through my Egret tech’s earpiece right now!

Let’s get this party started, shall we?

HNWR Gnatcatcher_0122 a And here’s the perfect party-starter, requested by a hearty Blue-gray Gnatcatcher smartly darting from branch to branch: “Jump! (For My Love)”.

HNWR WP Downy_5314 acsAll day long the Downy Woodpecker has been a-hammerin’ and a-drillin’ on the job. Now that the whistle’s blown, it’s time to blow off steam with “If I Had A Hammer”.

HNWR RWBB_9997 acs Red-winged Blackbirds have always been smart-alecky showoffs, posturing and preening in the tree tops. What would this puffed up poser admiring his reflection at the pond’s perimeter suggest but “I’m Too Sexy”?

HNWR Osprey_9522 acsDinnertime is nigh, and for an Osprey on the sly, fish are no small fry. Time to fly high in the deep blue sky to “Take A Look Around”.

HNWR Ducky_9986 acs There’s a controversial newcomer in the Tinicum Marsh. He claims to be a new subspecies of Yellow Warbler. The locals say he’s full of hot air. Scolding songbirds suppose that “Rubber Duckie” will set him straight.

HNWR Grebe_8434 a Horned Grebes are groovy dudes. This bohemian bird by the boardwalk can’t bear the bickering and believes “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” will smooth some ruffled feathers.

HNWR Butterfly_9952 acs Butterflies are similarly sensitive, the gentle peacemakers of meadows and woods.

This Spring Azure means to maintain the mellow mood with “Blue Velvet”.

HNWR Wood Duck_1281 acsBack on the lake, it’s make or break for a Wood Duck drake with romance on his mind. “I Only Have Eyes For You” is the song of choice to woo his lady love. Surely this champion charmer will sweep her off her webbed feet.

HNWR Wood Duck_1320 acs No such luck! This lady duck has too much pluck to be stuck with sappy love songs. She just wants to dance! Cue up “Shake Your Groove Thing” for this disco mama!

HNWR Swallow_9815 acsThe feathered flock has the final word as the Five O’clock Flock Rock comes to a close. As the swallows knock their socks off to “Rock Around The Clock”, we’ll shimmy off into the shadows. Never fear, our roving reporters will be here, out and about next Thursday to see who’s rockin’ at the Refuge! I’m Thrasher Locke the avian jock here on KRTR 99.9 FM, Critter Radio, keeping it funky and keeping it wild!

The Critter Radio Traffic Report

Cape May Point State Park_4230 aWondering what the roads are like on your way to work today? Critter Radio, KRTR 99.9 FM, presents the Critter Traxx Traffic report, sponsored by Critter Traxx Granola. Let’s go to Darryl Dragonfly, our Eye in the Sky. Daryl, what are you seeing on our highways and byways today?

Forsythe NWR Turtles_6197 aWell, folks, it’s a typical rush hour here in southern New Jersey, not a lot of volume, but traffic is crawling. Up north at Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, many of the thoroughfares are actually waterways. Diamondback terrapins are the ultimate sport utility, built for land or water, but not speed. Slow and steady wins the race.

Forsythe NWR Insect_6461 a This grasshopper may not seem to be tearing up the asphalt, but he’s leaps and bounds ahead of everybody else!

FUN FACT: Grasshoppers hear with their tummies! They have a simple auditory organ, called a tympanum, on each side of their abdomens. They’re much better at detecting rhythm than pitch. They also “sing”, by either rubbing their legs against their wings (stridulation) or snapping their wings while they fly (crepitation).

OC 51st Street Structures_5861 a I’m making my way over Ocean City now. Traffic here is in better shape. Bay Avenue is all clear.

OC Dolphins_3670 a The dolphins are swimming along at a nice pace.OC Dolphins_3656 a Whoops! Bit of a fender-bender on the southbound Ocean Turnpike. Looks like the sun glare got in somebody’s eyes.

OC Corsons Inlet_4773 a Back on land, right of way issues have some coquina shells at a complete standstill. Don’t you just hate those four-way stops? Nobody ever wants to cross the intersection first. “After you.” “Please, you first.” “No, I insist.”

Cape May Point State Park_4115 aAt Cape May Point State Park there was a massive duckweed spill moments ago. A green frog looks like he’s wearing most of it! He’s been forced to pull off on the shoulder of the eastbound Creek Expressway. A trip through the frog wash may be in order.

Cape May Point State Park_4090 a Hoping to avoid the duckweed altogether, an American Lady is enjoying a break from her travels. Nothing like a little flower nectar at the truck stop for a nice respite.

Maybe we should all take a page from her book and call it a day. This is Darryl Dragonfly, your Eye in the Sky, with the Critter Traxx Traffic report on Critter Radio, KRTR 99.9 FM. Remember, be nice to your fellow travelers.

OC 51st Street_5847 aCONSERVATION PIECE: The northern diamondback terrapin is the only turtle out of 300 species to live in brackish waters like those found in the coastal salt marshes, above. The terrapins are at the top of the food web and play an important role in keeping the populations of their prey from growing out of hand. Diamondbacks are themselves in a lot of trouble in New Jersey, however. They have lost a lot of the salt marsh habitat in which they live and the barrier island sand dune habitat in which they nest. They drown in commercial crab traps. Human car traffic kills an average of more than 500 gravid (egg-laden) female terrapins each year in Cape May and Atlantic Counties alone. Thankfully, dedicated people are fighting to protect the turtles, by building barrier fences, helping turtles cross roads safely, rescuing injured turtles, and even retrieving eggs to incubate them and rear the young turtles. For more information on this effort: http://wetlandsinstitute.org/conservation/

Coming up: Crab Dance

Migration Meanderings: The Flight of Kings

Stone Harbor Wetlands Institute_2764 a Many years ago, my family was enjoying an early evening at the Jersey Shore when a butterfly fluttered by. Okay, nothing remarkable there. What followed was: a nearly identical butterfly passed by, followed in swift progression by two more, then three, five, eight more… In a matter of minutes we went from a clear evening sky to a cloud of butterflies, dozens of them, all flying one direction – south. We looked at each other and asked “Do butterflies migrate?”

Cape May Lily Lake_4811 aWe didn’t know it then, but we were witnessing the migration of the Monarch butterflies. Scientists now know that these orange and black insects fly from the northern U.S. and Canada to overwintering grounds in Mexico. Just like for birds, Cape May County is an important stopover for migrating Monarch butterflies.

Cape May Lily Lake_4840 aA Monarch butterfly has a four inch wingspan and weighs a fraction of an ounce, yet it still manages to fly 2,500 miles in a short period of time. What may be even more amazing is that the butterflies that fly south have never been to Mexico. Neither have their parents, or grandparents or great-grandparents. It’s their great-great grandparents that left Mexico the previous February. They made it as far as Texas or Oklahoma before laying the eggs that would become the first generation of the year.

That first generation went through the life cycle of egg, caterpillar and chrysalis before becoming butterflies that would continue the journey north during their six week life.

HNWR BF-Monarch_0357 a The second generation was born in May or June; the third generation in July or August. This butterfly is from that third generation; it was photographed at Heinz NWR in August.

OC Corsons Inlet_4753 aThe other Monarchs shown in this post were seen in Cape May County in September; they are members of the fourth and final generation of the year, born in September or October. These are the butterflies that migrate south. They don’t immediately start a new reproductive cycle as their parents did. Instead they enter a non-reproductive phase known as diapause, which can last six to eight months. During that time, they fly to Mexico, spend the winter, and then return north to start the next year’s cycle.

Stone Harbor Wetlands Institute_2796 aAll that flying is accomplished on an all-liquid diet consisting mainly of the nectar of plants like milkweed, goldenrod, aster, and others. The butterflies drink the nectar through a straw-like appendage called a proboscis, shown coiled up, above. The Monarch caterpillars are much more finicky – they only eat plants of the milkweed family. So Monarch females are careful to seek out milkweeds on which to lay their eggs.

FUN FACT: Monarchs are poisonous! A chemical in the milkweed they eat as caterpillars provides a distasteful and dangerous defense against predators. And the predators know it, and avoid them. This in turn is exploited by the Viceroy butterfly, which isn’t poisonous but looks very similar to the Monarch, an adaptation called mimicry.

Stone Harbor Wetlands Institute_2771 a This is a male Monarch. How do I know? See those small black spots on the hind wing near the end of the abdomen? That’s how. Females don’t have those spots.

CONSERVATION PIECE: The Monarch butterfly’s survival as a species is threatened both by deforestation in their wintering grounds and the disappearance of milkweed plants due to herbicide use in the U.S. Want to help the Monarch thrive? Go to your local garden shop, ask for milkweed plants native to your area, and plant them in your yard. Host a caterpillar!

Cape May Point State Park_4100 aIt just wouldn’t be September at the shore without these tiny Kings of the Air.

Coming up: The Critter Radio Traffic Report