Where Did Summer Go?

Well, this is embarrassing. My last blog post was on August 14: bees hard at work in the blazing sun. Now it’s Thanksgiving. The trees are mostly bare, the ground is mostly covered with leaves. Chilly winds whip dark clouds across the sky, easing from time to time to let woodsmoke tickle the nose. Life is full of turkey anticipation, apple cider wishes, and pumpkin-spice everything. I have just one question:

Where the heck did Summer go?

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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 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

Summer’s Fleeting Beauty

Morris Arboretum BF-Spicebush ST_9639a Where did this summer go? Labor Day is past, and the calendar is poised to turn over to a new season. June, July and August just seemed to fly by, didn’t they?

If the summer passed quickly for us, imagine how it must seem to be a butterfly, dragonfly or other bug. Most of these insects live only a few weeks or months, just long enough to breed and lay the groundwork for the next generation. Their time to live, and our time to enjoy them, is very short indeed. Soon it will be cold, and these lovely creatures will be just a memory. All the more reason, on the eve of the autumn equinox, that we should savor the beautiful colors of summer.

HNWR BF-ET Swallowtail_0901aEastern Tiger Swallowtail

HNWR BF-Comma_1555a Eastern Comma

FUN FACT: Punctuation in butterflies! There are several species known as Commas, for the shape of the white mark on the underwing. There’s a similar butterfly that has a dot at the end of the curved mark; it’s called a Question Mark. We all agree it’s really a Semicolon.

HNWR BF-Hackberry_0550a Hackberry Emperor, above and below. This guy came to visit and wouldn’t leave. Here he’s happily slurping up the minerals deposited by sweat on the hand of Cliff, our Butterfly Whisperer. (Without whom I wouldn’t be able to put a name to many of these beauties)HNWR BF-Hackberry_0586a

HNWR BF-Red Admiral_1831aRed Admiral

FUN FACT: Ever called a butterfly a “flutter-by”? It turns out that was what these insects were called prior to 1865. Reverend A. W. Spooner studied and gave many talks on flutter-bys. Spooner was known for his mangling of words, inspiring the term “Spoonerism”. In his seminars, he frequently transposed “flutter-by” into “butterfly”. The term caught on, and has been in use ever since.

HNWR BF-ET Blue_1401a Eastern Tailed Blue

HNWR BF-Summer Azure_1798aSummer Azure

HNWR Moth Luna_8022a Luna Moth

HNWR Caterpillar Smartweed_1436aSmartweed Caterpillar, which becomes a Smeared Dagger Moth

HNWR Snail_1688a Snail, moving at surprising speed

HNWR DF-Blue Dasher_0830aBlue Dasher

HNWR DF-Common Whitetail_5125a Common Whitetail

HNWR BF-Red Admiral_1779a

Have a colorful fall!

Coming up: Cold Duck