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.
The 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.
Once 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.
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?
Step 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.
A choir of brightly cloaked angels.
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.
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.
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.
May Nature’s blessings be with you all. Go in peace.
Wondering 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?
Well, 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.
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).
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.”
At 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.
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.
CONSERVATION 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
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.
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.
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)
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.
Have a colorful fall!
Coming up: Cold Duck