Sunday, September 25, 2011

I got a trail camera...

...and now I know that one or more raccoons walked along the north bank of the Musconetcong at 3:54 and 4:12AM this morning!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Spider time

Retro-looking photo of a Spined Micrathena (taken August 24, 2011, near the Musconetcong River, Mansfield Twp, NJ).
August is the month for getting spiderwebs stuck to your face. They seem to pop up all of the sudden between every shrub in the woods. Around here they mainly belong to the Spined Micrathena (Micrathena gracilis). A few weeks ago I also found this fancy-looking Arrowshaped Micrathena (Micrathena sagittata) down by the river. It's web was only two feet off the ground, apparently typical for this species (NWF insect book). Also from the book, both species live in open woods and "brushy areas" east of the Rockies.

The less common Arrowshaped Micrathena (taken August 24, 2011, near the Musconetcong River, Mansfield Twp, NJ).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New Jersey cucumbers

Fresh and inedible. Fall seems to be the time for native wild cucumbers, of which there are two types in New Jersey according to Karl Anderson's list. They have recently become conspicuous, becoming greener as other vegetation begins to fade away. They are still blooming in mid-September, and still growing fast...high up into trees and up and over shrubs. The tendrils and leaves are really cucumber-like (it's in the same family, Cucurbitaceae) and are really picturesque. I somehow never came across these plants until living at my current house (northern NJ) where they are ubiquitous. The most common species is Bur Cucumber (Sicyos angulatus), but I also came across one specimen of Prickly Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) down by the river.

Bur Cucumber growing up the wires of my garden fence, quite close to his domestic cousin.

Bur Cucumber Flowers.

Bur Cucumber Fruit (quite bur-like).
Bur Cucumber growing high up in a black walnut.

The rarer Prickly Cucumber. This is the only individual I've found so far, and I can't remember where exactly! Somewhere along the Musconetcong River in the WMA. It has longer petals, more finger-like leaves, and a neat-looking spiky oblong orb of a fruit. I have no idea what eats such bur-like and prickly cucumbers and disperses their seeds, but apparently not humans. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First grackle megaflock

Mixed flock of blackbirds in late fall last year (2010), post-corn-harvest. This year's corn is still green.

I hereby record that the first megaflock* of common grackles this year arrived at my Warren County home in the pre-dusk hours of September 4th. They squeaked and creaked and occupied every ash, hickory, and sycamore branch along a half-kilometer stretch of the Musconetcong River. Then they departed, flying west-ish in the typical (and typically impressive) never-ending-river-of-birds. It would be fascinating to have a map of the wanderings of these bird-herds. Maybe ebird has this in their power?

They apparently wander this way all winter, and farther north than NJ, too. Here is a photo of another megaflock feeding on my lawn when I lived in Orange County, NY (taken December 2009).

Megaflock of grackles in Goshen, Orange County, NY, December 2009.

*I made up the word, but it fits...

Upstate dirt

This is neat. Look at the difference between the Hudson (top) and Raritan (left) rivers after Hurricane Irene. All that dirt from flooded creeks and farm fields in upstate NY and Vermont are engulfing Sandy Hook and NJ towns on Raritan Bay. I'm guessing this mingling of waters is always occurring (though to a lesser degree), but is just more visible now. NJ is more connected to the Hudson than I knew.  Probably lots of PCBs in that plume b/c of the GE dredging.