I've been very pleased with the complimentary comments posted here about the beauty of my home state; I understand that NJ is not often thought of as so picturesque. Most of my travels searching for photos have brought me to the shore, whether close to home at Sandy Hook or further south to Cape May. Today I headed south again, but just a little ways to the tip of the NJ Pine Barrens and then headed west into the bogs and cedar swamps of the pinelands.
The pic above left was taken just outside of Whitesbog Village, which was home to the largest cranberry farm in NJ during the early 1900's. I spent a few hours roaming the sandy roads that traverse the abandoned bogs and blueberry fields, and watched red tails and kestrels hunting despite the clamor from kids on motorbikes and ATV's. I'd heard of Whitesbog before, among birders, because the area attracts Tundra Swans in late winter and Gull-billed terns in September, although I'm not sure that is still the case. Would Patrick know?
Cranberries are still grown commercially in the area, although the blueberry is the state fruit, and by nosing around down enough sandy dirt roads (an awful lot of them labeled for some gun club or another) I came across an active bog in the process of being harvested. The beauty of the harvest was hard to describe - I think just the combination of berries against the water, with the blue sky and pine forest in the distance. From what little I know about cranberry harvesting, I suspect a machine had gone through this part of the bog earlier in the day to *beat* the cranberries from their vines and the wind in the vast open bog had pushed the berries to one corner where they would later be harvested with the use of a boom to keep them corraled in one place. There is a complicated system of canals and gates to flood and empty each bog as required by the season. Of the twenty or so working bogs that were visible in this one field, only five were completely flooded and three, like this one, yet to be harvested. Most of the others had some water remaining on the margins, and the expected herons, egrets, and waterfowl that one might expect to be there. Of course I have more photos, which Blogger stubbornly won't allow me to load, but they were mostly meant to give you an idea of the size of a cranberry farm. Very big and windy on a chilly October afternoon.
It was a nice way to spend a few hours, there was no traffic jam on the way home like last Sunday, and it sure beats grading papers! I'm thinking of going back next Friday for a sunset hayride through the bogs, followed by pinelands songs and stories around a campfire. I'll at least get back to see the Tundra Swans in February.