Saturday, June 21, 2008

Escaping along with everyone else

I almost didn't go to the Pine Barrens today when this was what greeted me at the entrance to the Parkway. Ughh... shore traffic. I was committed, at least until the next exit some five miles further south, but thankfully the standstill was due to an accident and the traffic cleared just when I could have made my exit.

An hour or so later this beetle caught my eye as it meandered through the sand and grass while I sat in the car eating my lunch. I stepped out for a pic, leaving the remainder of my sandwich unattended, and came back to find the sandwich gone. Had I mentioned that Luka was along for this adventure? Anyone care to save me the trouble of looking it up in a field guide? It reminds me of the beetle in the header at Mutual Casualty but I don't know that one either.

As often happens with a visit to the barrens, I happen upon something accidentally that I'd purposefully searched for at some prior visit. Today it was two wildflowers that I'd endured a sweaty deer-fly infested hike searching for early last summer. This one is Swamp Candle; a yellow loosestrife that can grow so abundantly in cranberry bogs that it gives a pretty yellowish haze to the bog. It's considered a nuisance in commercially operated bogs, but I was happy to find it today.

This one made me really happy - orange milkwort - showy and impossible to miss. On my knees taking pics I also found a blooming thread-leaved sundew and a few other tiny little wildflowers that I haven't made up an ID for yet.

The water in the bogs is controlled by dikes and in those places where it was fast flowing there were ebony jewelwings patrolling the margins. A beautiful damselfly, I think; very fluttery and nice.
My idea with bringing Luka along on this particular adventure was so that he could do some swimming at our favorite hidden spot along Cedar Creek. Turns out our secret swimming hole is better known than I'd realized - the place was packed with paddlers stopping for a swim, too. Some were kind enough to amuse Luka with a really big stick. Turns out he's a good swimmer since our last visit in the fall.

The cranberries are blooming now and I was surprised to see quite so many beehives along the dikes. Each field of 3 active bogs had a stack like this, busy with honeybees keeping Ocean Spray in business. Luka had a tussle with a bunch of them while I paying attention to something else - there was much fussing and rolling in the sand - but I don't think he was stung more than a couple times. Dopey dog!

Cranberry flowers are very tiny and the plants grow *wild* along the margins of most cedar streams in the barrens; a particular delight of paddling there in the fall is the chance to sample a couple. The same plant is cultivated commercially and then harvested just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. The flower is deeply lobed and curled back on itself to expose the stamens. Early settlers saw the neck, head and beak of a crane and so called it *crane-berry*.

Another beautiful day in one of my favorite places. Plus, Luka's tuckered out, finally.

;-)

16 comments:

Ruth said...

Sounds like a lovely day, except for the traffic. The cranberry flower is lovely. Luka's good training is paying off. I am sure he had a great day too.

egretsnest said...

Must be a good day when you can tucker out a young lab. Good job! Love the flowers -- particularly the cranberry -- never thought about what its flower would look like. Beautiful.

bunnygirl said...

Thanks for the pics, especially the cranberry flower. I had never seen one before, at least not up close. Kind of odd, as many times as I've been to the Cape.

cedrorum said...

Thanks for the link. I don't know what that beetle is either. I rely on DougT at Gossamer Tapestry for my IDs. He informs me the beetle in my header is a dogbane beetle. I'm definitely entomologically challenged as I like to say. I love that photo of Luka. I think labs would try and fetch a tree if we could throw one for them. People in these parts call orange milkwort forest cheetos.

Dr. Know said...

I remember the NJ shore traffic during the summer weekends -- couldn't get out of the road I lived on to go to the Wa-Wa. The 4th of July in Philly was another big traffic jam.

Nice pictures, looks like a relaxing trip excepting the traffic (which I have less than zero tolerance of).

Jayne said...

Love the photo of Luka with the big stick...err... log! :c) Interesting about the hives there by the cranberry fields.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it great when you can work your dog enough to be tired? Nothing better than a tired dog.

Heather
Wayne, PA

Dave said...

I didn't know the etymology of "cranberry" - cool. Sounds like a fun outing (minus the drive there).

NCmountainwoman said...

Great shots.

BTW - never leave a dog alone in the car with a sandwich or a sandwich alone in the car with a dog. But I'll bet you already know that.

bobbie said...

The beetle and the damselfly are so pretty. And I don't think I've ever seen a cranberry flower before. Very nice.

Cindy said...

holy cow, that's a traatraffic jam and 1/2.. definitly worth it though, what a splendid day you had..i've longed to visit the barrens ever since reading tom browns' tracker seies.. thanks 4 taking us along :)

Mary said...

Laura,

You've been very busy this weekend! Sorry about the shore traffic - I remember it vividly in Delaware along Rt. 1 south. But you made a great day with Luka, the sandwich thief.

Poor bunnies. Maybe the red-tailed is long gone...

LauraHinNJ said...

Ruth: The traffic is a fact of life here at the shore. It was a perfect day, anyway.

Liza: It's not easy you know! He had loads of fun playing frisbee with a bunch of kids.

Bunnygirl: They're very, very tiny - but so pretty! Hard to get a decent pic, really.

Cedrorum: My pleasure.

;-)

I braved the bug guide today (gives me the heebie-jeebies) and found out this one is called a Fiery Searcher - hunts caterpillars.

*Forest cheetos* is a perfect name - one I won't easily forget!

Dr. Know: The challenge is in knowing the backroads this time of year, I think. I had to brave the Parkway at least part way.

Jayne: A real attention-hog he is - he had all the little girls squealing at him!

Heather: Yeah. He'd had enough by the time we got home.

Dave: Cranberry bogs can be such beautiful places - hard to decide which season is prettier - now or when they're harvested.

NCMountainWoman: Ha! I knew better, of course. But only stepped away for a minute!

Bobbie: Thanks!

Cindy: Oh... Tom Brown... can you believe I haven't read any of them yet?

Mary: The bunnies are fine so far!

Susan Gets Native said...

Peee-yeewww. Exhaust.
Luka got tuckered...that's a beautiful thing. Hey! Have you ever thought of hooking him up to you and going roller-blading?

*suddenly getting a mental picture of Luka dragging you down the street as you scream, "LUKA! STOP! Aiiiiiiii!!!!!!"
Mmwaahaahaahaa!*

LauraHinNJ said...

Susan: If we'd have any snow this past winter, I was thinking of buying a sled.

;-)

RuthieJ said...

Hi Laura,
I'm glad your day turned out good in spite of the early traffic challenges.
How big was that beetle? It looks like the Caterpillar Hunter in my Kaufman insect guide and the actual size is over an inch! A picture is as close as I'd want to get to that guy!