There are more than a million acres of Pine Barrens in NJ and I’m determined to wander through them all! Today’s odyssey was to the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest in Burlington County. I tagged along on a memorial walk sponsored by NJ Audubon for a birding buddy who passed away this past winter. He loved the Pine Barrens and was very knowledgeable about the typical flora and fauna of the area.
My main focus today was on botany, but we also saw a few really great birds. It was a treat to be out in the woods with people who know wildflowers. I learned plenty and took enough photos to make your eyes roll in boredom for the next few weeks. Every trip there reveals some new treasure.
We spent an hour or two exploring the white cedar swamp and had a nice long look at a Barred Owl perched way back in the swamp. That was a first! I’ve heard their call a number of times, but have never actually seen a Barred Owl. Sweet!
Another place we visited had Red-headed Woodpeckers – another treat! I’ve only seen them once before and was impressed with the gorgeous pattern of their wings in flight. I wish they were more common.
There’s been a lot of talk in the local newspapers about this year’s gypsy moth invasion. I’d read that the spraying program had been stepped up because they were so bad, but wondered what all the fuss was about. Well, I got a sense for it today and it’s really dreadful. Whole areas of the forest are just decimated and the caterpillars cover everything – if you’re quiet enough you can hear them eating – honest! The immediate area surrounding the state forest headquarters was as black and leafless as if a fire had gone through. I suppose the cuckoos will be happy with so much to eat, but it was sad to see.
So… I’m off to sort through my pics from today and hope you all had an enjoyable weekend. There’ll be more to come from the Barrens.