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.