Friday, May 30, 2014

A Vacation At The Shore - Part 2 of 2

Sand, Surf, and Sun

A perfect trio 

The Island Beach State Park experience continues.  This is a state park in New Jersey, a barrier island reserved for the enjoyment of everyone.  People can sunbath, surf, swim, fish, kayak, bird-watch, follow nature trails, pick wild blueberries in season, go beach-combing, or just wade in the water.  Our experience is mainly fishing, but the camera is always along and there are moments of sheer delight as something wonderful presents itself.

This post is for the Friday after Memorial  Day - it is always a good time to honor our veterans and currently serving military personnel and their families; they need and deserve our support.  

The flowers on the island are lovely to behold.  They have their special times of the year to bloom, just like in our area and everywhere, and springtime starts off the year with beach plums and wild blueberries and cherries.   Summer has beach roses, trumpet vines, plantains and Marine Peas (to mention only a few).  Fall shows off the goldenrod and ripening beachplums.  There are also cacti, marsh mallows (a member of the hibiscus family) and phragmites (invasive marsh grass).

Bayberry bush.  As kids we went to the marsh and gather here berries then sewed them into little pillows.  Running a hot iron over the sachet released the beautiful scent of these berries and also released the wax that made the iron glide smoothly.  IRON?  I almost forgot what that is - LOL!

 I thought this wild grass was graceful and pretty against the wooden walkway.

Reindeer lichen - this grows on the dunes and makes a nice color accent for all the greens and browns that also grow there.

 Plantain flower head

This was early spring and I'm not sure what kind of shrub this is.

Wild cherry tree as the fruits are ripening.

Wild Marsh Mallow - these are wetland flowers and love having wet feet:>)  Although we see them regularly on the margins of salt marched, they are even more apt to be found growing in fresh water wetlands.

 This is how beach plums look before they are ripe and beautifully purple.  These are native plants and the fruits make wonderful jelly.

Poison Ivy - The poison ivy at the beach is especially strong and thick.  It grows on dunes, into trees, and you must watch out for it if you go walking.  The rash we humans get from the oils on the plant is awful, and every part of the plant is bad news to touch.

Trumpet vines also grow through the trees and along the edges of parking lots on Island Beach State Park.  My guess is that they are escapees from the governor's house or judge's shack, or one of the other places that served as residences in the past.

The beach roses are especially lovely.  They survive growing in sand with the salt spray and strong ocean winds constantly buffeting them.  It goes to reason that they would be sturdy and have some of the most effective thorns I've ever seen.  They are normally either white of pinkish red, and the perfume from the flowers is carried a long way on the breezes - what a heavenly scent!

The two images below are of the Marsh Pea.  They, like the roses, are a hardy breed growing in sand and the tough conditions of the seashore, but they can also be found in sandy or gravely areas inland.  They are vines and grow on neighboring plants or other available support; the gorgeous flowers bloom in the summer months.  Although I've seen instructions on how to prepare these for eating, I've also read that the seeds are poisonous when eaten in any amount - smart thing to do?  Don't eat the seeds!  Enjoy the lovely flowers:>)

Dragonflies and damselflies are common near and on the beach - there are plenty of mosquitoes and flies for them to eat, and they do a great job.  I wish there were more of them and they ate more annoying bugs, but I'll take what I can get.

This blog post won't do what I want it too - yes, I'm whining!  I'll try to get around it by telling you what the pictures below represent.  Damselflies are often mistaken for tiny dragonflies, but they are different.  One way to quickly tell if what you see is a damselfly is to look at how they fold their wings.  Look at the 3rd picture down (damselfly) and you'll see the wings are held down and along the "back".  Dragonflies have a variety of ways they hold their wings - outstretched, downward, upward, but they don't hold them like damselflies.

First - probably a Blue Dasher type of dragonfly - love those turquoise eyes:>)
Second - Eastern Pondhawk Dragonfly
Third - a pretty golden colored damselfly
Fourth - a lovely yellow dragonfly I haven't identified
Fifth - Slaty Skimmer Dragonfly
Sixth - Widow Skimmer Dragonfly
Seventh - another Eastern Pondhawk

There are a number of types of butterflies and moths that frequent the beaches.  Monarchs have flyways on their migrations that included shore locations, and Island Beach State Park had (may still have) a program to capture, band, and release the butterflies.  We see them and also see many Red Admirals.  The picture below is a Red Admiral resting on the sand after flying in from over the ocean.

Even in the fall and winter there is beauty to be found.  Solidago is a name for goldenrods - there are over 100 kinds of goldenrod, and those living at the oceans edge are usually more succulent in appearance than those in meadows and fields.  This plant hasn't begun blooming yet.

Virginia Creeper is a vine we find commonly growing on the dunes.  It's also a familiar sight inland, and it is a beautiful vine.  The pretty leaves are a beautiful green in the summer, then turn a gorgeous red in autumn.  The berries are blue and much-loved by wildlife.  The first picture is a close up of a vine in one of the parking areas, and the second is a dune fence that serves to keep sand in place alongside Barnegat Inlet.  More importantly, it supports a wonderful Virginia Creeper:>)

This is a seed head of a Wild Lettuce plant.  It kind of like like a very tall (over five feet) dandelion and the flower is yellow.  We see them growing on the bay side of the island.

When winter comes and the wild roses are history, they leave their seeds in the rose hips.  Some folks make jelly from them when they are fresher - loads of vitamin C.  These are what survived the harsh winter.

Even a mushroom can find a home in the sand.  This image is actually from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Beach Amaranth is now a threatened species of plant, and the State Park takes steps to protect this treasure.

Here are four views of the park.  First is a dune with native plants; second, a dune fence in winter snow, third, sunsetting behind a dune with beach grass, and fourth, a sunrise in a tidal creek in another New Jersey town where we rent a boat to go crabbing.  If you look closely at the very middle of the picture of the creek you'll see a heron at the edge of the muddy shelf.

A word about the beach grass.  This rather modest plant does the Herculean job of keeping sand in place during wind, rain, hurricanes, and floods.  If it weren't for the dunes being held together by the grasses and helped by other vegetation, I think the park would be mostly gone.

Trash is everywhere and even with all the efforts of the park rangers to keep it clean, visitors insist on leaving their trash on the beach.  Each tide also brings in more trash, and the majority of it is plastic.  If we want to keep areas like Island Beach State Park a joy for all of us to experience, we need to take care of it.  Trash receptacles are provided at every parking area and that includes places to recycle.  People who fish should not leave line on the beach.  There are special receptacles for dropping in used and cut fishing line.  This protects the wildlife.  We are so fortunate to have natural areas to explore!

There are a number of pictures left over, so expect another dose of seaside images at some future date.  There are quite a few from Island Beach State Park, and I also have pictures  from the Outer Banks and Cape Cod.  Two postings in a row are probably pushing it (Are you bored yet?), so I'll keep my word and make it only a two-parter:>)

There is an elemental draw to the sea that just about everyone experiences.  I encourage people to go to the beach and enjoy that unique habitat.  Keep your eyes and ears open; smell the salt air; feel the sand between your toes and the cool ocean on your feet.

I have a tiny, little WOW that I'd love to share - a group of artists on one of the websites I belong to publishes a stunning e-magazine.  I was honored to be told they featured me (among others) on pages 72 through 79 - this is a glamorous publication, in my view, and exceedingly well done.  I'm so tickled!!!!!

We'll meet again next week when there will be a different theme.  Meantime, travel safely and enjoy!